Vanderbilt expert can discuss Hollywood’s images of pregnancy in “Breaking Dawn”

Kelly Oliver
Kelly Oliver (Vanderbilt University)

The 20-minute bloody birth scene in Breaking Dawn – Part One continues a long line of horror films featuring women giving birth to otherworldly creatures, says Kelly Oliver, a Vanderbilt University philosophy professor who has written a book on images of pregnancy in recent movies and popular culture.

“As in Rosemary’s Baby, there are signs of trouble from the start of Bella’s accelerated gestation in Breaking Dawn,” Oliver said. “And like so many wonderful horror films, including the Aliens series, this film raises the question of just what is gestating inside a woman’s body? The threat of human hybrid babies, along with accelerated gestations, and women giving birth to nonhumans or not quite human, speaks to our lingering latent fear of mixed-blood offspring, racial mixing and species mixing.”

Oliver noted that blood is a central character in the Twilight series, as it is in the television show True Blood. However, similar to the vegetarian mother in Grace, the hero in Breaking Dawn is a “vegetarian vampire” who does not suck the blood of humans…..until (spoiler alert) he is forced to turn Bella into a vampire in order to save her life during the horrible birth scene. Bella becomes a mother and a vampire in the same scene.

“The latest Twilight movie makes suspenseful entertainment out of our culture’s conflicting attitudes toward pregnancy and childbirth,” Oliver said. “The pregnancy and vampire baby both threaten the mother while at the same time they become the catalysts for her immortality. And, in the end, like all good mothers of horror, she loves the little monster just the same.”

Oliver has written an analysis of recent films produced in the United States that deal with pregnancy, including Juno, Waitress, Baby Mama and Children of Men. The W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt looks at the history of Hollywood representations of pregnancy and birth and examines the tensions between the films’ progressive and conservative elements. Knock Me Up, Knock Me Down, Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Film will be published soon by Columbia University Press.

Contact Kelly Oliver