Learning and Living Reproduction: Hollywood Representations of Pregnancy and Birth As Potential Learning Material for Real-Life Experience.

Monday, 16 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Nicole HILL, University of Alberta, Canada
The representation of pregnancy and childbirth in Hollywood films is increasingly common as North American society gradually becomes more comfortable with (at least some of) the realities involved in producing new people. At the same time, practices in the care of pregnant and birthing individuals have themselves changed with shifts in medical, cultural, and social understandings of these processes. Research indicates that women may to some degree base their understandings of pregnancy and birth in their own lives on representations of these events in popular media. This presentation describes a qualitative analysis of Hollywood films released within the last two decades that depict a range of ‘normal’ experiences of pregnancy and birth to understand how these events are being depicted, including how individuals experiencing them are depicted, their behavior, and also that of their care providers. Results demonstrate the complex ways that popular film ‘teaches’ individuals about pregnancy and birth and maternity care, providing visual representations of what to expect (when you’re expecting). These representations are laid against results from the nation-wide Listening to Mothers and What Mothers Say surveys based in the United States and Canada (respectively) which elucidate the experiences of women in maternity care. In utilizing both film representations and large-scale survey results it is possible to discuss how the social knowledge viewers acquire when engaging with these films (ill-)prepares them for actual experiences with maternity care and may maintain hegemonic ideologies and practices relating to pregnancy and birth.