Much trailed from the US, the first episode of Generation Cryo showed on MTV in the UK last night. I was an avid watcher, but sadly without any family members as Walter’s heavy cold took him to bed (no TV in the bedroom) and Zannah put seeing friends over a place next to me on the sofa.
Most of you reading this will know the basic story, which is of lesbian 17 year old Breeanna, daughter of two moms, meeting some of her 12 half-siblings, all of whom she has connected with via the Donor Sibling Registry. Bree lives in Reno, Nevada and in this first episode she visits Jonah and Hilit, DI conceived teenage children of heterosexual couple Eric and Terri, in Atlanta, Georgia. But first she talks about her own situation, which is tricky to say the least. Although we see her two moms together in various shots, Bree tells us that they separated long ago and don’t really talk to each other. Bree often finds herself stuck in the middle. Her bio-mom is supportive of Bree looking for her donor, her non-bio mom clearly feels threatened by the biological link and the potential (she feels) for Bree’s affections to be transferred to this man. Feelings of this sort by non-bio mothers were clearly identified in the recent Relative Strangers research and it was interesting to see them so clearly played out here.
Eric and Terri were very welcoming to Bree and we see the half-sibs all getting on well and the whole family eating and joking together . Physically there are strong similarities, although Jonah and Hilit unsurprisingly look more Jewish than Bree, and together they identify the pouty bottom lip that all three of them have. The fly in the ointment comes when Bree asks Jonah if he would be willing to take a DNA test so that he can help her trace their joint donor. Jonah and Hilit are both clear that they have no interest in meeting the donor, but Jonah is a sweet boy and wants to help Bree. The problem is that as he is only 17, he has to get a parent to sign the consent form for the test. Round the dinner table, with Bree’s face falling as emotions rise, Terri, rather unsupportively, accuses Eric of not even having wanted to tell the children about the use of a donor. She wants Eric to sign the form because she is very interested in knowing more about and even meeting the donor, feeling that this will give her insights into her children. Eric, however, on the verge of tears, explains that he had to get past the insecurity within himself about his inability to ‘do that fundamental manly thing’ in order to bring himself to be able ‘tell’ Jonah and Hilit. In being asked to sign something that may bring the donor into the life of his family, he feels the picture that he has of who his family are is being attacked…and that in turn feels like an attack on him.
I could have hugged the man. Allowing himself to be so vulnerable (on camera too) and articulating emotions so clearly is a rare feat for a guy and I suspect he was putting into words the fears that lurk in the hearts of many DI dads…or would do if they were faced with a similar situation. But despite his anxieties Eric has a big heart and, recognising that his son is a kind and good-hearted person who only wants to help a friend, he signs the papers.
For me, Eric’s emotion and articulacy were the heart of the film but there were other interesting bits too…like where Bree talks about being lesbian with Jonah and Hilit’s friends and reveals that one of her moms accuses the other of ‘turning’ their daughter lesbian. The chat about sexuality in this group is relaxed, easy and normal and made me understand how very far today’s young have come from when I was a teenager. There is also some talk between the sibs of the differences between feelings for a friend and between this sibling group. I didn’t make notes about this and wish I had but I’m sure there will be more on this topic over the next five weeks. I’ve certainly got MY place on the sofa booked for 9pm for the next few Wednesday nights as Bree continues her journey. Care to join me?