I Hate Suzie Too and the Neutral Abortion

by thethreepennyguignol

It’s not hard for me to find things to talk about when it comes to the second season of I Hate Suzie.

I mean, the first season was downright perfect, and the three-part festive special out a few weeks ago is a beyond-worthy follow-up; just as sharp, beautifully-written, incredibly witty, and almost unfathomably well-acted as the first half-dozen or so episodes. Billie Piper is putting in the performance of an absolute lifetime (and, with her amazing career, that’s saying something), and consider this paragraph a stringent attempt to get you to go watch it if you haven’t. It’s bloody great. It really is.

But what I’d like to talk about specifically in regards to the second season, I Hate Suzie Too, is abortion, and how it’s depicted by writer Lucy Prebble.

The season starts out with Billie Piper’s Suzie, who has just found out she’s pregnant after splitting with her husband, choosing to terminate her pregnancy. The first fifteen minutes or so are dedicated to her abortion, as she administers the medication required, and spends a night on the toilet bleeding and eventually passing the foetus. It’s unflinching but not deliberately or pointedly unpleasant; it’s a medical procedure, shown in reasonable detail, without attempts to obscure or sensationalise the experience.

And that alone would be enough to make it stand out for me. Abortion is an incredibly emotive issue, and one that’s still frustratingly, infuriatingly seen as up for debate despite the obvious necessity of it’s safe, legal existence. Almost every depiction of it is seen through this lens, in some way a political statement that attempts to come down on one side of the issue or the other; for Prebble and Piper to present it as matter-of-factly as this feels daring in and of itself, which is sort of ridiculous when you give it any thought.

But, beyond that, what I really appreciate about the way the abortion functions into the story this season comes after the actual act itself. Abortion is so often framed as a choice made by Bad Women, and, especially, Bad Mothers; it’s not viewed as the reasonable, autonomous decision it functionally is, but as a reflection on the moral worth of the person having one. Driven primarily by misogyny, these kind of moral judgements on people who have abortions are presented under a hand-wringing “think of the children” veil, a quivering finger of accusation that the kind of person who chooses not to carry a pregnancy to term cannot care about children.

And this show gets it. A lot of what follows in I Hate Suzie Too revolves around Suzie’s attempts to win what she sees as her fair share of custody of her son from her husband; her relationship with her son, though it isn’t perfect, is clearly one Suzie values above everything else in her life. Her consistent love, the effort she pours into their relationship, and her attempts to connect with him are a huge part of the driving mechanism behind these episodes, and framing that in the context of the abortion that opens it is a powerful thing.

It’s the show making an undeniable statement – Suzie’s choice to have an abortion is not a reflection on what kind of parent she is. It is not a way for the show to flag up her lack of maternal instinct or love for her child. The abortion opens I Hate Suzie Too, but almost as a deliberate bit of wrong-footing. It doesn’t influence how the rest of the show goes, almost daring viewers to see it as a hint towards what kind of mother she’ll be this season, only to treat is as the morally neutral act it is. It’s never depicted as an influencing factor to her later mental health struggles either – in fact, if anything, it could be viewed as a weight off her shoulders, the stress of another pregnancy and another child relieved.

Many people who have abortions make the choice to become parents later in life, many don’t. Choosing to terminate a pregnancy is not the a defining factor, or even an influencing one, on the kind of parent a person might be or perhaps already is. I Hate Suzie Too, in the current climate surrounding abortion rights, makes a bold statement in presenting it as the neutral act is it, and by going on to depict Suzie as a caring and committed mother in the aftermath.

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(header image via Radio Times)