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

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Columbia University Press, Oct 9, 2012 - Philosophy - 248 pages
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The image of a heavily pregnant woman, once considered ugly and indecent, is now common to Hollywood film. No longer is pregnancy a repulsive of shameful condition, but an attractive attribute, often enhancing the romantic or comedic storyline of a female protagonist. Kelly Oliver investigates this curious shift and its reflection of changing attitudes toward women’s roles in reproduction and the family. Yet not all representations signify progress. Oliver finds that in many pregnancy films, whether romantic, comedic, or horrific, our anxieties over modern reproductive practices and technologies are made manifest, and in some instances perpetuate conventions that curtail women’s freedom.

From the mid-nineteenth to the late-twentieth century, pregnancy was treated as a medical condition to be hidden from view. Even prior to the medicalization of pregnancy, the pregnant body was considered a private affair. Now sexy and spectacular, pregnancy has discovered new meaning and potency under the Hollywood gaze, reorienting our understanding of conception, sexual attraction, birth, motherhood, and the making of family. 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), exploring 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, Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down is the only book devoted to the portrayal of pregnant women in society and film and its implications for women’s social, sexual, and political future.
 

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Contents

From Shameful to Sexy
1
1 Academic Feminism versus Hollywood Feminism
20
Pregnancy as a Vehicle for Romance
56
The Choice to Have a Baby
81
Gestating the Others Within
110
TechnoPregnancies versus Real Pregnancies
150
Twilight Family Values
191
Notes
209
Filmography
213
Texts Cited
217
Index
225
Copyright

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About the author (2012)

Kelly Oliver is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University and the author of close to one hundred articles and nine books: Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us To Be Human; Women as Weapons of War: Iraq, Sex and the Media; The Colonization of Psychic Space: Toward a Psychoanalytic Social Theory; Noir Anxiety: Race, Sex, and Maternity in Film Noir; Witnessing: Beyond Recognition; Subjectivity Without Subjects: From Abject Fathers to Desiring Mothers; Family Values: Subjects Between Nature and Culture; Womanizing Nietzsche: Philosophy’s Relation to “the Feminine;” and Reading Kristeva: Unraveling the Double-Bind. She has also edited several books, including Recent French Feminism; Ethics; Politics and Difference in Kristeva’s Writings; Feminist Interpretations of Nietzsche; The Portable Kristeva, Second Edition; and French Feminism Reader.

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