Coming to Life: Philosophies of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Mothering

By Sarah Lachance Adams; Caroline R. Lundquist | Go to book overview

11
Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down
Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Film and
Popular Culture

KELLY OLIVER

From the nineteenth century until the late twentieth century, pregnancy was considered a medical condition and/or something to hide from public view. In recent years, women’s pregnant bodies have been displayed in ways that could not have been imagined just a few decades ago. A wave of recent Hollywood films have pregnancy as a main theme, showing bare pregnant bellies, water breaking, and vaginal birth and discussing the experience of pregnancy as never before in popular film. Pregnancy has even become something of an obsession in popular culture, where paparazzi are constantly on the lookout for celebrities’ telltale “baby bumps” and heavily pregnant bellies. In this essay, I begin to interpret the meaning of changing representations of pregnant bodies. Here, I give an overview of recent trends regarding images of pregnancy in popul ar culture and film, an analysis that I expand in my forthcoming book by the same name. I trace images of pregnant bodies from 1930s and 1940s Hollywood films through the present in relation to both their changing historical contexts and developments in feminist theory and the women’s movement.

My aim is to explore shifting ideals of pregnancy and how they are shaped through complex interrelations between feminism, popular culture, medicine, science, and filmic discourses. While a developed theory of filmic representation is beyond the scope of this essay, my analysis challenges any simple attempts to answer the question of which comes first, the chicken or the egg, filmic representations or cultural attitudes. In the words of film theorist Frank Krutnik, “in general one can see generic forms

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