Why Cold Feet disturbed and challenged

I’m just catching up with last weekend’s TV having been in Austria for Hannes’ induction (watch this space for a report). So last night we settled down to watch Cold Feet.

The week before, we had discovered that Olivia, one of Karen and David’s twins was now pregnant aged 17.  This week picked up on the consequences and followed Matthew (16) and Olivia’s intense, heart breaking struggle about whether or not to keep the baby or to have an abortion.

The “adults” in the story seemed to show no sign of struggle. For them the issue was obvious, Olivia was too young to have a baby, raising a child would hamper her future law career. Indeed, for Karen the matter was obvious, Olivia needed to look after herself and deal with her mistake. The decision n the end was nothing really to do with Matthew.

On Social media viewers have described their emotional response and commended the moving and sensitive portrayal of the characters and situation.  I did pick up on at least one comment to the effect that the programme makers were to be praised for not giving in to anti-abortion activists by having Olivia and Matthew going ahead with the decision to abort.  I think such horrific triumphalism is perhaps premature for two reasons.

1.       I live in (perhaps sentimental) hope. Olivia is shown about to take a pill and then afterwards the distraught families are seen walking away.  We don’t actually see her take the pill. So, I’m hoping that tonight’s episode will bring a further twist to the plot.

2.       They did portray, through quite brilliant and mature acting the real cost of such a decision. Notice the way that Matthew and Olivia are completely distraught especially after seeing the scan. This is no mere removal of an unwanted organism. Consider how the two families walk away separately. We are watching relationships and a mini-community ripped apart.

3.       Whilst it is left for Matthew alone (no female actors and no adults) to say it, through his voice the challenge is raised that this is a baby, that he or she is going to be killed and that whatever benefit or disruption there may be to everyone else, the child does not benefit, instead he or she is asked to pay the price for the mistakes of others.  The risk here is that this view is treated as just immature/male/emotional thoughts. However, the sense I got was that the tragedy was that only one young lad spoke up for the baby. Matthew was the one showing maturity and sensitivity.

Now, here’s the further challenge. Notice above that I expressed my hope for a happier ending. I don’t think we will get it.  This gets us thinking about what type of story we find ourselves in. Peter Leithart in Deep Comedy describes the two types of traditional story or play. A Tragedy shows descent from high hopes into despair ending tragically (e.g. as in Hamlet with everyone dying), a comedy on the other hand originally described a story or play that finishes on a happy note (for Shakespeare this usually meant a wedding feast). Leithart notes that the Bible’s story is comedy, not in the sense that it is full of one liners, but in that deep and original sense that through the twists and turns, the pain, suffering and mistakes, the story is actually moving to a happy ending. This is only possible because it is a redemption story, the great redemption story. So that story ends with a wedding feast.

So, the question is whether or not Cold Feet offers us that type of comedy. This may well not be through the happy ending of a baby. However, I’d like to hope that there might be redemption and a happy ending for Matthew and Olivia. Okay, this is unlikely to be how the show unfolds for us, however I would be much more contented to know that this is the story for the many real life Matthews and Olivias out there.

I’d like to think that Matthew and Olivia would meet Christians who get alongside them and love them. I’d like to think that rather than being rejected and ostracised either as a teen parent or as someone who aborted her baby that Olivia would find a community where she was loved and looked after. I’d like to think that through that love and support they would begin to hear the good news of a loving saviour who died in their place, the one who willingly, not forced paid the price for their sin.  I’d like to see them set free from the great burdern of guilt and shame that they so obviously were carrying. And yes the dreamer in me hopes for the day when they enjoy a beautiful white wedding and a baby but the hoper in me says that if this is their story then they will one day join in the glorious wedding feast of the lamb.

We can’t make the producers of Cold Feet change their plot but we can play are part in enabling any Matthew and Olivia that we might know be part of a different story.