I’ve written before about how my gym — my wonderful, body-accepting, diverse, empowering women’s only gym — has a tendency to show inappropriate movies, like “Life is Beautiful” or “127 Hours.”
They outdid themselves this morning with a 1997 made-for-television movie called “… First Do No Harm,” starring Meryl Streep as the mother of a boy with severe epilepsy who is being failed by the medical establishment, as incarnated in Allison Janney. Meryl rages, Meryl begs for the experimental drugs, Allison deep-freezes, Meryl’s boy screams and convulses and goes into iatrogenic fits of rage and punches his father in the mouth. When the boy’s violence and the doctor’s remoteness hit a simultaneous peak, she can’t be reached to authorize a sedative while he goes on a self- and other-harming binge through the pediatric ward. A nurse (played by an African-American actress who clearly specializes in wrangling hysterical white people) has to put the boy in a cage while he shrieks and cries, “Mommy! Take me out of here!” and Meryl suffers.
And this was after the scene where Meryl and her weathered but handsome working-class husband had to explain to the two older and non-neurologically-compromised children why the bank just called and what “foreclosure” means.
When the nurse was caging the screaming child and firmly ordering Meryl to leave him and go home, the woman on the elliptical next to me started slowing down. I took my earbuds out and nodded to the screen and said, “This is awful!” She took her earbuds out and said, in a shaking voice, “My son just started school this year. I hate dropping him off.”
I handed her a fashion magazine and suggested she look at that instead. Maybe they’re designed to make you hate your body, but that’s got to be better than seeing your worst maternal nightmares dramatized by the most intense actresses of your generation, right?