Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down

Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Films

Kelly Oliver
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/oliv16108
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  • Book Info
    Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down
    Book Description:

    No longer is pregnancy a repulsive or shameful condition in Hollywood films, but an attractive attribute, often enhancing the romantic or comedic storyline of a female character. Kelly Oliver investigates this curious shift and its reflection of changing attitudes toward women's roles in reproduction and the family. Not all representations signify progress. Oliver finds that in many pregnancy films, our anxieties over modern reproductive practices and technologies are made manifest, and in some cases perpetuate conventions curtailing women's freedom. Reading such films as Where the Heart Is (2000), Riding in Cars with Boys (2001), Palindromes (2004), Saved! (2004), Quinceañera (2006), Children of Men (2006), Knocked Up (2007), Juno (2007), Baby Mama (2008), Away We Go (2009), Precious (2009), The Back-up Plan (2010), Due Date (2010), and Twilight: Breaking Dawn (2011), Oliver investigates pregnancy as a vehicle for romance, a political issue of "choice," a representation of the hosting of "others," a prism for fears of miscegenation, and a screen for modern technological anxieties.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53070-5
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: FROM SHAMEFUL TO SEXY—PREGNANT BELLIES EXPLODING ONTO THE SCREEN
    (pp. 1-19)

    FROM THE MID-NINETEENTH CENTURY until the late twentieth century, pregnancy was considered a medical condition that should be hidden from public view. Even prior to the medicalization of pregnancy, the pregnant body was considered a private affair and certainly not for public display. When not pathologized, the pregnant body was hidden from view because it was considered ugly, even shameful. Women were advised to “lay-in,” which meant not leaving their homes or even their beds. In recent years this view has changed dramatically. Now, women’s pregnant bodies are exhibited in ways that could not have been imagined just a few...

  5. 1 ACADEMIC FEMINISM VERSUS HOLLYWOOD FEMINISM: HOW MODEST MATERNITY BECOMES PREGNANT GLAM
    (pp. 20-55)

    ONE OF THE MOTIVATIONS for this book is to explore and interpret changing representations of pregnancy. Filmic images of cute girls and beautiful women sporting large bare pregnant bellies seem at odds with second wave feminism and its insistence that the separation between maternity and sexuality is a cornerstone of patriarchy, upon removal of which, patriarchy would fall. While women have achieved many “firsts” since the 1970s and 1980s when this wave of feminism was in its heyday, and women have made inroads into politics and business (although most of the world’s poor remain women, and the salary gap between...

  6. 2 MOMCOM AS ROMCOM: PREGNANCY AS A VEHICLE FOR ROMANCE
    (pp. 56-80)

    IF THE FIRST romantic “screwball” comedies were named after the screwball pitch in baseball—a pitch that curves in ways that you don’t expect—then the recent phenomenon of pregnant romantic comedies throws us another curve.¹ From the earliest romantic comedies in Hollywood through contemporary romcoms, the standard formula for the genre remains the same: boy meets girl (or now girl meets boy), tensions run high, opposites attract, and sparks fly, until through some type of transformation, the two individuals become properly coupled. The vehicle for such transformation is the basis for both the romance and the comedy in these...

  7. 3 ACCIDENT AND EXCESS: THE “CHOICE” TO HAVE A BABY
    (pp. 81-109)

    TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, philosopher Margaret Simons described the complexity of women’s reproductive choices: “few women in our society experience motherhood as a real choice” because so many women do not have other opportunities for personal development while others feel that by becoming a mother they must sacrifice other opportunities” (Simons 1984:357). In spite of changes since the 1990s, Simons’ description still rings true as women’s choices continue to be restricted by cultural and social expectations. Although many women are choosing not to have children, most women still feel some pressure to do so. And many women find themselves pregnant “by...

  8. 4 PREGNANT HORROR: GESTATING THE OTHER(S) WITHIN
    (pp. 110-149)

    IT IS TELLING that mainstream comedies echo horror films in the violence and chaos of birth scenes. In Look Who’s Talking (1989), Mollie (Kirstie Alley) growls in a monstrous voice while in labor, and in most of the other films women scream obscenities at their doctors and male partners. The birth scene in the comedy-drama She’s Having a Baby (1988) closely parallels the dream sequence in Aliens (1986) where Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) imagines that an alien is tearing open her abdomen, down to the same medical apparatuses being kicked across the room and Kristi (Elizabeth McGovern) screaming “get it out...

  9. 5 “WHAT’S THE WORST THAT CAN HAPPEN?”: TECHNO-PREGNANCIES VERSUS REAL PREGNANCIES
    (pp. 150-190)

    IF SPLICE (2009) is a new twist on the classic Oedipal story, it is also a cautionary tale about new reproductive technologies, particularly genetic engineering. It is a science fiction nightmare that imagines moving from natural reproduction to technological replication through cloning and genetic manipulation. In one sense, this film is the familiar story of a mad scientist whose hubris in the face of his—or in this case, her—creation gives him a God complex that requires his comeuppance. Like many Frankenstein tales before it, Splice presents clever scientists, both of whom overestimate their own mastery and underestimate the...

  10. CONCLUSION: TWILIGHT FAMILY VALUES
    (pp. 191-208)

    THE TWILIGHT SERIES is immensely popular, especially with girls and young women, the “Twihards” and “Twimoms.” The latest installment in the film series, Twilight: Breaking Dawn (2011), is a pregnancy film that brings together many of the themes discussed throughout this book. For that reason, and because it is the latest pregnancy film as of this writing, we end with issues of romance, choice, excess, teen pregnancy, abject pregnant bodies, the fetus versus maternal body, fears of hybridity, and the cult of maternity as they manifest themselves in this blockbuster gothic romance franchise.

    Although the fourth installment in the franchise,...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 209-212)
  12. FILMOGRAPHY
    (pp. 213-216)
  13. TEXTS CITED
    (pp. 217-224)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 225-236)