It came without packages, boxes, or bags!
Fans of Dr. Seuss, like me, will get the reference. Standing frozen in the snow, incredulous, the Grinch pondered thusly how Christmas could appear to the Whos down in Whoville without fanfare after he had so cruelly snatched their holiday trappings under the cover of night.
I feel like Arlene's baby has appeared in sort of the same way. Seemingly unannounced. Unheralded. Suddenly, he's just here.
Smiling sweetly up at his momma amidst a scattering of decapitated Barbies as if he'd been there all along.
Sure, we knew he was coming, what with Arlene's bizarre Season 3 experiences leading up to baby Mikey's appearance. Like when she first found out the little critter was on the way...
...and that the child she was carrying was not Terry's but René's.
But when Season 4 premiered and Mikey was, well just there...it felt oddly out of whack for me. As the audience, we did not get to witness Arlene's journey through the rest of her pregnancy and the pain, doubt and conflict - both inner and outwardly with Terry - she experienced as part of it.
We weren't there for Mikey's birth, and suddenly, he's just there. I'm sure the writers cooked up this little bit of cognitive dissonance for us quite purposefully.
Everyone gets so worked up over Bill's perceived betrayal of Sookie, what about René's deception of Arlene? Imagine her horror at the revelation that the fetus growing inside her was the offspring of the double-dealing serial killer who had conned his way into her heart and home using an invented persona? That the baby would be a constant reminder of the man who had wormed his way into her life and the lives of her children; the same man that she had slept next to each night, having been kept oblivious to his unspeakable acts of murder and butchery?
This could easily spawn thoughts and feelings rancorous enough to choke on, or be choked by, if you ask me!
And is it any wonder Arlene's extreme unease would transfer to the unborn baby?
That she would feel stifled, suffocated, and utterly snuffed out by the prospect of bringing this child - René's child - into the world?
As a social worker who spends quite a bit of time seeing clients in the community, I'm in my car frequently; this affords me the opportunity to listen to the radio a lot. On June 23rd, I caught the tail end of a program on WBAI that I like to describe as one that plays the most edgy, underground-of-the-indie music you'll never hear on radio otherwise. It's called Shocking Blue and the DJ Delphine Blue spun one particular track that crept into my consciousness in such a creepy-crawly way that I just had to pull over and take note of it.
The song is called "Scary Children", and even though we had not yet met Mikey it made me think of Arlene's baby immediately.
Give it a play and maybe you'll see why.
In my mind, Arlene's body had been colonized by a baby she did not want to bring to term. As Sanchez-Grant (p. 77, 2008) writes, "The female body, as a site of oppression, has always been the means by which patriarchy exerts control over women".
The song's eerie, foreboding tone - it's plodding, incessant beat - conveys such an encroaching, inescapable sense of doom that I felt it captured and distilled the helplessness to express her own will that I imagined Arlene must have been feeling. Her confusion as Terry - generally benign, wise, battle-addled Terry - forced, imposed his will on her.
His need to be validated by this baby that is not biologically his robbed her of her free will and ability to choose as he insisted that she keep and carry the baby. He developed an irrational attachment to and love for this unborn child - a baby Arlene did not want and tried desperately to rid herself of...
...a baby growing inside her that reminded her of all the pain, betrayal, and devastation wrought by René - something she does not want back in her life.
Terry's over-identification with Mikey continues.
There were practical, economic concerns - can they afford this baby - that Terry ignored or denied while Arlene was pregnant.
Elsewhere in the blogosphere I've read other analyses suggesting that through this story arc woman is yet again portrayed as the crafty deceiver...
...this fallback trope is revealed as Arlene supposedly uses her feminine wiles to dupe the trusting Terry into believing that he is indeed the unborn child's father.
Yet, ultimately, even after he learns the truth about the child's paternity from Arlene, he emotionally manipulated her into keeping the baby, to be the conduit through which his needs could be satisfied - his sense of self and worth bolstered, his desire for his life to mean something fulfilled.
This, coming after their joint experience at having both their wills subverted by Maryann...
...their relationship, which grew from a spark of genuine caring, consummated while their consciousness was not their own. That Terry, who even while under Maryann's influence was driven to protect his "special lady" would attempt to exert such control over Arlene and her reproductive sovereignty is surprising, and frankly, disconcerting.
But Terry gets to be the good guy, doesn't he? The bottom line is that Terry is a good guy, and it's admirable that he has stood by Arlene and been a father to her child, even if, because of Arlene's distrust and emotional rejection of the baby, continuing to do so will require that he (and Mikey) will have to "love on her more". Even so, the fact remains that although only he and Arlene know it right now, Terry is playing father to a child that is not his, and by doing so he can be judged positively as having "manned up", taken responsibility, and stepped in as a loving dad.
But, were it to get out that Arlene hoped and strived to miscarry her unborn baby - even though she is already a loving mother to Coby and Lisa...
...she could well be recast in the image of the deviant woman who throws off the role of the maternal, her "reproductive destiny" (Sanchez-Grant, p. 78, 2008).
Not unlike Bram Stoker's Lucy; who, as a vampire, "violently thrusts an infant from her breast" ( Parlour, ¶11, 2009):
With a careless motion, she flung to the ground, callous as a devil, the child that up to now she had clutched strenuously to her breast, growling over it as a dog growls over a bone. The child gave a sharp cry, and lay there motionless. There was a cold-bloodedness in the act which wrung a groan from Arthur; when she advanced to him with outstretched arms and a wanton smile, he fell back and hid his face in his hands.Is this not the type of harsh judgement many women who wish to exercise their right to choose to have an abortion - and sometimes even just to practice birth control since initially, proof of marriage and a husband's written consent was required for American and British women who requested the Pill (Sanchez-Grant, 2008) and much more recently, pharmacists have denied filling prescriptions for it on religious or moral grounds - are met with? As a veteran of the 2004 March for Women's Lives in Washington D.C. during which a million women demonstrated for our reproductive rights and health (Rebecca was there too, and so was our Mom) and were met by Bible brandishing, moralizing extremists, I would say yes.
I think there's plenty more mileage left in this story arc now that Mikey is with us:
- Sanchez-Grant (p. 78, 2008) quotes David Morgan & Sue Scott, editors of Body Matters: Essay on the Sociology of the Body, "Historically, women have been defined by their 'biological potentiality', and the female reproductive system has worked to reduce women to the sum of their child-bearing parts". Arlene has, as Adrienne Rich argues (Sanchez-Grant, 2008), been controlled by lashing her to her body in this way. If he is to be seen as inherently evil due solely to the genes passed onto him by his dead father, will Mikey, too, be the victim of the "biology as destiny" fate that the feminist movement has been battling for decades?
- Will he become a wedge between the newlywed Arlene and Terry?
- Is there something off about him, or will his alleged evilness become a self-fulfilling prophecy unfolding in response to Arlene's projections?
I, for one, will be watching this Season 4 sub story closely!
How about you?
Please use the comments section below to let us know.
Parlour, S. (2009). Vixens and Virgins in the 19th century Anglo-Irish Novel: Representations of the feminine in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Journal of Dracula Studies, # 11.
Sanchez-Grant, S. (2008). The Female Body in Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman and Lady Oracle. Journal of International Women's Studies, Vol. 9, #2.