Fertility Films

baby mama.jpgFeministing friend and vicious intellect Alissa Quart has a piece online for Mother Jones about the new trend of “fertility films�—Hollywood heartstringers about super independent women finally coming to terms with their maternal urges (Smart People, Baby Mama, Then She Found Me, Juno, Knocked Up, and Happy Endings). In part, Quart is asking: “Are the new fertility film stars actually feminists?�
The answer is complicated. On the one hand, it’s feminist to see women going after what they want. Despite a lot of frustration with Juno on the part of feminists (especially older, in my experience) regarding the abortion scene, I have to admit that I thought it was, big picture, a wildly feminist film. Since when has a teen girl protagonist done anything in Hollywood other than coo-ing? I know my standards are low, but Juno got it right in a lot of ways. And, what’s more, Ellen Page calls herself a feminist in public.
Tina Fey (public disclosure: I have a major thang for Tina) plays an uptight, but certainly self-actualized gal in Baby Mama (where, let’s face it, the real story is about class). To see two female comedians getting top billing and raking in the box office bucks made me happy as a clam (ah vagina puns).
BUT…as we all know, choice doesn’t equal empowerment. Quart writes: “…these films recast the “pro-choice” narrative of feminists’ personal and political past as a different, less politically dangerous sort of pro-choice story—a woman’s right to choose from a smorgasbord of late fertility options.â€?
The films also play into oppressive tropes about successful women who don’t prioritize their fertility and then get punished with shitty partners, expensive interventions, and/or a whole lot of heartache. “Silly women,� the screenwriters seem to be saying, “let’s make fun of their plight.� But as Quart reminds us, these scenarios are real—in the beginning. Then the film plots reduce them to ridiculousness: “these films are rather conservative at heart; their entanglements all end far more neatly than their real life counterparts.�
And finally, why all the frickin’ babies? I was reminded of Bella DePaulo’s great work that I reviewed awhile ago. Quart writes: “…these films’ endings can’t help but make me wonder: Where are the images of exceptional thirty- and fortysomething women without bassinets?â€?
Good question Ms. Alissa. Thanks for the analysis.

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