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The Lottery: Your Infertility is Dark and Dystopian

Lifetime has a new show coming out where women are… wait for it… infertile.  And then just when it seems as if life on earth is about to die out, 100 embryos successfully fertilize and a lottery is held to see who will become the surrogates to carry these embryos. (Since, because this is television, there seems to be unlimited time to utilize said embryos, no concern about fresh vs. frozen cycles and success rates, nor concern whether the embryos will survive the thaw.  Don’t you wish you lived in Hollywood?)

The general manager of Lifetime calls it: “one of the most provocative and original concepts we’ve ever seen.”

In other words, it’s your life.  But it’s entertainment!


Image: Timothy Swinson
(I was trying to illustrate the concept of dystopia, but doesn’t this look like a metal penis encased in barbwire?)

No, of course, we don’t live in a dystopian future where the human race is dying out, hence why no one takes your infertility very seriously.  After all, if you can’t have a child, it doesn’t really matter because someone can have a child.  Until no one can have a child, infertility won’t be a burning issue except to be used as an entertainment device.  But I do love the Huffington Post title for their article on the series: “Lifetime’s ‘The Lottery’ Is Set In World Where Women Can’t Have Children.”

Do you mean like, now, Huffington Post? Because I’m not sure if you realize this, but there are women in this world who can’t have children. Oh… but again, since some people can have children, it isn’t actually a problem.

I’m being sarcastic, but you would think, based on how often infertility comes up as a fear that artists explore in various mediums, that we would be doing more as a society to aid those experiencing infertility.  After all, it’s apparently society-as-a-whole’s worst fear.  Why can’t we translate that fear to the individual level?  And if not going so far as to create insurance mandates at least extending empathy?  If we can understand the fear of having the human race die off, why can’t we understand the smaller scale: a family’s genetic line dying off?

Strangely enough, the television show is being compared to the Hunger Games.  I’m not really sure how it compares to the Hunger Games since it seems that in the Lottery, you are being chosen for the honour of carrying one of the embryos. (Unless you’re killed if you miscarry?  Or if you can’t carry a child, you’re dismissed a la Handmaid’s Tale?)  Whereas in the Hunger Games, you’re chosen and you need to kill everyone else in order to be the sole winner.

I’m not sure if a comparison to staged murder shines the best light on educating the public on infertility.

I doubt that I’ll watch the Lottery mostly because I’m not sure I’ll actually remember the Lottery by the time it hits the small screen.  I have a tendency to see these announcements, comment about them, and then forget the show exists by the time it airs.  And then several years later say, “hey, weren’t they going to make a show called the Lottery?”  And then you all say, “uh, Melissa, it aired and it bombed and it was pulled after a few episodes.”  And then I say, “oh…”  So instead of doing that familiar song-and-dance, I’ll just admit that I likely won’t watch this.  Mostly because I live not being able to have a child, and I don’t need to see a televised depiction of my personal “dark and dystopian” reality.

Will you watch it?  How do you think it will affect the general public’s understanding of infertility — help or hinder?


1 Pepper { 02.18.14 at 8:47 am }

This made me laugh out loud – not because it’s funny, of course, but because it’s so completely ridiculous. Wow. I will not watch and I think not many other people will, either, so I don’t think it’s do much to affect perception of infertility one way or another.

2 a { 02.18.14 at 8:56 am }

If the human race is ever going to die out, could it start with the people who come up with these kind of show concepts? No, I know – I’ve seen Idiocracy. Only the smart people are going to die off…

3 Raven { 02.18.14 at 9:16 am }

Wow, what a concept. I haven’t heard of it, and I’m positive I won’t watch it, but it certainly irks me that it’s going to assist in the constant perpetuation of infertility myths. Because, you know, it’s THAT easy to get pregnant via IVF. That’s why we’re all doing it, right? Oh wait…

4 Katherine A { 02.18.14 at 9:40 am }

Now that you mention it, infertility/the human race dying off does seem to feature in a number of dystopias. Huh.

But yeah, that whole 100 embryos fertilizing? I want to know how many of them actually are growing to cleavage stage. And how about blastocyst? What age was the woman or women these eggs were harvested from? If they came from, oh, say a 30 year old with decent AMH, that means about 40% of them are genetically normal. Or are these the 100 embryos that have been fully subjected to chromosome array testing and deemed good? And have these women had their saline sonograms or hysteroscopies to make sure the uterus doesn’t have any scar tissue or abnormalities that might prove problematic for implantation? Oh, and what protocol are they using for all of this? Lupron? Natural cycle? 🙂

I’d agree with you that I’m not sure how this winds up comparing with the Hunger Games. Unless they’re just borrowing the line “May the odds be ever in your favor”. But isn’t that whole concept part of most fertility treatments?

Totally cracking up at your picture caption…

5 NotWhen { 02.18.14 at 10:55 am }

Maybe this says more about me than I’d like, but my first thought upon reading about the show’s conceit was: “Damn, it’d be awesome to live in that universe and watch the rest of the world deal with what I’ve been living the past 4.5 years.”

Seriously, though. If there was a sudden, species-threatening onset of mass infertility, you’d better believe I’d be the one walking around wearing a doomsday-esque sandwich board sign reading “Just relax!”

6 Lori Lavender Luz { 02.18.14 at 11:16 am }

Oh, no! How would ANYONE ever survive not being able to have children??

I must tune in to find out.

Or just keep living my life.

7 Another Dreamer { 02.18.14 at 11:24 am }

I don’t have cable, but even if I did I highly doubt I’d bother watching that. Ugh.

I will say that as far as Dystopian societies that can’t procreate I did like “Child of Man,” which was a spin off of what would happen if everyone in the entire world suddenly was unable to have children. Down to the last person, and 18 years pass. It was interesting, and very dark. I watched it before my diagnosis, but haven’t watched it since. The idea of this show you’re describing seems so less poignant, pointless, and astoundingly ignorant. No, I’d pass.

8 chickenpig { 02.18.14 at 11:28 am }

I think NOW I’ve seen everything. Or maybe not 🙂 I don’t think I’ll be watching this show. Unless it ends up on Netflix years from now and I have nothing else better to do.

That picture looks like a very scary dido-cam. Enough to give me nightmares for weeks to come. Thanks for that. 😉

9 Nicole { 02.18.14 at 11:42 am }

It assumes so much. Every single embryo is guaranteed to make a baby? That is a great joke considering how many embryos I had transferred in 7 IVFs. Also I don’t believe that 100 new babies is not enough genetic variation for stable population growth anyway so it isn’t like it would improve the outlook for humanity. Headlines today said more people than ever are using IVF with the usual accompanying moronic comments about selfish people doing IVF and putting down my (and other infertiles) genetics calling us inferior. The article blames age but I saw no numbers for breakdown in age of people using IVF and whether it is trending older. I started at 27 so it wasn’t age at fault for me!

10 Esperanza { 02.18.14 at 11:47 am }

I had to read your first sentence a few times because I didn’t get it. I was like, what do you mean there is a future where women are infertile. But that future is now, I thought, confused. It took me a while to realize what you meant was ALL women were infertile. A huge difference in their minds. In my mind? Not so much. Enough said.

11 deathstar { 02.18.14 at 12:22 pm }

First of all, thanks for the image and the accompanying words- I will be unable to “unsee” an metal penis now. Ugh. Second of all, I thought of Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery, which is truly a terrible story of inhumanity. Or is it when ALL women are infertile, not just 1 in 8? Now I see how that would be TERRIBLE! End of humanity and all that stuff is wonderful fodder for Hollywood. So the women are infertile and the men are not? A lottery for the right to have a child? Sounds like IVF to me. But I’m bitter cause I lost all money in that gamble.

12 loribeth { 02.18.14 at 2:14 pm }

Will I be watching? — umm, I doubt it. :p Great points, though, Mel, about the individual vs the group, etc. I get infuriated every time I read articles by doomsday economists about declining birthrates & how they will wreak havoc on the economy & social programs, etc., and how do we encourage people to have more children? Hello, there’s a huge group of adults out there who would love to be parents (and would probably make very good parents), but can’t do it on their own physically, and often have a hard time affording the help they would need to conceive. But nope, no way should we allow taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars to be used to pay for something as selfish as IVF, right? :p

13 Brid { 02.18.14 at 3:37 pm }

Hey there NotWhen, you’re not alone in the thought that it would be great to watch those smug assholes suffer like us!
I think the barbed-wired-wrapped penis probably says more about infertility than it does dystopia… and what’s in the background? Water? Amniotic fluid? It sort of looks like an ultrasound… ominous!

14 Sharon { 02.18.14 at 5:44 pm }

Hmm, hadn’t heard of this. No, I won’t be watching.

I agree with you that the popular notion is that the inability to have children is no big deal unless NO ONE can have children. I guess 1 in 6 couples in the U.S.A. just isn’t compelling enough.

15 A. { 02.19.14 at 7:18 am }

A “provocative and original concept”? From the first paragraph of this post I was thinking–The Handmaid’s Tale, Children of Men, etc. The infertility dystopias give me this uncomfortable feeling, like the masses are staring into our world like we’re gorillas at the zoo. Maybe that’s paranoid. And, yeah, I probably won’t watch it because the sensationalized Hollywood portrayals never fail to make alternate paths to family feel twisted, adulterous, and desperate. No thanks!

16 Geochick { 02.19.14 at 12:27 pm }

Nice picture! It fits either way ! The premise if the show sounds dumb. I’ll stick to my other ridiculous shows (vampire diaries anyone?) for now.

17 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 02.21.14 at 11:32 am }

I totally hadn’t seen that penis. But now I do.

I presume in the future the technology they’ve perfected is actually speed-lottery technology. If only they’d extended mandated insurance coverage for infertility when the getting was good, it might have helped trickle more dollars into research aimed at creating more than a hundred final embryos, or, like, not having the human race die out.

It’s possible I won’t be receiving too many urgent calls wanting to pick up that story idea though.

18 Battynurse { 02.24.14 at 11:25 pm }

Hadn’t heard of it but nope, not watching. Sounds awful.

19 It Is What It Is { 03.12.14 at 11:11 pm }

1) Yes, that IS a penis wrapped in barbed wire
2) Are you going to watch it
3) No, I won’t

(see how delayed I am in my blog reading, but I always read your posts!)

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