Yesterday I saw a video on a Freshly Pressed post on pregnancy in science fiction and fantasy, particularly the “mystical pregnancy”. The full video is below:

This video got me thinking. First I started thinking about all the instances not mentioned in this video: Nymphadora Tonks in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Scully once again in the seventh-eighth seasons of The X-Files, Amy Pond in the sixth series of Doctor Who, Ruth Gallagher in the second book of The Age of Misrule trilogy, Lady Gaga in the Born This Way music video and live performances, Padme Amidala in Revenge of the Sith–you can stop me anytime, you know.

Then it got me thinking about the use of pregnancy in fiction, particularly the TV shows, movies, and books I like. It was a bit of a shock, how transparent and flat these women can become when they are impregnated by their writers. Some are barely there at all as characters. It’s a little sad, and kind of sexist, reducing an entire complex being to the process of pregnancy of birth. And if you need a great example, take a look at Padme in Revenge of the Sith. She gets maybe twenty minutes of screen-time, has very few significant lines, and in the end dies of heartbreak after giving birth. I think her most memorable line from that movie was “So this is how democracy ends: to the sound of thunderous applause.”

To reiterate, this wasn’t what fans were hoping to see.

But after discussing things with the Suspense/Thriller Writers group I belong to on Facebook and sleeping on the subject a bit, I came to a realization that while pregnancies, and mystical pregnancies as well, are used perhaps a bit too much in fiction, it’s the portrayal of the characters that matters the most. For example, Padme’s pregnancy is a very bad example of how badly the subject of pregnancy can be handled. However there are better examples, such as Aeryn Sun from Farscape. According to writer David Lucas: “Aeryn: surrounded by enemies, gives birth. Later, with the baby in a sling, emerges even stronger as a character and as a fighter as she has something even more precious to fight for.” Note this part of a FB comment, so that’s why there’s two colons there.

Two other writers, John Saunders and Annette Wright, points out the character of Sarah Connor in the first two Terminator films. In the first film, Sarah is naïve and has to struggle a lot. But her pregnancy and its aftermath helps hone her into a fierce fighting machine, pun totally intended.

Don’t mess with Sarah Connor, people.

And there are plenty of other examples where female protagonists and other characters have used their pregnancy to grow as characters rather than become one-dimensional breeding machines. For example, Adalind Schade from Grimm becomes even more of a schemer and antagonist, because now she has something over the other characters: the birth of a new prince. Ripley in Alien 3 had a chest-burster growing in her body, but instead of letting the men do the work, she worked proactively to defeat the Dog Alien and kill the Queen growing inside her (and yes, I’m counting that as a mystical pregnancy). And there are probably loads of examples I can’t even think of, showing that portrayal is most important in using pregnancy in science fiction and fantasy.

This was a woman who didn’t let an alien baby get in her way!

So for future reference, I’ll make sure to take a look at pregnancies in fiction and see how it’s portrayed, what works, what doesn’t work, and what can make up a positive or a negative portrayal. I may even write an article on this for Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, if I can find the time.

Plus I’d like to check out the other videos in that Tropes vs. Women series. It looks interesting, and I might just learn something important that’ll improve my fiction writing in the future.

As always, thought and comments are welcome on this subject. What is your take on pregnancy in fiction, particularly mystical pregnancy?

  1. Now this is an interesting topic. I especially like the allegorical similarities between what Ripley did and the issue of a woman maintaining control over her reproduction. Rather than let a bunch of corporate bastards harvest it, she takes responsibility for it herself. Granted, this involved hurling herself into a vat of hot metal, but you don’t negotiate with xenomorphs!

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