Pop culture and media often shape how we think about the world. As we escape indoors from the summer heat and unrelenting pandemic, look for how issues related to reproductive freedom and dignity are portrayed in the media we consume. What are the stories being told? Who’s telling them? What questions are they asking? How can we be asking better questions, telling better stories? Below are a few things we’ve been watching and reading lately:
Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen
Released in June on Netflix, the must-watch documentary Disclosure “is an unprecedented, eye-opening look at transgender depictions in film and television, revealing how Hollywood simultaneously reflects and manufactures our deepest anxieties about gender.” Helmed by Laverne Cox of Orange is the New Black, Disclosure lays out the history of onscreen depictions of trans lives, both positive and negative, and explores how such media shapes society’s understanding of gender. This powerful documentary is a lesson in empathy and critical thinking.
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
What if Jesus had been married? Although modern Christians take for granted that Jesus never had a wife, the Bible doesn’t definitively say. That’s the central question of this latest work of fiction from Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees and Dance of the Dissident Daughter. The Book of Longings is a tale of the life of Ana, Jesus’s (fictional) wife. Ana longs to be a writer. Like women have done since the beginning of time, Ana (mild spoiler alert) uses herbs and tinctures, with the full approval of her husband Jesus, to prevent pregnancy so that she can fulfill her dream of studying and writing about the lives of women.
Syfy network adapted Lev Grossman’s trilogy of novels into a five-season hit show. The show takes the books–a grown-up reflection on The Chronicles of Narnia, the Harry Potter series, and similar books–and adds on a deeper reflection on relationships and sexuality, including SPOILER ALERT a magical abortion.
Born Behind Bars
This docu-series shows the lives of women and their babies as they live together in the “Wee Ones” dormitory in a maximum security women’s prison in Indiana. The show is produced in a way that reminds me of TLC shows–plenty of dramatic music, replays of emotional moments–but the content lends to so much reflection on what it means to be able to have agency as a mother and as a person in our society. The women in the show by and large mention their drug addiction (often meth), generational abuse, and lack of health care and education. Watch with an eye toward repro justice and human dignity and wait for the questions to bubble up. Here are a few:
Why aren’t the women in drug rehab?
I imagine that it is rare for ANY woman to raise her baby from 0 to 12 months. How many mothers/parents get to do that?
Again, why isn’t there a rehabilitation and therapy program for everyone in this prison?
Here are a few more resources that look at repro dignity and contemporary media:
Abortion Onscreen is a fascinating project by ANSIRH (Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health) at UC San Franciso. (Linked in the above article) I enjoyed looking through the different series and storylines that featured abortion over the past few years. They also have a census of the past 100 years of film regarding abortion.
Want more recommendations for podcasts, documentaries, and books? Check out a few of our past blog posts: