(Screenshot/Netflix, “Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans” from the Tales of Arcadia)
By: Anonymous | @tavmedia
I’ve been told I can rant, so here I go.
I have been watching western animation for a long time, and for some reason, in long-lasting shows, you get an episode of Male Pregnancy. MPreg, as fanfiction writers have dubbed it, is not a new thing. Doing it well, however, is a complete and total rarity because most shows have no respect for pregnancy–whether the pregnant person is male or female.
With males specifically, things take a turn for the seriously weird–you know, beyond ‘someone without a uterus giving birth’ kind of weird. Old shows like “Ozzy & Drix,” showed us a white blood cell getting pregnant with some monster-parasite thing (when, as we know from our middle/high school science that cells regularly divide so they could have just used that instead); “Jimmy Neutron” had the disturbing alien-butt pregnancy; “Fairly Odd Parents” made male pregnancy the norm for the fairy species in the show and yet also made it the weirdest and most disturbing episode I can recall from all of “Fairly Odd Parents.” (Yes, stranger than that episode where all the superstitious stuff breaks Timmy’s mom or where Timmy enters his teacher’s computer and crosses a lot of privacy lines). You also get it in sci-fi shows like Star-Trek doing it too (LOOK IT UP; I DARE YOU).
A more recent example is “Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans” from the Tales of Arcadia franchise, where Steve gave birth to Aja’s children in the span of a short movie and then lost all of them to a horribly written time-jump by Jim. (I think someone else is writing a post about that to come soon. If not, I will.)
The trope almost always follows the same story:
- man gets pregnant in a weird way (magic, alien influence, etc.)
- man rapidly goes through pregnancy
- man is either not carrying a human baby, but some horrible parasite OR man is carrying a human baby with a pregnancy that progresses uncomfortably fast with exaggerated symptoms of mood swings and cravings
- man ‘gives birth’ in a horribly uncomfortable scene/way
- baby is inexplicably removed from the story by time reversal, alien biological differences making them leave, or something else.
- SOMETIMES, the baby stays in the story but not as a consistently relevant character–only as a mention or minor plot point. The only exception I know of is Poof from “Fairly Odd Parents” (but he wasn’t all that great of an addition).
I can only recall one series doing a fair job of a male-pregnancy story. By “fair job” I mean it wasn’t an exploration into some biological body-horror, but an actually alright story. That being an episode from Ben 10: Alien Force, when Ben in his alien form Big Chill creates a nest and has some offspring that go off into space at the end of the episode (S2, E17 “Save the Last Dance”). It was a subtle pregnancy episode in which others and even Ben were concerned by his strange behavior that wasn’t explained until they found the Necrofriggian children at the end. However, the story ended in much the same way that nearly all MPreg stories in animation do–with the babies flying off into space, never to be seen or heard from again.
I want to shed some light on this because it’s not just an overused trope–it’s a painful watch.
Pregnancy is something that can and should be depicted in animation. It’s a normal part of the world. If children are going to be introduced to the concept of it in animation, why make it a horror show? Seriously, why?
A depiction of male pregnancy doesn’t have to be serious like 1994’s “Junior.” If it’s weird simply because it’s unexpected, then that’s fine, and we can call that out, but we don’t need to add more weird stuff like the severe growth rate seen in so many of the examples that we have when pregnancy is already a physically strange experience for the human body to endure.
(Oh! Related but not important: I think “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” had an episode where Harvey became pregnant for a day too…)
I’ve heard from some that the reason it gets weird is that pregnancy doesn’t fit the biologically male anatomy, so writers for shows make it weirder in animation to try and explain it in a way that allows them to be non-committal with a new character introduction in the show. I’ve also read some feminist literature declare the trope as male writers showing off how little they understand female biology, choosing instead to make fun of the symptoms.
In my opinion, it’s just a lack of respect for the topic of pregnancy as a whole.
Fanfiction writers have been producing MPreg stories for decades now, and while not all of them are good, there is often a little bit of thought put into the time it takes to grow a life in someone’s body. The birthing process is ugly, but the pregnancy part is a mix of good and bad. Is it stressful, sure–but there is also a mix of excitement or happiness and, controversy, unhappiness which is dependent on the pregnant person’s situation.
Animation gets weird all of the time, and maybe if I saw more of these pregnant male stories in cartoons aimed at an older demographic, I wouldn’t be so disturbed, but looking back on my childhood and seeing it again in the last month has made me realize that the reason most of these episodes were memorable was that they were practically depictions of body horror played for laughs.
These episodes become one of the lasting thoughts I have of most of these shows. I see a picture, and that weird episode where so-and-so was pregnant pops into my head, and I cringe at the thought. I can’t imagine I’m the only one who feels that way.
“Ozzy & Drix” was a great show, but I hardly remember it now. “Fairly Odd Parents” had some memorable moments, but even my memory of the evil babysitter obsessing over the shiny-teeth guy is faded compared to the strange special that was hyped for weeks that ended up filling me with anxiety.
If you made it this far, what are your thoughts? Are you equally disturbed, or do you think I’m wrong? Let us know.
Additionally, if there are any weird animation tropes you think should be addressed, tell us or tweet us and we’ll talk about it!