Opting to Stay

I would have liked to have called this post the same thing as the article in the NYTimes Magazine: “Should We Stay or Should We Go” because I like that so much, but I felt uncomfortable stealing it. Obviously, I am still finding articles in the NYTimes and a few other places that inspire me to write posts for this blog. I am an incorrigible user of material that originates elsewhere!

In this case, the discussion is about how the trend in films has gone from the constant use of the phrase “Let’s get out of here” to the command to stay and be strong enough to stay. “Where ‘Let’s get out of here’ is all bravado and yang, stay is self-absorbed yin. In this context, the balance of cultural power seems to have shifted from the getting-outta-here rebels who used to tell the squares and schoolmarms to kiss off to the squares and schoolmarms themselves, who just wish everyone would hold on a second and think this thing through.” This article also addresses the complications of staying which include the possibility of being oppressive and/or being too protective.

In our case, I see the “Doc Martin” show as following the same progression. (I say this with the full recognition that Portwenn is a place that most people rarely leave. What I’m focusing on is Louisa’s behavior in regard to the relationship that builds with Martin.) Martin arrives at Portwenn because he has decided to get out of London. Leaving London and being a vascular surgeon gives him an opportunity to start a new life. He isn’t thrilled with the place he’s chosen and, for many reasons, decides to leave Portwenn to return to London. Louisa wants to have a relationship with Martin and stay in Portwenn, but she is always leaving the relationship for one reason or another.

Nevertheless, once we reach the end of S5, we have witnessed Martin make a decision to stay so that he can be with Louisa, and Louisa has been convinced of his sincerity and looks forward to having a life in Portwenn with him. S6 finds the couple making a commitment to each other and settling into being in Portwenn. By the end of S6, however, Louisa has decided she would like to leave town, somewhat reminiscent of the end of S3. Her plan to leave is thwarted by a serious medical condition and now she must stay and think things through. So the series has established that Martin and Louisa will stay in Portwenn despite their marital troubles. At this point, we expect them to look at themselves and their marriage and stay — stay in Portwenn, stay together, and stay in their professions.

Probably unwittingly, the show has adopted (or sensed) the trend that has become a part of filmmaking recently and is following it. We can only lean back and enjoy!



Originally posted 2015-03-05 16:05:52.

15 thoughts on “Opting to Stay

  1. Santa

    Greetings Karen et al. I have been traveling and not doing much posting, but this topic reminds me of a fascinating lecture on depression that I once heard,given by the psychiatrist Randolph Nesse. I’m sorry that I can’t figure out how to copy the URL but the title of his paper is, “Is depression an adaptation?” Anyway, he argues that depression is sometimes an adaptation when people are in dysfunctional situations, but they choose to stay because the alternatives seem worse. Then being too depressed to function actually protects against worse possibilities, or at least possibilities that seem worse. It’s an idea that seems relevant to the “stay or go debate, and now that I think of it, to Martin’s funk in S6.

  2. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Hi, Santa. I had wondered what happened to you! Nice to have you back and hope your trip was good.

    Your view puts a different twist on things for sure. I’ll try to check out that paper. It sounds fascinating as well as relevant. As always, I think we are getting way beyond what the show intends, but that doesn’t mean we can’t delve into these possibilities.

    I think all marriages have rocky times and can benefit from counseling, and that doesn’t make them irretrievably dysfunctional. In the case of Martin and Louisa, they put together a man who is supposed to have all sorts of personal dysfunctions, some of which make him funny because he’s awkward, clumsy, and prone to saying disruptive things, and an attractive, intelligent woman who’s never found the right man. Then they add more and more background info such that we learn they both had difficult childhoods, and they continue to put them in all sorts of situations that bring them together and break them apart. We are meant to laugh through most of it even though their interaction develops into a convincing love relationship. Now they’ve taken the couple through the deeper implications of how Martin’s damaged psyche can affect the two of them and we’ve gotten serious about analyzing them. There’s not much that’s funny about depression and there are so many factors that are related to it. At this point we could imagine both of them have reason to be depressed on one level or another.

    Are they staying together because they’re depressed and don’t see any other option? It’s an intriguing question. We love looking into their circumstances on a psychological level and learn a lot in the process. Of course, the more mundane and practical reason they are likely to stay together is that they need to for the purposes of the show. They’ve been broken apart, as usual, and now they will be put back together. It’s become sort of a given and I, for one, like it that way.

  3. Santa

    If I had to apply this theory to their marriage , I think I would put it like this: Martin finds some aspects of being married to Louisa rather bothersome, but he’s stuck, because if he is demanding of change, maybe she will refuse and reject him, given that he believes he doesn’t deserve her. Or, he could go, but that is too awful to contemplate. If he becomes reLly depressed, then he doesn’t have to make any choice.

    Actually, I think there is somewhere the report of a famous experiment on mice in which they sank into a depression when all choices were unpalatable. In other words, maybe depression just follows, without serving any adaptive function at all.

    I agree, they didn’t write the series with all this psychologizing in mind, but I think the writers are quite acute about human nature, and it shows.

  4. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    So by this logic Martin’s depression is deliberate? Or perhaps he falls into it subconsciously as a way to avoid making a decision? His depression means the decision will be made for him because Louisa will decide? But now life has intruded and the decision to stay has been made for them by the AVM. Ahh, the fickle finger of fate is at it again.

    In the mouse study, do they fall into depression or become stumped and unable to find a way out? Major Depressive Disorder is how we’ve diagnosed Martin. Would the mice be in that category?

    The writers are really great and I would never dismiss their insight into human nature. I just think the story has developed as they went along and decided how to keep things interesting.

  5. Linda D.

    It was very interesting to read your post Karen! As always, you find a way to keep us thinking. I wonder if Santa is right – in saying Martin is depressed because all of his choices are disagreeable. Of course, he loves Louisa and James, but that seems to mean living in Portwenn and by doing that, eliminates the possibility to return to surgery in London. Of course, at this point, he has no idea if returning to surgery is even possible, given his phobia. Perhaps he is not keen to get to the bottom of things because he knows that will create a crisis about moving away. We do know, or course, that his final interaction with his mother was exceedingly stressful which leaves me still believing his upbringing IS connected in some way to the onset of his blood phobia. He was troubled before Margaret arrived so there must be something else in play. |He was convinced he was sick – which would give him a way to explain his depression but we all know that he was quite well apart from sleep deprivation, lack of appetite and general malaise. Louisa does try to suggest that perhaps it is the baby, the mess and noise in the house, and even HER that is causing him to push her away. She has not really suggested that she would move to London if he can get back to surgery so he may feel he is trapped in Portwenn. Ruth thinks he doesn’t believe he deserves Louisa but he does not actually say that does he? Could this be why he doesn’t fight for his marriage and family except when his back is against the wall? Even so, when he has said something, it was almost always close to being too late to fix things. Would he not fear that one day, she would REALLY just give up on him? Why is it that he won’t fight for his career by getting good professional help? He fights for his patients, does he not?

    I think Season 7 is going to be a humdinger because there are some really interesting threads that resulted from Season 6. This blog has been just EXCELLENT in fostering great discussions about so many of these unanswered questions!

  6. Barb

    I went and found that paper, but I haven’t read it all yet. It fascinating! Thank you so much for telling us about it. It makes a lot of sense!

  7. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thank you for your insights Linda. They do seem to have set things up so that there are many ways they can take the show. IMHO we have come up with more ideas than they may have considered originally. I do think they intentionally gave themselves many options. There’s no question that they chose to put Martin into a deeply depressive state and take the couple quickly from being happy to be getting married to having marital trouble. I was interested to hear CC say in a recent interview that Martin is the love of Louisa’s life. That means that both Martin and Louisa have married for love and will want to find a way to make the marriage work. We know S7 will involve marriage counseling. It will be fun to see how that plays out.

    The formulation of so many options as a consequence of the serious atmosphere of S6 is perhaps the only reason that makes me consider S6 more understandable overall. As I’ve said ad nauseum on this blog, I want more humor back in the show, particularly with Martin and Louisa. I really hope that happens!

  8. Linda D.

    I have temporarily lost my brain and wonder what is IMHO again? Did I mention that abbreviations are one of my few pet peeves because I can’t remember them?

  9. Maria

    I’m glad to hear it’s only temporary – I sometimes think my brain is on permanent vacation 🙂
    IMHO is In My Humble Opinion.

  10. Mary F.

    You are not alone Linda D.! I often ask my teenage daughter about various abbreviations …lol! (I do know that one!)

    Karen, I am interested in hearing the interview where CC states that Louisa adores the Doc. Was the interview done before Series 6? He may be the love of her life but my feeling about Series 6 was that her love was short on patience and compassion. I hope they will have her show more of each in the next series. A sense of humor would be welcome too and was deeply lacking in the last series, apart from the first episode.

  11. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    CC made these remarks during her Lorraine Show appearance March 4, 2015 which was posted on the Caroline Catz News and Talk Facebook site. So it was after S6 and very close to the filming of S7. I agree with your disenchantment with S6, but I never thought we were supposed to think Louisa stopped loving Martin. She was just totally at a loss to know how to handle his depression and its symptoms, his mother, and his continuing unwillingness to confide in her. Yes, let’s bring back more humor!

  12. Amy Cohen

    I haven’t read all the comments, but I am sure you realize that the writers use that very line–Should I go or should I stay—having Joe Penhale say it when he receives a possible job offer elsewhere.

  13. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    You guessed right…check my post called “Aliens” for my reference to that remark and its likely connection to the song by Clash.

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