Thursday, August 12, 2010

Film Review - Laboring Under an Illusion: Mass Media Childbirth vs. The Real Thing

Laboring Under an Illusion: Mass Media Childbirth vs. The Real Thing
Filmmaker: Vicki Elson
50 minutes, $19.95 (orders of 5 of more are $13.95 each) for any use except broadcast

Laboring under an Illusion explores the way in which birth attitudes and expectations are shaped largely through exposure to mainstream media depictions of childbirth. Filmmaker Vicki Elson, anthropologist and childbirth educator, has created a striking documentary contrasting media portrayals of childbirth with real clips and commentary on actual births.

As an educator, I frequently reference how preconceived ideas and birth beliefs subconsciously help or hinder how a birth will progress. The film eloquently provides 50 minutes of supporting material to illustrate that exact point.

I previewed the film alone and then watched it again with my two daughters, ages 7 and 5. As each set of clips were shown, my daughters would shout "fake" at each media-generated depiction of birth, clearly rejecting the concept that birth must progress like it does in the movies. Because of some strong language in the media clips, I recommend previewing it first before deciding to share it with your children.

The film contrasts media-generated portrayals of childbirth from well-known sitcoms such as I Love Lucy, Murphy Brown, Mad About You, Northern Exposure, and Friends, movie clips such as Juno, Coneheads, Knocked Up and Nine Months, as well as more "reality-based" clips from Discovery Health to actual clips of births from films such as Birth as We Know It, The Business of Being Born, and Orgasmic Birth.

At some points in the film, the filmmaker highlights issues raised in the film, such as the fact that some media portrayals are so far-removed from birth reality that babies are born minus umbilical cords. It also contains brief narration from mothers about birth. For the birth-junkie viewer, this additional explanation isn't critical, but it's quite useful for less birth-savvy viewers or use in childbirth education classes.

Laboring Under an Illusion strikes the perfect balance between entertainment and education. It is appropriate for consumers as well as childbirth educators, doulas, midwives and other birth professionals. Invest in a copy available at


Anonymous said...

Thanks definitely sounds like a great one to add to my birth bookshelf.

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