Doc, It's a Cliche!

I recently saw Man of Steel, the new Superman movie starring Henry Cavill (handsome!). And I just read the first volume of the Eisner-winning comic book Saga, where two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love and risk everything to bring new life into a dangerous universe. What these both have in common is they pretty much open with childbirth.

Let me just say right off the bat, I loathe birth scenes in media. I’ve seen plenty of women in a hospital bed with their partner coaching them on their Lamaze breathing. It’s such a cliché that it gets pretty painful to watch these scenes. I always hope that the creators put a new spin on it, and not just by making the woman give birth in a subway train or elevator. I want something that really pushes character development further and really justifies its presence in visual media. I’m usually disappointed.
(Not spoilers. Promise.)

Saga: Volume 1

The birth of Kal-El in Man of Steel was nothing particularly new despite the fact we are talking about an alien race, but the writers made it important to the plot of the entire movie because it’s the first natural birth on Krypton in decades. It was also an interesting dramatic and emotional contrast seeing a dying world and this new life, new hope born. It wasn’t fantastic, but it was effective. I guess that’s something.

On the other hand, Saga really did a nice job pushing character with its birth scene, and it also made sense why the story not only included it but why it started there. It’s in your face, but it’s also touching. I appreciated the skill it took to write and illustrate such a complex scene. In fact, the whole first volume is fantastic and I highly recommend it.

[I wanted to post a scene from Saga, but I really didn’t want to share it out of context or share spoilers. So here’s the cover instead which features breastfeeding!]

Oh, but both of those were from normal pregnancies; the worst scenarios are the mystical pregnancies in science fiction and fantasy where someone is impregnated with alien babies or goes full term in some highly escalated, uber-creepy fashion. This kind of thing has happened to many of my favorite female characters on even the best TV shows. It’s pretty much the worst thing ever.

Feminist Frequency calls it the Mystical Pregnancy trope:

The Mystical Pregnancy is a trope writers use to create drama and terror by invading, violating and exploiting women's reproductive capabilities. Often these female characters have their ovaries harvested by aliens or serve as human incubators for demon spawn. Sometimes they are carrying the Messiah and other times Satan himself.

Some of my favorite characters who have been exploited by this trope are:

*Dana Scully (X-files) - abducted by aliens, gives birth to alien/human hybrid
*Cordelia Chase (Angel) – TWICE. 1. Impregnated by a guy who plays a surrogate for a demon, who is trying to raise an army. 2. Possessed by the goddess who wants her own body to eventually
make each human her spiritual slave
*Xena (Xena: Warrior Princess) – immaculate conception of her former archnemesis reincarnated
*Gabrielle (Xena: Warrior Princess ) – impregnated by a demonic god
*Phoebe Halliwell (Charmed) – impregnated by the Source of All Evil, then the baby disappears
*Kara “Starbuck” Thrace (Battlestar Galactica) - ovaries harvested
*Gwen Cooper (Torchwood) –bitten by an alien, wakes up the next day to find her self pregant
*Olivia Dunham (Fringe) – pregnant but kidnapped to try and accelerate her pregnancy to harvest the
baby’s blood

I just wish Hollywood would stop with the Mystical Pregnancy completely. I’ve never seen it done well. And I know childbirth is an important part of life and should be reflected in our art and media too, but please please please try doing something new with it.


For the month of August, we have stories to tell using the word placenta. The word was my choice. I was inspired to see how we might incorporate birthing into our stories, even if only through metaphor. But I also wanted to torment my fellow writers with a difficult and rather specific word to use in their stories. The problem is that I had quite a difficult time trying to write a story containing it myself!

Check back in to see how well everyone does with the challenge. My story will post this Sunday.

I leave you with a video about the Mystical Pregnancy trope from Anita Sarkeesian and Feminist Frequency. It’s good stuff.

And don’t forget to share in the comments the creepiest and most disgusting supernatural pregnancies that you’ve come across. Are there any that you've liked?

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1 comment:

  1. There was a Mystical Pregnancy in The Prophecy. The angel Gabriel (played by Christopher Walken and the main reason I watched the movie, haha)was sent to Earth to retrieve a soul that would cause a major problem in Heaven. I can't remember exactly how it happened, but another angel, Simon, ended up impregnating Katherine, a nurse and the main female lead, both because he loved her and because he wanted to thwart Gabriel. Being an angel baby, it grew rapidly. Katherine and her nurse friend couldn't explain it, but then she realized it MUST be because Simon wasn't human. I kind smacked my head at that point, but it wasn't terribly done I suppose, haha.


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