How to Give Birth - According to Hollywood

Sara Persson


This article examines birth scenes in five mainstream films in order to explore the way norms about birthing are reproduced or challenged. The films are: Juno (Reitman, 2007), Knocked Up (Apatow, 2007), Baby Mama (McCullers, 2008), The Back-up Plan (Poul, 2010) and What to Expect When You’re Expecting (Jones, 2012). What do the birthing scenes look like, are they realistic with non-on-set births and does the directors’ and writers’ gender, age, skin colour and class have any parallels with what is portrayed? The analysis shows that certain norms are upheld in all films; vaginal delivery in hospital, birthing positions of half sitting or laying down and present partners or friends during delivery. Scenes not representing this were depicted as the Other and thus made deviant. Homogeneity in the group behind the camera was found which correlates with certain homogeneity on screen as well. Of all the eight scenes, the women give birth half sitting or laying down in seven, implying a dominance of certain positions. These positions were found to be very common off-screen too, despite the wide range of birthing positions available and recommendations to try different ones during labour. This implies that the practicality for personnel goes beforehand. By using feminist theories on the body and medical studies on births, these findings reveal power structures devaluating female-coded bodies. The results also enhance the importance of analysing patterns of representation in general, but birthing depictions in particular, since these representations can affect people’s understanding of how a birth should be in real life.

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Copyright (c) 2019 Sara Persson

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ISSN 2398-0532

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