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 often.
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?