What It Means to Be A Man

The theme of the episode was what it means to be a man. It starts with Bill’s heartbreaking case-of-the-week. A young couple gives birth to a son who is born with ambiguous sexual genitalia. The genetic testing reveals that the child has XY chromosomes. With a specialist, surgery, and years of medication and hard work, the child could lead a normal, if not tough, life as a boy. However, the child’s father is so disgusted by his baby that he can’t even entertain the idea of having a son who has to work harder to be normal. He calls his child an “it” and asks “Can you make it normal?” He even discusses his babies performance in the bedroom, just hours after he’s born.

After being asked to cut the baby’s penis off, Bill tries to explain to the new father that he can’t just decide his baby’s gender based on what’s easiest. “You’re going to thank me for protecting your child from your own poor judgment.”

Later, in the hotel room, Bill explains the case to Virginia. She suggests the couple give their son a name, in order to make him more real to him. “When he has a boy’s name, he’ll be a boy to his father.” The whole situation is upsetting to Bill, who calls the father a bully.

It isn’t clear until later that Bill is identifying with the poor baby. His own father was the worst kind of bully. He’d beat him for any little reason, or no reason at all. Sometimes Bill would fight back, but he preferred to not even put his hands up during their one-sided sparring matches. “It’s the ultimate insult. A fighter that keeps their hands down…Come on you son of a bitch. Take your best shot.” If he were to get down on his knees and beg for mercy, his father would have stopped the beatings. But Bill refused to ever beg. That to him meant he was a real man.

Virginia watches Bill describe his childhood in horror. She firmly disagrees with his stance on what makes a man, especially when it comes to teaching her own son. “When he’s hurt, I don’t want him to act like he’s not. I don’t think that’s going to make him a man.”

When their night together is over, Bill calls the hospital to check on his patient. While he and Virginia were hashing out what they believed it meant to be a man, the newborn’s father was deciding that he’d live his life as a woman, simply because it was an easier surgery to get out of the way in a single night. “Better a tomboy than a sissy,” the father tells Bill. And because we don’t live in the 50s anymore, every viewer knows the confusion and horrors poor newborn “Sarah” is going to go through because of his father’s ideas of what it means to be a worthwhile man. It’s possibly the most horrifying thing to happen on the show.

Other Musings:

• Bill and Virginia fake fight in their robes. Virginia tries to get a few punches in but only ends up with her bracelet caught in his hair. She has to cut off some of his hair to free herself. Later, she says, “You enjoyed that. Making me feel pathetic and weak.” He responds: “You are weak. Weaker.”
• Bill on his dad: “He didn’t break my heart. Just my nose. A left hook. He did me a favor. He made me the man I am today.”
• “Beg me.” “No. I won’t.” This moment was a little disturbing.
• Virginia about her fake husband: “He takes me seriously. Listens to me. In a few years those will be the things your girlfriend appreciates.”

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