A video from Feminist Frequency. I think her argument loses focus towards the end, and generally needs more nuance, but is still worth watching:
I think the way to think of this, is something like The Bechdel Test. It’s not a comment on any individual work — you can make an argument that the pregnancy plotline in BSG was well-done, for instance, or perhaps Alien 3. After all, for some women, there are substantially creepy issues surrounding pregnancy, and it’s legitimate for fiction to explore that. But the problem isn’t that an individual work is bad because it includes this trope; it’s the pattern formed by the use of the trope across many works.1
Crystal Coleman‘s essay is stronger, including doing a better job of making the connection to the virgin birth (which the video mistakenly refers to as the “Immaculate Conception”).
Mary is the Mystical Pregnancy model that all other models look to. She is visited by the angel Gabriel and informed that she has been selected to be the mother of Jesus, son of God. She marries her fiance and gives birth to the prophesied child, and three men follow a star to find the baby. Although non-biblical sources give Mary a life before Christ, there is no mention of this in the Bible. Quite often, Mary isn’t even mentioned by name, just referenced as the mother of Jesus (although, admittedly, this might be partly to distinguish between the myriad of Marys in the Bible). After Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary disappears. We know nothing about her, where she is born and when, what her life is like, what her life with Joseph (who is sidelined, as well) was like, if they had other children, how and when she died… nothing is canonical. For a figure that is so very important to many religions (just look at the amount of art that has been inspired by the Madonna), it’s surprising how little we actually know about her as a woman with her own unique identity.
Coleman also discusses the current season of Doctor Who.
I don’t think writers should never write mystical pregnancy plotlines. But at this point, the trope has been done often enough — and thoughtlessly enough — that it should only be used when the writer really believes they have something genuinely new or interesting to say with (or about) the trope.
- I’m kind of impressed that “Buffy” never went there. Of course, “Angel” made up for that by dipping into the mystical pregnancy well again and again. [↩]