Propaganda, and surrogacy in media.

By: Rose

Surrogacy gets a bad rep. Full stop. Like… a really bad rep, especially from people who identify as feminists. If you’ve read our recent blog post about surrogacy and feminism, you’ll know that we find the idea of surrogacy in particular being some vile form of exploitation somewhat laughable and baseless. I’m not going to rehash that, here’s the link if you’re curious.

What we’re here to talk about today, is the portrayal of surrogacy in the media. The good(?), the bad, and (mostly) the ugly.

See, the thing is, I can count story arcs regarding surrogacy in popular media on my phalanges, and I’ve only got like 52 of those, so there can’t be that many. Then, from that already small pool, we have a measly puddle of positive portrayals of surrogacy, then a few teeny (and almost non-existent) drops of examples that illustrate surrogacy in realistic light.

That’s the thing about media,

As disappointing as this may be, Hacking doesn’t involve an attractive 20-something year old speedily clicking keys while looking at 8 monitors, each of which are covered in colorful animations and matrix style ones and zeroes. Ever seen a handyman in a show who is miraculously able to fix every issue with either a hammer or a wrench? Don’t even get me started about doctors and lawyers. If it was realistic, it probably wouldn’t be on TV, Most people know that… Maybe? There aren’t too many studies that give easily citable concrete number, but it seems that a major chunk of people view TV, both of the “reality” and scripted varieties, as somewhat realistic.

Even those who know media is fake often bear some subconscious level of bias based on what they view. We as humans are not immune to propaganda. If we were it would kinda ruin the need for propaganda… Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, But ABC and Fox news are owned by the same company, the same company who has used Haitian child labor to make clothes, who recently donated over 200,000$ to the fellas behind “Don’t say Gay”.

That same company has also irrevocably destroyed US copywrite law, and have donated a remarkable amount of money to congress members and senators. I’m really not sure that I trust that company to be in charge of literally any type of information sharing, and yet- here we are. Maybe I’m just jaded, but it seems to me that maybe the television just isn’t the place to get your unbiased and factual information, unless you’ve put in the research, and know that there aren’t conflicts of interest behind whatever you’re viewing. As long as you do that, you’re set!

But let’s be honest.. You aren’t going to do that, at least, the general “You” wont. Who has time to actually look up the things that they read, see, and learn?

Very few people. Time and education are luxuries, and luxuries aren’t often accessible to, like, most Americans? We’ve had the “Minimum wage should be 15$ argument for so long” that it should be closer to 21.50. 7.50 may not seem like much,

but guess what! That’s 25 cents more than the federal minimum wage…

And with a percentage ranging from 60-80% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, it seems that the time the average citizen has to properly research literally anything is waning with each passing day. THAT’S SCARY!

Forgive the soapbox, but with all of this in mind, reason would dictate that a major number of Americans likely take much of what they read/watch/hear at some level of face value, and even if they don’t… they will likely compartmentalize/unconsciously take into account that which they read. On top of this, the same thing can mean different things to different people.

Environment, background, bias, and our trusty friend cognitive dissonance mean that whatever side of an argument you want that TV show to be on, is the side that its on. Ask a trump supporter what they think about the SNL episode with trump, and then ask a neoliberal, They will likely give you two very different interpretations on who the episode is making fun of. How does literally any of this apply to my original prompt on surrogacy and media?

I think it’s important to discuss the broader strokes of how media affects our brains, and how scary the effects of widespread media can be on a population of people who literally don’t have the time to fight misinformation. The issue of surrogacies “colorful” portrayal in media is only a footnote in a much scarier narrative.

Let’s talk TV!

In “Friends,” we see a main cast member practice surrogacy for her sister. As one might guess, there are a few inconsistencies with the real world,(for example, the surrogate had never had prior pregnancies, which would bar her from carrying) but overall, this stood as many peoples first exposure to surrogacy, and it wasn’t a bad one, as surrogacy is portrayed as a mixed bag with it’s pros and cons, but is ultimately shown to be a positive force!

There’s the good!

I haven’t seen everything. I have read that “Crazy-Ex Girlfriend” shows surrogacy in a realistic and respectful manner. I’m sure there are a few things I’m unfamiliar with, in the “Good” realm, but most… are not.

In “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” one of the main characters decides to be a surrogate so that she can siphon money off of a wealthy gay couple. Shenanigans ensue. Unlike the next example, it doesn’t seem to poke fun at the process of surrogacy, instead poking fun at its cast of awful people. I wouldn’t call it realistic, or helpful in the slightest, and in terms of mental biases, it may be doing a small bit of harm to peoples understanding of surrogacy. It’s not awful, but it could be way better.

There’s a“bad,” and it’s not that bad.

Let’s go over some of the ugly…

In Curb Your Enthusiasm, we have an episode of which the central storyline revolves around Larry David accidentally convincing a surrogate that she wants to keep the baby she is carrying for her intended parents.

A quick scroll through the comments will illustrate a number of my earlier statements about realism and cognitive dissonance in how people consume media.

“…It’s on point though, buying a baby from a surrogate is evil”

“People who use a surrogate are the same people who use dog breeders”

Here’s the thing. I’m familiar with surrogacy, and (conceptually) familiar with dog breeding… I am able to look at this episode as what it is… goofy, unrealistic, and (when separated from the message it half-heatedly tries to push) funny!

Youtube commenter Lou Alcaraz is not.

“Handmaids Tale,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Rosanne,” “Baby Mama,” “Kimi,” All of these are filled with very poor illustrations of surrogacy, some of which are downright offensive. For every slam dunk “A Handmaids Tale” makes, it also misses stupendously, because in my opinion, showing surrogacy as the starting point of a hellish world where women are harvested as little more than baby machines is baseless. Perhaps we should point at the continual repeals and attempts to undermine women’s reproductive rights, instead of citing gestational surrogacy-a field which is filled by people like us who are fully and completely pro-regulation to ensure safety.

As much as I’d like to end this unwieldy spiel by yelling into the void, and letting it know that large corporations controlling information is bad, and that it should stop portraying an unrealistic version of surrogacy, I wont do that because the void will never listen. Instead, I beg that anyone who has trudged through this make sure to be honest and realistic to those around you when speaking about surrogacy. Education is the only thing we have to combat falsehoods.