Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mass Media Childbirth

While I'm working on finishing up my anthropology Master's thesis, I thought perhaps you'd be interested in perusing another.

Have you heard of the film "Laboring Under an Illusion: Mass Media Childbirth vs. The Real Thing"?  It is made by filmmaker, childbirth educator, anthropologist Vicky Elson. I had a chance to view this film a couple of years ago. It is a quick film, and available to watch online at Amazon for $1.99. If you're interested in a review of the film, there is one at Stand and Deliver.

Turns out the author's thesis on this topic is online! I haven't had a chance to read through it, but it sounds great. Here is the abstract:

Childbirth in American Movies and Television Patterns of Portrayal and Audience Impact
by Victoria L Elson

The author, an independent childbirth educator, systematically analyzed sixty-two American television and motion picture portrayals of human childbirth. She found that many of these portrayals included extreme distortions of time and danger. Comic and dramatic embellishments detracted further from the accuracy of these portrayals.

She also collected ethnographic data on cumulative lifetime effects of such portrayals on viewers, especially as those effects personal beliefs about childbirth. She found that many viewers reported being able to maintain conceptual distance, due to their media literacy. But she also found that a substantial number of viewers self-reported susceptibility to beliefs fostered by media consumption. In many of those viewers, anxiety about giving birth ran deep, in ways that could arguably make those viewers more susceptible to complications, interventions, and inappropriate choices in childbirth.

The paper also includes background information on media literacy, a discussion of present-day American birth, and suggestions for neutralizing the potentially negative effects of mass media birth imagery.

You can read the entire thing online here!

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