Friday, May 18, 2012

Desperate Television

One of the first movies I purchased as a fledgling childbirth educator was, "Laboring Under an Illusion: Mass Media Childbirth vs. The Real Thing". The documentary is the work of Vicki Elson, MA, CCE. She compares the differences between the way childbirth is portrayed on TV and in movies versus actual footage of childbirth from documentaries. She specifically points out the disparity between real childbirth and sitcom childbirth. In a 30 minute sitcom, a woman goes into labor and has a baby in her arms in less than 30 minutes.

Vicki Elson's documentary came to mind the other day while I was watching the series finale of Desperate Housewives. Yes, I know, it's terrible. I got sucked in and had to see it through to the bitter end. The lameness of it is beside the point. What stuck out to me was a particular scene where one of the man characters is having a baby. Her water breaks, contractions start immediately but she remains calm. The rush to the hospital ensues. After reaching the hospital the expectant mother is laboring (quite calmly) in her hospital bed. Finally the OB arrives. He is attired in shorts and a t-shirt and apologizes for the way he looks because he was playing ball with the guys. He then says something to this effect, "Let me go get cleaned up and we can get started." What?!? Here is what I heard/saw. The expectant mother is merely an innocent bystander and it is the doctor who does all the work. What if the doctor was delayed? Are we to believe that the baby would have waited patiently to be born until the doctor could get there? Why are woman so often portrayed as something standing in the way of a baby and it's "freedom"?


Is Mass Media telling us that babies are trapped and need to be freed by a doctor?

Knowing that a TV show or a movie is not real doesn't mean that it can't still have an impact on society. Portray a woman in a subservient role to a powerful OB enough times and viewers will start to internalize those roles. It just makes me wonder how many women believe that they can't "get started" delivering a baby until the OB is scrubbed and ready.

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