We need to talk about a new movie coming soon on Netflix – The Starling with Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, and Kevin Kline.
One: yay for portrayals of baby loss in mainstream entertainment!
Two: Why did they throw in the outdated, unhelpful stages of grief?! WHY.
The scene is in the clip circulating on IG, and if you follow me and saw the clip – you know just what I’m talking about. I don’t know how heavily the stages of grief figure into the film, but even one mention is too many.
Entertainment industry portrayals of grief are where we learn what’s “normal” inside grief, and it’s where we learn how to support other people in their grief. We learn by watching.
Media portrayals of grief that are 50+ years out of date just deepen our misunderstanding of grief, making things harder for grieving people AND friends and family who want to help.
If you’re going to bother trying to represent the reality of grief, it is absolutely not difficult to look into whether you’re portraying the issue you say you care about correctly.
This goes right back to “good intentions.” You make a film like this, and I assume it’s because you care about opening conversations around baby loss.
If that’s your goal, then it seems to me you’d want to be sure your script, your character development, your portrayal of grief is actually rooted in the real human experience, not in some outdated, reductive model that only furthers to pathologize the issue you’re seeking to normalize.
I’m very glad the topic of baby loss is out there. I’m glad people are excited about the film.
And I wish the writers and producers had done their research on the reality of grief before they finalized this script. They missed a massive opportunity and I’m more than bummed about that.
It’s important to talk about grief. It’s important to talk about the way grief impacts relationships. The Starling COULD have had such a powerful impact on how we care for ourselves and each other – if it just didn’t use outdated portrayals of grief.
Now it’s just one more movie that aimed for something awesome and fell short, making things tougher for grieving people and supporters. As an educator, this truly bums me out.
And since the producers didn’t KNOW the stages of grief weren’t relevant, this means my whole mission of cultural education isn’t reaching far enough.
Keep talking about grief, friends. Share your stories. Share what helps and what doesn’t. We can’t wait around for the entertainment industry to get it right. We’ve got to have these conversations here, inside our own social circles, with our therapists and doctors.It's important to talk about grief. The Starling COULD have had such a powerful impact on how we care for ourselves and each other - if it just didn't use outdated portrayals of grief. Click To Tweet
Grief is part of love – and you can’t put a set of predictable stages on love. That grief feels bad doesn’t make it bad. It’s not over in 6 weeks or 6 months or 6 years.
Grief is part of love – and love evolves. As long as you love your person, grief is part of you. That’s not wrong – it’s human. No stages are ever going to capture that.