Watching TV can be a minefield for widows. I noticed this soon after I lost my husband; we were in the last season of The Sopranos. I could never make myself finish it after his death. But, I kept thinking about the episodes with widower Bobby Baccalieri, especially the one when he takes a cake to his wife’s grave on their anniversary and buries it with her. I recognized his grief and what it can drive us to do.
I began to notice slices of my new reality in other movies and shows I watched. I was looking for acknowledgement of grief, for affirmation that my feelings were normal–that doing things like burying a cake at a grave site was okay. Also, I think having another dimension of experience and empathy allows me to see characters differently than I did before. For instance, when Avengers: Endgame was released, I was the only one in the theater sobbing because so many dead people were restored to life.
But, I also think screenwriters have begun to recognize an entire section of society previously ignored. While the motivation for making grievers as main characters of movies or TV series is probably profit, I’m thankful to see the more inclusive trend.
I’ve found a few movies and shows that feature a grieving person as the main character, and I thought I’d share them with you.
In 2019, I discovered Dead to Me, a series with a widow for its central character. In this dark comedy on Netflix, Christina Applegate plays a widow and mother, and so much of her character is recognizable. She has no tolerance for nosy neighbors and no patience for social niceties. She’s angry and devastated and trying her best to care for her sons. The show has beautiful moments, too, like when her younger son believes a bird that repeatedly visits his window carries the soul of his father. The writers get so much right about living with grief.
After Life: Ricky Gervais stars in this Netflix comedy-drama series. Tony, the main character, considers suicide after his wife dies but instead decides to behave any way he feels like because he finds absolutely no joy in living any more. I recognized that dark place in which Tony begins the series, and his journey through the meaninglessness and pain of loss illustrates how important the love friends and strangers and pets can be to the grieving.
Fleabag: another dark comedy series on Amazon Prime. Set in London, the main character is a single woman, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whose life has been completely altered by the death of her best friend. The flashbacks of their friendship effectively illustrate how a grieving mind works.
The Unicorn: I found this on Hulu, but it’s a CBS comedy series so it’s family friendly. Walton Goggins plays Wade, a widower with two tweenage daughters. Again, so much of his life is recognizable, and his overly helpful friends are hilarious. In one episode, Wade goes to a grief group at the urging of his friends because they think he needs to deal with his anger. The therapy group scenes are funny, but I loved the scene when he finally tells his friends that the only reason he’s angry is because they won’t stop telling him he’s angry.
WandaVision: an Avengers spin-off on Disney+. I watched this because I’m a sci-fi/comic book fan, but I never expected to recognize the power of grief in the main character. In this limited series, Avenger Wanda Maximoff, uses her superhuman powers as a way to cope with the death of her love, Vision, in the Infinity War. No spoilers–it’s too new for me to say more.
As I said, building movies and series around grieving characters might be just another way for Hollywood to make money reaching a newfound audience, especially after millions have lost loved ones to Covid-19, but it also allows millions to have affirmation of their grief journeys. For that I’m grateful.
Let me know what you’d add to a widow’s watchlist!