Last week, we wondered whether legislators who conflate RU-486 and emergency contraception are deliberately misleading or just really ignorant. Sure, vaginas are mysterious, bewildering flowers, but the morning after pill prevents pregnancy shortly after unprotected sex while the abortion pill actually causes abortions; it's not that hard to comprehend that there's a huge difference between terminating a pregnancy and not getting pregnant in the first place.
So when a tipster told us that the premiere episode of The L.A. Complex included a plot line about the morning-after pill that called it the "abortion pill" and bleeped out the word "abortion," we weren't sure whether the show's writers had anything to gain from being intentionally confusing, or if they were just ridiculously misinformed.
The show, which premiered April 24 on the CW (as well as CTV and MuchMusic, because it's made in Canada) and is kind of like Melrose Place for millennials, stars Cassie Steele (Manny from Degrassi!) as Abby Vargas, an aspiring actress who has unprotected, Ecstasy-fueled sex with an actor on the roof at a random party. (It's actually a really awesome roof with a beautiful view, so I'm confused as to how they had it all to themselves? And then who gave them that comfy blanket to sleep on? Sorry, I digress.) When they wake up and confront each other in the harsh morning light, this conversation ensues:
Abby: You wore a condom last night, right?
Abby: Why the hell not?
Connor: You said you were on something.
Abby: Yeah, drugs!
Connor: I guess we should get one of those, you know, "morning-after" things? … Come on, I'll get you some breakfast, too!
Abby: Breakfast and an [abortion] pill? And they say there are no good guys in L.A.
It turns out that the CW meant to bleep the entire phrase after "breakfast" because they didn't want to be misleading. "We receive the episodes in full, so we can't edit the entire thing," a network spokesman told me. "We thought the best thing to do was wipe the entire thing out."
It's definitely great that the CW, unlike other U.S. networks, recognized that the term was problematic and did what they could, but the whole episode is kind of iffy when it comes to depicting reality: later, Abby learns some important lessons when she gets nauseous from the Plan B (we know that's what it is for sure, because there's a long pharmacy scene) and ruins an otherwise successful singing audition by throwing up on a piano. When she tries to explain that she just took the morning-after pill, she doesn't get the job.
And despite the censoring attempts, the episode is confusing lots of people, such as Andy Swift from Bonnie Fuller's The Hollywood Life's, who summarized the episode like this: "Real talk: When the main character gets an abortion, vomits on a piano and becomes a stripper all in the pilot episode, you're in for an awesome ride." Swift also notes that the moral of the episode is that "auditions and abortions don't mix." You know, that is probably sound advice! BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT HAPPENED ON THE SHOW.
Is it too over the top to insinuate that inconsistencies like these illustrate how little people care about women's health? I think not. Sure, some people get nauseous from Plan B, but god forbid there's ever a TV character that takes emergency contraception and doesn't suffer life-altering consequences. The whole plot line kind of seems like a fuck up that can't just be fixed with a bleep.
You can watch The L.A. Complex (which, otherwise, is kind of amazing in a really trashy way) on Hulu.