If you’ve ever watched the MTV television series Teen Mom, you’ve enjoyed the trashy ups and downs of unwed teen mothers and what they’ve done with their lives and their careers and their boyfriends and their baby daddies … and sometimes what they’ve done with their babies.
Now what if a series like Teen Mom was set in the late 1960’s, at the time of the sexual revolution?
The main part of the drama would take place at a home for unwed mothers, a home adjacent to a major medical facility. Several unwed mothers are forced to live there in secret until their babies are born. Once the baby is born, it is immediately whisked away without even so much as the mother knowing the baby’s gender. And then the woman is sent away from the facility, while the baby is adopted by another family.
Yeah, that sounds like it would make for a scintillating drama series, wouldn’t it?
And I wouldn’t be writing this blog post…
… if I didn’t tell you that this actually exists as a television series. It’s been on for two years, and has just been renewed for a third season.
Welcome to the television drama known as “Love Child.”
The show stars actress Jessica Marais as Joan Millar, a medical student who becomes a midwife to girls at the Stanton House. The Stanton House is run by Matron Frances Bolton, who runs the home with an iron fist and acts in what she thinks are the best interests for the newborns and for the families – with the girls’ interests probably pretty far down on the list.
Right off the bat, I’m trying to figure out how this show – with its deeply disturbing subject matter of forced adoptions and a sanctioned “stolen generation” of babies – as late as the 1960’s – ever got made. Television shows that focus on distasteful parts of our collective history don’t normally make it to broadcast. In the 1960’s, George C. Scott starred as a social worker in the drama East Side West Side; the show won rave reviews from the critics for its bitter tales of inner city life; but the show met with poor ratings and was cancelled after a year. The Vietnam war drama Tour of Duty, in which an American platoon survives the horrors of the Vietnam war, barely made it through three years of broadcast.
The show also has a very soap-opera feel to it – one girl gives birth and her baby is immediately stolen from the hospital, to be adopted by the doctor who actually performed the delivery. Wow. Haven’t seen a plotline like that since, what, Search for Tomorrow?
There’s an uncomfortability in watching this show. The show takes place in a time when a pregnant teen would be sent away for a few months to somewhere away from her family, some place to have the baby in secret, and then to return home as if nothing had ever happened. That she was considered a brave person “to make the best results of out of a horrible situation.” That she could never contact her child ever – the adoption papers were sealed, and her baby was now being raised by a family that she was told was better than her and could give her baby all the things that she could not. It was demoralizing and inhumane and brutal. It’s a part of history – not just for Australians, but for all people – that needs to be addressed and understood. Why were families torn apart like this? Was it based on religion? Was it based on public morals or perceived morals?
I also want to mention something about this show. One of the young women in the series is an actress named Miranda Tapsell. She plays a mixed-race Aboriginal girl in the series, derisively referred to as a “half-caste” by Matron Bolton. Well, this year Ms. Tapsell won the Logie Award for best new talent; the Logies being the Australian equivalent of the Emmy Awards. And in her acceptance speech, she also talks about not just the stolen children that were put into forced adoption; but also of the “Stolen Generation” of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders who were taken from their families in a misguided and twisted version of ethnic cleansing and eugenics.
Love Child has aired on the Nine Network on Australia for the past two seasons, and it has also been renewed for a third year. Here’s a clip from the show’s second season, and you can imagine some of the twisted plotlines from the show based on just this little two-minute clip.
So how can you see Love Child? Well, there are some YouTubers who have uploaded episodes of the series – the clips actually fade down the atmospheric 1960’s pop hits as they are protected by copyright; but the show still makes for a very stirring and moving program with a very difficult subject matter.
Personally, I’d love it if someone would air this program in America; maybe as part of Masterpiece Theater’s run of imported dramas, or possibly picked up by a small cable channel (heck, the Reelz cable channel picked up the Canadian drama Bomb Girls, and CBS did air the Canadian drama Flashpoint for a few seasons). Even if the show has to be re-filmed for American tastes, as has happened with the Australian dramas Rake, The Slap and comedies Wilfred and Kath & Kim, I’d at least like to see that – maybe showing a house for unwed mothers in 1969 America and the world and culture upon which it surrounds.
So what are your thoughts? Tell me. Would definitely love to hear them.