The season finale of Winners & Losers aired little more than a week ago on Channel Seven, and the issues of domestic violence, sex work, co-parenting, abortion, women proposing to men, marriage equality and euthanasia got me thinking about just how progressive the show is.
What started out as an entertaining little serial about four high school friends who decide to enter the lotto—and win!—after a particularly traumatic ten-year high school reunion has proved to be one of the only Aussie soaps tackling the hard issues.
While the first season was more about the romantic ups and downs of four Melbourne girls and how they dealt with their lotto win, whispers of what was to come in season two were heard in the finale, when Bec married Matt only to discover that she was pregnant with Doug’s, who’d finally gotten it together with med school bestie Sophie, baby! Phew!
With Bec being entangled in such a messy love square of course the “tender issue”, as Ann Romney would put it, of abortion would be brought up. It was disappointing that the non-existent abortion only received a one-episode story arc, but I was proud of the series for showing the nuanced ways different people deal with terminating a pregnancy, namely Sophie, who last episode found herself embroiled in an unwanted pregnancy situation of her own.
But it goes to show that as many views on abortion as there are IRL, there are in Winners & Losers. So far we’ve only seen the reactions of Bec (staunchly pro-life when it comes to herself, but supportive of the choices of other women), Doug (who expresses disbelief that his virile sperm has resulted in two unplanned but ultimately wanted pregnancies in the past year!), and Sophie (who chose her choice of abortion and underwent the procedure the same day in last fortnight’s episode. Oh, if only abortion were that easy to obtain for so many women…), but judging from the alternative lifestyle of Frances and the tumult of Jenny’s existence recently, they’ll see beyond the political mess that abortion has become and empathise with their friend first and foremost.
The irony of bringing a “bandaid” baby into the world to heal the wounds between the two doctors is not lost on Doug. Sophie reasons that she’s “taken the morning after pill before; it’s not that different” (except that the morning after pill prevents implantation while an abortion is literally terminating an already implanted pregnancy. So, not entirely accurate W&L writing team.) and Doug retorts that he’s “not some one night stand”, insinuating that pregnancies that result from casual sex can only be and are the only unwanted ones.
Season two has been jammed packed with human rights matters like there’s no tomorrow. Flirty Cat came on the scene only to die a medically-assisted suicide a few episodes later. It was revealed that not only was high school mean girl Tiffany suffering physical abuse at the hands of her rich, Brighton-dwelling partner, but she was receiving money from him in return for her sexual services. Unfortunately, only on television could this come to light in a custody hearing and the mother still be able to see her children. On a not-so-well-though-out whim Sophie decided to propose to Doug because she knew how much marriage meant to him, only to break off the engagement two weeks later. While that storyline might not have turned out for the best, at least the show gave the notion of a woman proposing to a man without stigma a go.
Winners & Losers is certainly not faultless, and it has a long way to go when it comes to racial diversity and tackling stereotypes of non-straight people (Cat kissed women in a slightly male-gazey way, while Jonathan is a walking gay man trope), but it has to be given props for at least attempting to unpack the issues that many Australians face every day, but are so seldom seen on our screens.
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