Where Are All the Childfree Protagonists?

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Tatiana Maslany speaking at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con. She plays a clone, and a mom, on the BBC America show Orphan Black. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore  (via Creative Commons) on Flickr.

I’ve been looking for movies and TV series with compelling adult characters who aren’t parents. And mostly, I’ve been drawing a blank.

Seems like when a screenwriter wants to amp up the tension, a “Don’t take my baby!” storyline often is the go-to option. Even on an unconventional show like Orphan Black–a science fiction drama involving clones–our main character, Sarah, is driven by her desire to have access to her small daughter, who has been in foster care.

I was pleased to see a childfree couple, the ruthless and brilliant Frank and Claire Underwood, on the Netflix series House of Cards. The fact that they don’t have kids fits them well: they’re a driven pair, angling for political power, and for them, kids would be a distraction. Even though this contributes to one of the big stereotypes about childfree people–that we’re selfish–it’s a brave choice for the writers to make.

On the wonderful, eerie French drama The Returned (also available on Netflix), one central character, Julie, has no kids and winds up caring for a mysterious little boy. I liked that dynamic, but Julie is more childless than childfree–there is the implication (a few episodes in) that she physically cannot have children, rather than that she’s chosen to live without them.

Characters I identify with are often parents: Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife, for example. Even dark protagonists like Walter White on Breaking Bad and Don Draper on Mad Men are dads, and fatherhood is a key motivator.

Can you think of movie or TV characters who have chosen not to have kids, or are portrayed as content without them?

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2 thoughts on “Where Are All the Childfree Protagonists?

  1. I can’t really say…in Doctor Who, River Song never had children but she hasn’t explicitly stated that she is childfree…but she is a criminal/archaeologist/professor so I don’t think they’d fit with her lifestyle.

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