As a child of divorce, I distinctly remember the shows that portrayed my “situation” on TV, since most nostalgic family sitcoms were so often the realm of the perfect nuclear family. The Brady Bunch and Step by Step were examples of blended families, but I realize now they both focused on the love story of two parents who found each other after divorce. Neither show depicted the exes of those parents, or the messy, complicated relationship of co-parenting.
Think about it: there were plenty of series with single parents, but those exes, too, were absent (and sometimes dead; RIP whatever Danny’s wife’s name was on Full House). My reality was different: I had two very much alive parents who did their best to communicate, get along, and raise me and my siblings in two homes. I never saw this on TV, though. Portrayals of co-parenting are still rare, a thought that occurred to me after I watched HBO Max’s Love Life, which deftly tackles the subject.
On the 2020 show, we follow Anna Kendrick’s character Darby over several years of her life as she meets different prospective partners until she ultimately finds The One. After she reconnects with her first love, Augie (Jin Ha) she finds herself with (SPOILER ALERT) a surprise pregnancy, which she decides to keep. On the other hand, she decides Augie isn’t actually The One for her, and they amicably break up while agreeing to co-parent their young son.
It’s complicated, with schedules and different home lives to navigate, as it would be. It sometimes feels a little unrealistic, as Darby and Augie get along almost too well. But still, it’s a positive portrayal of co-parenting, the likes of which we rarely see. It’s not a Parent Trap-y story of how they fall back in love, either; their relationship is another thing to navigate when Darby meets someone new.
These depictions of co-parenting on TV are important. We know there are so many ways that families can be created and exist, but unless we live them, we don’t all know what they look like. And when people—and kids—can see themselves and their situations onscreen, the representation means more than we realize. So as imperfect as Augie and Darby’s co-parenting portrayal may be, I salute it—and hope we soon will see many more.
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