Bump proves adolescence is already hard enough, even without a surprise birth

Funny with moments of poignancy, an ambitious high school student named Oly gives birth to a surprise baby in Bumpwatch it now on Neon. After just one episode, Laumata Lauano is hooked – with some reservations.

Let me preface this with the fact that I know nothing about the community makeup of Australia at large, let alone in the inner Sydney suburbs beyond Drill Rap. #FreeTheOneFour—oh wait, they’re western Sydney, nevermind. However, ten-episode dramedy Bump—about an ambitious Sydney high school teenager Olympia ‘Oly’ Chalmers (Nathalie Morris) who gives birth to a baby out of nowhere—feels familiar for some reason, but definitely has me hooked.

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It could be the familiarity of the Australian ‘Strayan’ accent, could be the one Pacific character, or it could just be the almost unbelievable plotline that seems to upend all the main characters’ lives. Not so unbelievable for me, having heard of similar stories of women who didn’t realise they were pregnant on the numerous mummy Facebook groups I joined once I became a mum. Either way, Bump’s protagonist may as well have given birth to a gremlin with the way she looks at her daughter when she’s presented with her.

And who can blame her when after feeling unwell at school, on account of the contractions—and I can tell you now she wasn’t just ‘feeling unwell,’ she would have been in a world of pain—Oly has a baby in the back of an ambulance on the way to the hospital. I can only imagine the shock she would have been in to learn that she was not only pregnant, but now in labour.

Like I said before, it seems almost unbelievable that she wouldn’t know she was pregnant, but it’s actually not uncommon. Called cryptic pregnancies, where women have no symptoms of pregnancy whatsoever, there was a 2002 paper published in the British Medical Journal that estimated it occurring in about one in every 2,500 pregnancies, suggesting about 320 cases in the UK every year. Also, considering the few times I’ve heard of it happening in New Zealand, I can’t exactly say it’s completely unbelievable.

So, suddenly Oly becomes a mum, making her parents Angie (Claudia Karvan) and Dom (Angus Sampson) grandparents. Angie and Dom, who were obviously headed towards splitsville before the baby arrived, are forced to come together to help Oly bond with her daughter—or rather, this stranger she brought into the world.

And Oly has to face the fact that her life has changed forever—and, not going to lie, it’s hard to empathise or even sympathise with her. As far as anal retentive, white, teenaged female characters who talk back to their parents and don’t get reprimanded go… Oly is barely tolerable.

It’s a cultural thing I suppose, but I cringe so hard when characters are disrespectful to their parents, especially when their parents are pretty decent. Honestly, if I had spoken to my mum the way Oly does to her mum, I likely wouldn’t be here today.

But, I’ve got to try to look at things from her perspective, adolescence is hard enough when your body is going through so many changes but add on a cryptic pregnancy and crikey you have yourself a doozy of hormones.

Oly also has some redeeming qualities from what I’ve watched so far, I think. She’s not a complete bitch to the only Pacific character, who gets called fat, ugly and stupid by her best mate—granted, she didn’t exactly defend him either. But I’ll get into this scene a bit further on as I’m trying to recall things about Oly that I liked.

I like her ambition—hey, she even has our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on her wall, so you know she has decent taste in world leaders. I also appreciate that she’s not a complete cow to her parents. Although not exactly a redeeming quality, her reaction—as a 16-year-old girl who’s stressed out about school and her future—to her baby is realistic. She didn’t plan for a baby, she sure as hell didn’t expect to be having one at 16 so her repulsion is at the very least understandable.

And the baby’s father? Not her smart and sweet boyfriend Lachie (played by Peter Thurnwald) who does the gentlemanly thing of pretending the baby is his when it’s Santiago’s (played by Carlos Sanson Jnr) a fellow high school student she barely knows but is now connected to forever.

Santiago, whose father is the PE teacher and football coach, is also going through his own issues. The first episode really does the most to connect you and make you feel for him with subtle not-so-subtle hints of a deceased mother, a strained relationship with his father, and a compromised football career because of it. And now? A one-time dalliance with the school’s nerd has turned him into a father, which he realises while blazing up with his best friend Vince—yes, the one Pacific student with speaking lines, played by Ioane Saula, a Samoan-Australian.

Which brings me to the secondary characters. Sure, it’s early days but if the writing for these characters—not just the one Pacific kid, but also Santiago’s extended family—continues in this vein I might not continue to be so hooked.

For one, to make Vince “just another dumb jock” as an islander plays to that stereotype of “only good for footy”. We’re in 2021, and with a growing Pacific diaspora in Australia, surely the writers could have done better than that? A diverse cast is good, a diverse cast to play well-developed non-stereotypical characters would be better. To be fair, I still have the rest of the season to watch, so maybe his character develops beyond sexual and stupid remarks. One can only hope.

However, Vince is not the only secondary character who would benefit from further development, Santiago’s extended female relatives seem to be stereotypically loud Latinas. Lachie, although sweet-natured and kind is still a stereotypically smart Asian kid.

For the most part Bump—ironically called because she has no bump to speak of or signal to her that something was awry—is a refreshing concept because it doesn’t begin with a teenage pregnancy. That’s not the story here, the story here is “surprise! You’re a mum now” and the aftermath of that.

Here’s to hoping the writers do more with the secondary characters and our protagonists become a little bit more likeable—because it’s already been renewed for a second season in Australia.