Babies. Nuns. Bicycles.
Sometimes, I have a hard time explaining why I love this TV show so much.
At face value, “Call the Midwife” doesn’t seem like it could be the epic, thought-provoking, heart-warming, on-the-edge-of-your-seat-intense TV show that it is. Now, I’m entirely willing to admit that this show is not for everyone. One of my friends described it as “a lot of screaming”; I’d be the first to acknowledge that. If you don’t want to see lots of babies and bodily fluids, this is not the show for you.
(Fortunately for me, this is right up my alley. I’m working in healthcare administration right now as I get ready to apply for graduate school in Nursing, and as I decide exactly what route I want to take. Midwifery has always been on the table for me, and I’m not going to lie…it’s a little bit hard to tell if my life plans are being influenced by a TV show. Because I’m majorly leaning midwife right now. But hey, correlation does not equal causation, right?)
But but if you can handle the birth-related bits, “Call the Midwife” should be the next thing you put on your Netflix queue.
1) “Call the Midwife” is story for today. An idealistic and naïve young woman sets out to save Poplars (a neighborhood in the slums of East London), one home-birth at a time. Though she finds that the problems are bigger than she ever knew or imagined, that she is more naive and unaware than she’d care to admit, and that there are things she cannot change, time and again she also finds that she can change a life, and that that is enough. It is a coming-of-age story, a story for my generation.
2) It is a story of women. Written and produced by a largely-female production team, based on the memoirs of a real woman, with all-female lead roles – it is by women, about women. A story about a young, newly-certified midwife who moves into a convent to work with other nun-midwives and non-nun-midwives, much of the story is driven by the relationships between these women – women with different histories, different places of faith, different struggles, yet with the same mission. It is a story of community, as each brings her own baggage, but finds freedom and healing and identity in community.
3) But it is still also a story for men. This is not a platform for angry feminism, for anti-man angst, for gender rants. Men are not overly vilified, nor are they overly glorified. There are some fantastic male supporting characters – the selfless doctor, the lovable best friend, the prickly but tender-hearted groundskeeper – that show you that women can still write some of the best men. Yet there is also very honest engagement with the reality that – then and now – there are some very broken gender dynamics in the world. But the point remains, though this TV show is still a story for men, it is not about the men. The show is always honest about being a story of women.
4) Nuns. Need I say more? Nuns are fly.
5) It’s secretly all about social justice. Though set in 1950s London, the real power of the show lies in the timeless, universal problems and truths it explores. It explores problems and inequalities that are as present now as they were then: urban poverty, healthcare access in under-served populations, gender violence, wealth and lifestyle disparities. It deals with the issues of missions – savior complexes, ignorance and naïveté, guilt, disillusionment, hope and despair, success and failure.
6) In a world where many avoid talking about God and religion, it is incredibly well-handled in this show. It would be hard to get around God in a TV show where half of the major characters are nuns, and “Call the Midwife” wisely doesn’t try. Yet the religious elements are not overplayed either, nor used divisively. God is a quiet presence, an almost unmentioned character, but not unseen. He is seen in the lives of worship of the nuns, and modeled in their actions. He is in the intentional community of the nuns and the midwives, living together in the community they serve. The nuns’ faith is a rock to the other midwives in times of pain and uncertainty, even though most don’t claim the faith themselves. It is a faith that is shown, not preached.
Need more convincing?