Monday, March 26, 2007

Babies on Television: The X-Chromosome Factor

"Fifteen years ago we took a trip to Egypt. All five of us. Saw the Pyramids and Luxor and then headed up into the Sinai. We had a guide, a Bedouin man, who called me 'Abu el Banat'. And whenever we'd meet another Bedouin, he'd introduce me as Abu el Banat. And the Bedouin would laugh and laugh and offer me a cup of tea. And I'd go to pay them for the tea and they wouldn't let me. 'Abu el Banat' means 'Father of daughters.' They thought the tea was the least they could do." – President Bartlet

Maybe it's just us, but when a character from one of our favorite shows is pregnant, we know what color onesies to buy them. In fact, we've pretty much gotten television baby sexes down to a science:

Girls are forever, boys just fill quotas.

Believe us, this isn't simply the mantra of two fangirls without boyfriends, who happened to grow up in the Ally McBeal era.

It's the truth.

When a favorite couple decides to procreate (or, as is so often the case, have drunken unprotected sex), they almost always have girls. When we don't care so much about the couple or the family, they almost always have boys.

We'll use the show we hate to love (the ex-beloved ER) as a starting example: the Y-chromosomes belong to Reese Benton, Cosmo Brown (son of Susan Lewis), Kerry Weaver's son Henry, Deb's biological child, and even the once-mentioned son of Dr. Dave Malucci. Though it's slightly non-PC, we'll also include the stillborn son of Carter and Kem.

You may follow these characters stories, but they aren't the driving force of the show. Much as we loved Susan during season nine, we were tuning in for Carter and Abby.

OTPs, meanwhile, have girls. Girls were born on ER to Mark and Elizabeth (Ella) and doubly to the show's ultimate OTP, Doug and Carol, in the form of twins Kate and Tess. The multitude of boy babies on ER compared with the dearth of daughters can be attributed pretty much to the show’s lack of follow-through when it comes to romantic storylines.

(Now is as good a time as any to say that we won't discuss Joe Kovac, because then we'd have to get into defining ER OTPs, and this is pretty much the reason why we don't even watch the show anymore.)

Moving away from ER, we give you the following contrasts:

Emma Geller (Ross and Rachel) and her brother, Ben Geller (Ross and Lesbian Ex-Wife Carol).

Isabelle Vaughn (Sydney and Vaughn) and future colleague Mitchell Flinkman (Marshall and Carrie). In the final episode's flash-forward, it is revealed that the Flinkmans have three more sons, and that Isabelle has a little brother, appropriately named Jack. Though they've told us about six children, the only one we were actually supposed to care about and love was Isabelle. Not that we might not have fallen in love with Baby Jack had we spent more than forty-five seconds with him, but all we know is...that his name is Jack. They spent more time in that little vignette telling us that Isabelle doesn't do her chores and can put together the Indicator puzzle.

Hopefully, with all of these examples so brilliantly pointed out to you in a way you had never considered before, you are asking the following question:

Why?

Caroline posed this same question to Mae last night: "But why do TPTB look at pregnant women and go 'girl.' I totally believe that they look at, say, Derek/Meredith and look around the room at each other and say.... 'It has to be a girl. it just has to.' But why? They're not saying 'because that's what history says we do,' it's because of something about the characters.....and what is that?"

For the next hour, we discussed. (Like we said, we're fangirls without boyfriends.) There are actually several reasons why we believe this phenomenon exists.

I: A High-Class Hostage: The Daddy/Daughter Relationship

"The father of a daughter is nothing but a high-class hostage. A father turns a stony face to his sons, berates them, shakes his antlers, paws the ground, snorts, runs them off into the underbrush, but when his daughter puts her arm over his shoulder and says, 'Daddy, I need to ask you something,' he is a pat of butter in a hot frying pan." - Garrison Keillor

We think the most important factor is the notion of a Daddy's Girl. We go for the romantic guys on TV: the Jack Shephards and Michael Vaughns and Derek Shepherds of the small screen. These guys need little girls with whom they can do adorable things. They're already pretty freakin' adorable, but you add a cute little girl and it's enough to send you into a diabetic coma.

Vaughn needed a daughter he could coo over and protect and eventually teach how to ice skate. (Okay, maybe not protect—he is Michael Vaughn, after all.) We have a deep love for the scene in "No Hard Feelings" where Vaughn, Sydney, and Isabelle share a quiet afternoon in bed. Vaughn holds Isabelle's precious little hands and audibly gasps at the sweetness that is his daughter's snore. It's so precious we could die. No, we didn't get to spend a lot of time with Vaughn and Isabelle, which makes the cuteness of Daddy-Daughter that much more important. The writers knew when Isabelle was born that the show was nearing its final weeks. Cute matters a lot more than content when you're dealing in episodes rather than seasons. (Which isn't to say that we didn't think Isabelle was a perfect fit content-wise, too. We did. And we'll discuss it later.)

Over at Lost, though Jack was surprisingly stoic after the birth of (Nephew!) Aaron, you know he'd just scoop little girl babies up in his arms and baby talk and sing to her. Because he's a Girl Daddy, a father of daughters.

I'm sorry, but I squee just thinking about Jack Shepard singing to his baby daughter. And it is JJ Abrams's personal responsibility to make me squee.

Mae: "Jack, Vaughn, McDreamy... guys who like to lean on things, shed some tears and believe in romance. Girl daddies."

We mean, who doesn't absolutely die of the cuteness that is Patrick Dempsey with his daughter, Talula? When Matthew Fox's wife Margherita has their baby this summer, they really effing better do a People spread with the fam. We would, um, what's the word, melt.

Being a father of daughters is also vengeance for womanizers. Remember, Doug Ross was one of those guys who slept with epileptics before he even knew their name. Kate and Tess will show him the error of his ways. (Mae: "I don't know how many parents I've heard say that when you have a boy you have to worry about one penis, but if you have a girl you have to worry about every single penis in the entire world.")

Even more poignant here would be God gracing Josh Lyman with a daughter. Foreshadowed by President Bartlet on more than one occasion ("Josh, I think if you ever have a daughter..."), Josh's narcissism and cockiness would crumble in the face of a feisty Donna-esque little girl.

Fathers of daughters have proven to be the same guys that know how to make a girl swoon. Fathers of sons are traditionally rougher around the edges and rarely ever romantic (Sawyer is a perfect example of your future "father of a son"). The romantic guys are the guys that get the girl – the guys that land themselves in an everlasting OTP. Caroline and Mae both have fathers of daughters, and Mae will readily attest to the fact that her father is openly emotional sometimes to the level of being a sissy. But if you look at the aforementioned "romantic guys," you will notice that a sissy is the perfect description for all of them, too.

And you know what? Sissies make fabulous fathers of daughters.

II: As Though Experiencing an Earthquake: Moms and Daughters

"Suddenly, through birthing a daughter, a woman finds herself face to face not only with an infant, a little girl, a woman-to-be, but also with her own unresolved conflicts from the past and her hopes and dreams for the future....as though experiencing an earthquake." - Elizabeth Debold

Having girls isn't just for daddies, though. Girl babies are often redemption for their mommies whose own mothers weren't so great. Take Sydney Bristow, for example. Not only is every single one of her family members a frickin' superspy, they're all totally messed up. Having a mom who abandoned you when you were a little kid to go betray your dad and your country to the KGB had to give Sydney some pretty serious mommy doubts (as much as she denied them to Irina as she pushed Isabelle into the world). And yet, we saw her as a loving, devoted mom who put her daughter before everything else, and truly saw her dangerous work as a means to an end—a safe world for Isabelle to live in.

So when we look at, say, Derek and Meredith, it's obvious to us that their eventual offspring will be female. Because Derek needs a daughter he can cuddle and love and sit on the porch swing and rock with, and Meredith needs a daughter with whom she can break the bad-Grey-mama-drama streak.

Ditto Jack and Kate. Kate’s own mother ratted her out to the police after Kate killed her stepfather-really-her-biological-father. Attempts to reconcile in Mom’s final days were thwarted by Mom shouting out for help when she realized she was alone with her murderous daughter, who really only blew up the house to protect Mom. Sigh.

And nobody—nobody—needs a daughter more than Abby Lockhart. We were heartbroken when Abby had a hysterectomy, not only because we'd never get the biological Carbita that Jack Orman basically promised us, but because she might never have a daughter. A sweet little girl who could take her first steps in the Carter manse while Mommy and Daddy look on in pride. Sigh. Yes, I suppose we should resign ourselves to the fact that we're not going to get that, but we're not quite ready yet.

III: The Cuteness Factor

“A toddling little girl is a center of common feeling which makes the most dissimilar people understand each other.” – George Eliot

There's also decidedly a cuteness factor. At the risk of making ourselves seem extremely sexist, girl babies are just cuter than boy babies. When the characters we love go home from work, we want to see them doing adorable things with their babies, and there's just more possibility for adorableness with baby girls.

An example that can be brought to light is that of Sophie Rose Cohen, daughter of Sandy and Kirsten on The O.C. As soon as we found out that Kirsten was pregnant, there was no question at all that she would be having a baby girl.

Sandy and Kirsten are an everlasting OTP. Sandy and Kirsten were the backbone of that show, and the one couple whose adorableness was never argued by any viewer at any time. There was never any question that they would be together forever. They are the type of couple that demands a baby daughter.

So the characters we follow home get girls. The characters who we know and love but don't see outside of the ensemble (Dr. Bailey is the perfect example) get boys. They can be cute moms and dads, but we don't often see them with baby in tow.

IV: Exceptional Children (And Not Just the Ones Who Can Move Stuff With Their Minds)

“The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn't been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.” – Pablo Casals

Now, we probably know what you're going to say next. Basically the world's biggest OTP (and dare we say, the first) have—well, had, thanks to somebody's stupid choice—a son: Baby William, miracle child and defunct supersoldier.

Mulder and Scully didn't have these factors. Neither had nearly enough family drama with their parents, at least the ones who raised them. Scully didn't need a daughter to redeem her bad relationship with her mom, and any girl necessity you could argue was filled by her short-lived relationship with Emily in season five. And Mulder spent ninety seconds with his son in "Existence," making any push for that Daddy cuteness negated by David Duchovny's exodus.

You also don't want babies to be "replacements." If/when Carter and Abby have a baby, it would be a girl not only for these aforementioned factors, but also because it would be kind of mean to give Carter a second son as if the first one never happened. For Scully and Mulder, this means no girls who can be replacement Melissas or, most strikingly, replacement Samanthas.

On The O.C., Julie’s baby was meant to be a boy, because a little girl would have been a replacement Marissa, a move that would have seemed trite and slightly disturbing.

V: The Math and the Destiny: Where Babies Come From

"There are two kinds of fathers in traditional households: the fathers of sons and the fathers of daughters. These two kinds of fathers sometimes co-exist in one and the same man. For instance, Daughter's Father kisses his little girl goodnight, strokes her hair, hugs her warmly, then goes into the next room where he becomes Son's Father, who says in a hearty voice, perhaps with a light punch on the boy's shoulder: 'Goodnight, Son, see ya in the morning.'" - Letty Cottin Pogrebin

Not only does William still fit into the theory, he also paves the way for discussion on the idea of "The Exception To Every Rule." Everything outlined so far should (at least in our opinions) prove that baby genders have everlasting influence on the relationship of their parents. However, William's being a boy doesn't exactly mean that Mulder and Scully ran off into the sunset only to get into a huge argument a few months later and go their separate ways.

There are just some situations in which the gender rule must be broken in order to match the predestined needs of a certain OTP. William is the perfect (and surely the biggest) example of this type of situation.

See, most OTPs are girl-baby couples - pure and simple, no arguments about it. But every once in a great while you come across an OTP that is screaming for a son – screaming it so loudly, season after season, that if they actually did follow the gender rule of bring a baby girl into the world it would just feel, well, wrong. Mulder and Scully was a couple destined to have a son.

I mean, it was flat out predicted during "The Sixth Extinction" and "TSE: Amor Fati" when Mulder kept living in his hallucinations where he played on the beach building alien spaceship sand castles with a little boy that was clearly meant to be his future son. It was so obvious that the anvil falling from the sky was practically the size of a Mack truck. Mulder was destined to have a son. No tried and true baby gender rules could have even tried to change that fact. Premonitions of future children make all previous rules null and void.

But even if William hadn't been predicted seasons before his birth, Mulder and Scully would have still been due a son. They're completely different than any other OTP we've ever loved. Mulder and Scully weren't lovey-dovey or romantic on any levels whatsoever. They were rough and tough FBI ass kickers and (even though I can imagine them both being cute with a daughter) their personalities just fit better with the parents of a son.

Isabelle Vaughn was destined to be a girl not only because of pre-stated reasoning, but also because of the Derevko bloodline. Elena, Irina, Katya, Sydney, Nadia… no boys anywhere in this Spy Family bloodline, thus Sydney was destined to carry on the tradition and bring yet another super-smart, spy-riffic Derevko woman into the world.

VI: Sibling Rivalry: Why Already-Grown Children Don’t Matter

“Everybody assumes that the second child is a piece of cake. After all, you’ve done it before. Yet studies show that the second is often much more difficult and life changing than the first.” – Jennifer Bingham Hull

It's important to remember that every rule stated in this post only applies to children we travel through pregnancy and birth with, otherwise it doesn't matter what gender they are at all. If grown children actually affected the relationship status of a couple, Jack and Irina would never have split up. Irina and Sloane would have stayed together, too, for that
matter. Julie and Jimmy would be together twice as long as eternity with the two daughters they had together. You see where this is going? It doesn't count.

But new babies count like hell. And the fact that Sandy and Kirsten already had Seth and Ryan only doubled the rules in their favor of a girl. (We didn’t see her pregnant with Seth. We weren’t there for either of the boys’ births. They were just...there.) Previous children of one gender often justify and demand the birth of the opposite. Sometimes you get Ella Greene, so perhaps it's more accurate to say that OTPs with previous male children automatically justify the birth of the opposite. OTPs will pretty much always have girls, regardless of whether or not a pre-grown daughter already exists.

We can only imagine how many of you are too young to remember this, but travel back in time with us for a moment whilst we wax nostalgic about Growing Pains and how it helps to prove this point. Jason and Maggie Seaver came into our TV world with three pre-grown children: two boys (Mike and Ben) and a girl (Carol). When Maggie got pregnant on the show, it could have been potentially difficult to predict the sex of the baby considering they had pre-grown kids of both genders. Yet one fact remained: Jason and Maggie were an 80s OTP, so it was inevitable that little Chrissy Seaver would be the new addition.

Is this starting to make eye-opening sense to you now? Let's continue on to the next point...

There's a reason Julie Cooper didn't choose to marry either Bullit or Frank. Had we known of her pregnancy before the finale aired, it never would have been predicted that she would stay with either of them. Julie being pregnant meant that a baby boy was inarguably in her future; therefore long-lasting OTPish love was - well - not.

Plus, had Julie given birth to a girl it would have been nothing more than a new little Marissa replacement. She already had two daughters, one of whom was still alive and well, so there was no other option for her than to have a son.

In the grand scheme of things, Julie's relationships were never going to be anywhere near OTP status and so the gender of her baby wouldn't have mattered in any sense other than filling the baby boy quota. But her previous children (Marissa and Kaitlin) and the need to not bring a replacement daughter into the world after Marissa's death pretty much sealed the deal that Baby Cooper would be a boy.

---

We’re pretty sure that TPTB aren’t sitting around analyzing these six factors. In fact, we’re not entirely sure what makes them continue with this pattern. We’ve watched enough television throughout the years to be confident in our theory and to accurately predict baby sexes—and even baby names, on more than one frightening occasion. As pregnancies continue to occur on our favorite shows, keep checking Chaos in General for your very own virtual sonogram.

Until then, we’ll be out looking for Daughter Daddies of our very own. Preferably ones with green eyes. And dimples.

6 Responses to “Babies on Television: The X-Chromosome Factor”

Anonymous said...

You're forgetting Gilmore girls. It's an absolute given that lorelai will/would have a boy. even though it seems to go away from the natural otp rule of they would have a girl. because Luke has daddy issues having lost his father and because both Luke and Lorelai already have daughters.

and the name you ask?
William.

Caroline Carter said...

I agree. The explosion of daughters on GG (Rory, April, and even Gigi) makes Luke & Lorelai more apt to have boys. And yes, I wholeheartedly agree that it'll be William. I desperately wanted Sydney and Vaughn's baby son to be named William--"after your father"--but was just as pleased with the name Jack.

Nice to see a fresh comment on the site--keep reading, anonymous.

Anonymous said...

That was woaahh, good observing

Anonymous said...

That was woaahh, good observing

Anonymous said...

That was woaahh, good observing

Alice said...

Brilliant post!
I've always thought baby girls were somehow more relevant than boys on tv shows, and whenever I care about a couple of fictional characters, I always hope they'll have a girl.

I had never analyzed the whole thing though.
I wonder if you could clarify the meaning of the acronym OTP? I'm not a native English speaker and sometime acronyms give me a hard time.
Thanks,
Alice