cross posted from my Media Justice column
This is not so much an article about the future of abortion, but rather
how abortions are presented to us today in films that are set in “the
future.” As someone who remembers very well a time when there were no
cell phones or internet, for me, I am already living in “the future.”
However, I just saw the film Prometheus and there was a scene about
pregnancy and abortion (spoilers ahead!).
I’m not going to give a long synopsis of the film Prometheus, I saw it
for the old school sci-fi films reference and the cast (ok really just
for Idris Elba). As a result I knew there would be a ton of things about
the film I would not enjoy, or that would be predictable (which I also
don’t enjoy much about films). Briefly, the film takes place in 2093, a
group of scientists, engineers, wealthy folks are following/looking for
“our creators” as in the folks who came before us in another part of the
universe. They are frozen for two years, traveling through other
galaxies, and have all this super advanced type of technology.
Alas, the two folks who think they are leading the “exploration” are
partners. Since sex does exist in the future, after being awakened as
they are approaching their destination, they want and choose to engage
in consensual sex. Now, we are told that the woman in the film is
infertile and this is something that makes her sad, after all the irony
of it: they are looking for their makers but she cannot procreate. Long
story short, her partner gets infected with some foreign stuff and
because it’s super-alien-fast-growing-magic-stuff, he impregnates his
partner. He then dies because of this infection.
When his partner, who is a doctor, realizes she’s pregnant with
something alien she “wants it out of her.” Now, this was a surprise for
me. After all, this is a character who is all about this mission and
learning more about origins, etc. that I thought she’s be down for
sacrificing her body and life to learn more about this substance and
what it can create (but that’s only ok when it’s other folks sacrificing
their lives for her). So when she said she didn’t want to be pregnant I
thought “this will be an interesting storyline.” Alas, it was. But it
was also a terrible one.
In short, abortions in the future are non-existent. The word is not even
used. When the doctor finds out she’s pregnant and wants “it out of
her” as it was only 10 hours she had sex but her pregnancy looks like it
is 12 weeks, she is told the super expensive ($3 trillion) mission does
not have the equipment for such a procedure. Then she runs to a super
futuristic pod that can provide any type of surgical procedures,
including bypass surgery. All you have to do is put in what procedure
you desire and get yourself into the pod and the machine does the work.
When she gets to this pod and has to put in her procedure, she says she
needs a c-section. Now, many folks may know that a c-section is a
hardcore surgical procedure that is complicated and very different from
abortion procedures. However, in the future that does not exist either.
This is because the machine was designed only for men. Yes, you read
that correctly, science, technology, and medicine are still centered on
men. Now, I have to say this was probably the most realistic part of
this storyline because that I can definitely believe. After all the $3
trillion for this mission was provided by an older white man and the
wealth of women were limited to their knowledge, which was questioned
Now, this omission of abortion in science fiction is not completely new.
There are a lot of omissions about reproductive health, care and
justice that has been excluded when people imagine or reimagine a
future. What is ironic is how these experiences are erased, or assumed
not to be an issue that impacts folks. Especially since the future is
dependent on some form of procreation and evolution. But more
importantly because abortions and other reproductive needs have been
around since before modernization.
Perhaps this is a sign of what happens when women are not creating or a
part of imaging a future for themselves? Maybe this happens because
folks don’t want to talk about menstruation and what that represents,
even in the future. Or it could be a odd sense of “privacy” folks don’t
think we need to discuss or that women viewers may assume as they watch?
Perhaps it’s an outcome of pleasing folks who are funding the project?
I’m not completely shocked by this omission. After all, Prometheus is a
Fox Searchlight film, and Fox is owned by a extremely conservative
wealthy white man. This is part of media literacy, knowing and
recognizing how media is created, has embedded values, and is created
for profit. It’s clear the values of certain folks are incorporated into
many of the forms of media we are exposed to on a regular basis.
If you saw the film, what were your perspectives? Did you too see something odd about this storyline?