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‘Dead to Me’: The Measure of Womanhood

If you haven’t binge-watched “Dead to Me,” what are you waiting for? With episodes coming in at under 30 minutes, you’re getting a series that can fit in with almost any schedule, and every episode packs a punch of drama, comedy, pathos and the exploration of psychology that comes with it. Bookmark this page, go watch the show and then come back here for the discussion. Spoilers are below the trailer.

Jen (Christina Appplegate) found out she had the gene related to breast cancer and got a double mastectomy (Applegate went through the procedure IRL in 2008) to save her family the trauma of what she went through when her mother died. (She still smokes heavily, but that’s for a different blog post.) After the surgery, her husband stops being intimate with her, and unbeknownst to her, he finds a younger woman with larger breasts to start a relationship with. He told this girl that he was a widower and his wife died from breast cancer.

While Judy’s (Linda Cardellini) case is a little more complicated, she says her fiancé left her after she had her fifth miscarriage. He couldn’t deal with the pain or the letdowns, and he wanted to have a family at some point.

These two experiences are parallel. As the two women have their womanhood and desirability called into question when they, for all intents and purposes, lose the body parts that make them female. Is Jen any less worthy of her husband’s love after she sacrifices for the sake of her family’s future? Is Judy less deserving of love because she hasn’t been able to bring a child to term?

Most people would say “No,” probably including these two women’s husbands before the procedure and the miscarriage had the hypothetical been asked of them. For all of American society’s supposed advances in rights and body image, the U.S. still values women for how they look and their ability to bear children. Nowhere is that point made better without it being preached than in “Dead to Me.”

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2 Episodes in: ‘Dead to Me’ and the M-word

To avoid any spoilers for “Dead to Me,” I have intentionally kept the subject of this post out of the title. That may mean fewer page views, but ultimately, it means better viewer service. If you’ve already seen “Dead to Me,” then feel free to scroll past the trailer. If you haven’t, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. Go watch it and then come back to this article. You can book mark it. It’ll be here when you come back.

According to the Mayo Clinic, between 10 and 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Miscarriages are rarely addressed in American culture. It’s almost as if superior medical practices and technology have made miscarriages a thing of the past. As an overlooked problem, and one that is often attributed to the woman and her lack of womanhood, it may be difficult for women to find a place that can help deal with the emotions a miscarriage may instill.

Judy (Linda Cardellini) has had five miscarriages, but this isn’t sufficient enough loss for some members of the grief support group to accept her after she has lied about her fiancé. It’s clear from a flashback that Judy’s grief comes from another place as well, but the group members don’t know about it. They just know she lied.

Not everyone handles their grief in the same way, and when something as personal as a fifth miscarriage is the cause, the woman may displace her feelings and choose to deceive to get the help she needs without exposing the reality of her situation. “Dead to Me” does a beautiful job of dealing with this emotional situation, touchy subject, and the psychology that comes with it.