*This is definitely full of spoilers and we’re not sorry about it because you really should’ve watched Dead to Me by now.
It’s been a hot minute since I watched a Netflix series that really resonated with me. The brain-numbing types are easy to come by, but a series that serves justice to hard-hitting issues not often spoken about? Dead to Me is a welcomed break.
It’s been dubbed a ‘traumedy’ (ie trauma + comedy) and it’s the affordances of this very genre that allow the series to head down an uncharted territory in a very comedic and goddamn relatable light. Jen and Judy are the most unlikely of friends, yet it’s the paradoxical nature of their weirdly complimentary friendship that offer them the perfect dynamic to open up about things they’ve previously kept quite suppressed.
Whilst Christina Applegate (Jen) has rapidly sparked a worldwide appreciation movement, I think Linda Cardellini (Judy) deserves equal praise. These two women have brought the humility back to my Netflix binge. Their authenticity as both actresses, and women, renders their performances insanely raw and ridiculously addictive.
Breast Cancer And Mastectomies
This scene is everything. Jen reveals she’s undergone a preventative double mastectomy following news that she carries the cancer gene. Fighting back grief and whilst filled with tears, Jen reveals that her mastectomy was the trigger to her marriage falling into irreparable tatters. One cannot even begin to imagine the pain this would instil, and yet the scene encapsulates every emotion so perfectly that audiences can in fact, imagine it. The director, Liz Feldman, treats this topic with the weight it truly deserves and Jen is so vulnerable, yet so dignified in talking about it.
This scene is a tribute to millions of cancer-effected females that are scrutinised for their scars, and their apparent ‘insufficiencies’ – despite baring scars that in reality, represent strength. It’s in cases like this that the objectification of females becomes a glaringly obvious issue society still doesn’t get. Yet what I love most about this scene is despite Jen’s grief, her response indicates strength. Despite Ted’s incomprehensible ignorance, Jen felt resentment…not shame. Jen doesn’t stoop down to the level of Ted, she knows her anger is justified. Society should know, too.
Male Domestic Violence
In the same scene, Jen reveals she hit Ted. She punched him in the face, and then he left. As Judy tries to console her, attempting to brush away the severity of the assault, Jen refuses to hear it. I think Feldman has subtly, and quite cleverly, appealed to common assumptions among females that hitting males is okay – even deserved. This is not the case, not even close, and Jen’s refusal to feel consoled by Judy’s excuse is a refreshing dismissal of society’s ill-informed and frankly, sexist justifications of domestic violence. We need to start talking more about domestic violence against males. I back this wholeheartedly, despite being saddened by the fact that Judy’s response is one shared by many.
Fertility And Miscarriage
Episode 9, ‘I Have To Be Honest’ was huuuuge. Throughout the series, audiences are aware of Judy’s fertility hardships. Having experienced a number of miscarriages, she reluctantly tries to accept her new, child-less reality. Despite her miscarriages, Judy maintains an unwavering hope that leads her to think she’s finally fallen pregnant with Steve’s baby. The test was a false positive, and following her Doctor consultation, Judy is informed that her early onset menopause renders her essentially, infertile.
It’s the kind of pain a female can’t quite imagine. Infertility is further complicated by our instincts, and female intuition, rendering it a life-changing diagnosis. For Judy, and many others, infertility can be the unexpected news which turns your childhood hopes and dreams into an impossible fairytale. This was an important conversation, and Feldman treats the topic with dignity.
My Words Of Advice
Whilst Dead to Me covers these topics with both humour and humility, it’s our duty to carry the conversation beyond the Netflix screen. If Dead to Me resonates with you, even just a little bit, have a conversation about it. Talk about the things society often keeps so hushed about.