“Children of Men”

by Natalie P.

March 25, 2007 | Filed Under Movie Reviews | 4 Comments

Page 3…

On the way, Theo discovers that Kee is pregnant – very pregnant – and that the activists who are supposed to help them get to the coast have their own agenda, one that includes keeping Kee and using her as leverage in their fight for immigrant rights. (It is implied that Kee is an illegal immigrant).  I won’t give away any more of the plot than that, but it resonates in a way similar to “The Handmaid’s Tale“, where infertility has devastating effects on society and on women’s rights in particular.

The movie, while holding true to the basic premise of the story, as with most adaptations, takes some liberties and diverges substantially from the original, or omits elements that further define the decline in the society.  For example, in the book, the elderly and the infirm are encouraged to commit group suicide, and the woman who is pregnant is Julian.

scene from Children of MenOne significant difference is that in the book it is men that are infertile (human sperm count has gone down to zero), and in the movie, they imply that it is women who suffer from infertility.  I’m not sure why they chose to make that change, but I question if a society that had almost 100% female infertility wouldn’t become far more restrictive on the rights and actions and behaviors of women. I don’t really see much of that in the movie, with the exception of the signs warning people that avoiding fertility testing is a crime. 

Even today, we are seeing a resurgence of pressures on women to put childbearing above their other needs or desires.  Rather than make more childcare options available, and improve options for work/home balance, women being encouraged to forego careers early on in order to have children because infertility rates are substantially higher as we age.  Today, 1 in 7 couples suffers from infertility. A new study out of Europe suggests that rate will double in the next 10 years. The CDC recently released a report that recommends that women who are of child-bearing age should be in a state of constant conception preparedness. No mention of birth control or elective abortion options – the rights of the unconceived child are to take precedence over the life and rights of the woman.  It’s reports like this that make me fear we are on the road back to a social state where women are seen as “Sacred Vessels”; where we see our rights eroded because we are deemed to be the bearers of life, and that should be our primary duty, at the cost of our own rights and freedoms.  I think in that regard, “The HandMaid’s Tale” had a more accurate view of a society that would result if infertility were perceived to be solely a female problem.  (BTW – while the movie “The Handmaid’s Tale” is pretty good – the book is exceptional, and a frighteningly prophetic caughtionary tale.  I highly recommend reading it not just for the story, but for Margaret Atwood’s prose. She is a phenomenal writer.)

 

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4 comments so far
  1. K March 26, 2007 11:16 am

    I also enjoyed this movie even I didn’t think I would on the grounds that I was expecting it to be about how the evil wimmen folk forgetting their place caused the downfall of humanity and was pleased to find in some ways it was almost the opposite. I think you’re right about the fact that if it were female infertility that were the cause women would certainly more restricted, probably to the point where the CDC report would actually be enforced in law.
    As a Brit, I certainly found the immgration theme something I could seriously see happening here as the anti-immgration fever that a large portion our press regularly whips up out of all proportion seems to be driving home office policies on those seeking refugee status (legal or not) here. I think the illegal immigrant status of Kee is implied because very often we forget that they are people too, just like people forget that women are.
    Finally though it should be noted that one swallow does not make a spring.

  2. Alka March 29, 2007 8:07 pm

    A different perspective – the movie was disappointing.
    Too much irrelevant violence, Christian scripture of the ‘Virgin Mary’ who here happens to be a black girl who on occasion says “fuck, shit, and/or this asshole”. A masculine hero who sometimes fills the role of Joseph and at other times Jesus the martyr (i don’t know if i liked either of the variations). No breastfeeding…but we all know that breasts are really for men’s pleasure rather than feeding a baby… and alright, i suppose i could have overlooked, but the sheer human stupidity and shallowness (of the director) that repeatedly played out was just overwhelming. No thought by the author (maybe), director, or anyone else about how we come to know what we know and how wrong what we’ve come to know is ‘accepted uncritically’…. myth is everywhere but some myth is likely to do every day harm (like the way we understand food – food is every day). Good example: the woman gave birth laying down. She might as well have placed her feet in stirrups and served the almighty ‘doctor’ (or an inexperienced man in this case). A medicalized birth, a false idea of how a woman should give birth. You would think that by the time we get to the point of infertility, we’d be more inclined to be informed about the natural and universal ways in which women give birth. In truth, the optimal position for birth is squatting, and women have been giving birth in this way since we gave birth. Still practiced across most of the world except in institutionalized birth practices of the west. Yes, most of us are detached from the humane in human. Some women chose a c-section, or not to breastfeed; some men like shallow movies filled with action and violence only to confirm and reaffirm myths about masculinity. Both stripped of self-respect, dignity, humanity. A lot of people don’t seem to mind. Granted, the idea is great, but the reality still conforms to stereotypical notions of what is and what should be. Inaccuracies abound.

  3. Natalie P. March 30, 2007 12:36 am

    Alka, Alka, Alka, you are missing the point here – it’s portraying a DYStopian future. Not Utopian.   The not too-distant future is rife with stereotypes. Just like today. Quelle surprise.

    Hmmm… sometimes I like shallow movies filled with action and violence. I suppose Alka would suggest (from atop the soapbox) that is because I want confirm and reaffirm myths about masculinity? *snort*

    Sounds like intellectual wanking to me.

    I don’t know what movie YOU were watching, but I saw plenty in the movie that points to people accepting uncritically what we know to be wrong (that’s what gives it so much of its impact) – it just doesn’t sit there overtly sermonizing and moralizing about it.

    And as for “natural and universal ways” that women give birth and the movie being somehow biased or inaccurate because it shows Kee laying down, and OBVIOUSLY by that point people should, like, just KNOW that squatting is the right and proper way… except for that little fact that nobody has given birth for 18 years. Under those circumstances, I would find it highly unrealistic that there would be much knowledge at ALL about giving birth or breastfeeding for that matter.

    And speaking from personal experience, having popped two screaming tykes into this world, I can tell you that the LAST thing I would want to do is give birth on my feet squatting – and I *was* given the option. I’d have passed out. Not to mention the risk of tearing if there isn’t someone there to seriously slow the birth. The last thing I would want is my kid shooting out with the cord wrapped around his neck, using gravity to rip the placenta along the way…

    What Alka’s “different perspective” reaffirms is that everybody and their dog has an agenda about how women should behave and what they should be doing – whether pregnant, or giving birth, or rearing children. It doesn’t mean that those agendas are valid, nor does it mean that they make any sense in the context of another person’s film.

  4. Chris B. November 19, 2008 9:51 pm

    Why did they decide to make the change from male infertility to female infertility? I assumed it was because male infertility is easier to get around, and would have been less apocalyptic, especially after the developments in reproductive technology since the book was written. Let’s face it, men are more disposable when it comes to reproduction. If every man on earth suddenly became completely infertile, there are still millions of sperm samples on ice which could be good for decades, and it might not take too long to develop viable human cloning techniques under such dire circumstances. So reproduction could continue on some level. But if every woman on earth suddenly became completely infertile . . . we’re screwed. That’s what makes the movie apocalyptic.


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