Empire’s Abortion Debate Is Muddled, But Improved

Tiana-from-Empire

Tiana is her own woman and knows her own mind (huffpost.com).

Spoilers for “Empire,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Scandal” ahead. 

Sometimes we all need a mulligan.“Empire’s” writers just took one on abortion.

I don’t blame them. The last time abortion arose on Fox’s music-oriented soap opera, the whole storyline felt too pointed. It existed seemingly only as a messenger, which never works well storytelling-wise and works even worse for a subject as personal and polarizing as abortion.

Back in April 2018, “Empire’s” beloved Becky, the A&R executive, found herself pregnant with the baby of Christian rapper J Poppa, whom she had dumped. Becky didn’t want the relationship or the baby, assuming the child would cramp her hard-charging, career-centered lifestyle. So she decided to abort before J Poppa even knew she was pregnant.

For a character who’s not typically portrayed as unfeeling, the whole thing felt incredibly cold, like the decision was a fairly obvious and uncomplicated one. The writers left poor J Poppa praying before joining Becky at Planned Parenthood, telling her that while he didn’t support abortion, he wanted to support her. And that was pretty much the end of that.

In an earlier era, abortion was a narrative non-starter. (See: “Friends.”) That’s not so now. “Empire’s” storyline recalled Cristina Yang’s two career-fueled abortions on “Grey’s Anatomy,” which upset both fathers, and Olivia Pope’s choice to abort the president’s baby without his knowledge while “Silent Night” played on “Scandal.” She didn’t want to have his baby.

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