Popular children’s films are a powerful source of socialization into dominant gender and sexual roles (Lugo-Lugo and Bloodsworth-Lugo 2009; Birthisel 2014). Nonetheless, these films rarely attempt to answer the proverbial question of where babies come from. However, two recent examples, The Boss Baby (2017) and Storks (2016), not only concern themselves with this question but answer it in very similar ways.
Both films portray babies as fabricated in magical heavenly factories. They each display a mechanized assembly line onto which variously raced babies emerge and are powdered, diapered, fed, and in the case of The Boss Baby, sexed, before being delivered to their destination, which is typically a loving nuclear family.
In each film, a very gendered form of labor in reality – pregnancy, birth, and care for a newborn – disappears, replaced by the traditionally male-dominated industrial factory. Indeed, in Storks, the labor of “delivery” rests on the shoulders of masculinized storks whose trials and tribulations bringing babies to families are lauded as a heroic and morally correct form of entrepreneurial capitalism in opposition to the cold, anti-family, regular-package-delivering version of capitalism represented by the film’s villains. Similarly, in The Boss Baby, an adultified male baby teams up with his older brother to rescue the virtuous Baby Corp from the hedonistic, anti-baby company, Puppy Co.
In both cases, the labor of reproduction is wholly masculinized within fantastical narratives about the moral goodness of neoliberal capitalism and its ability to bring about a multicultural, pro-family utopia. These films modernize many longstanding myths about where babies come from, told to children in the name of protecting their constructed innocence. Containing no actual information about reproductive sex, pregnancy, birth, or newborn care, one has to wonder whether these films contribute to a broader trend of devaluing reproductive labor within U.S. culture, as evidenced by numerous policies restricting reproductive rights and denying material supports to pregnant, birthing, and parenting people.
What else can we expect when the physical, emotional, and economic toils of carrying a fetus to term, birthing a baby, and raising it are apparently unspeakable to our most impressionable future full citizens?
Birthisel, Jessica. 2014. “How Body, Heterosexuality and Patriarchal Entanglements Mark Non-Human Characters as Male in CGI-Animated Children’s Films.” Journal of Children and Media 8 (4): 336-352.
Lugo-Lugo, Carmen R., and Mary K Bloodsworth-Lugo. 2009. “Look Out New World, Here We Come”?: Race, Racialization, and Sexuality in Four Children's Animated Films by Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks." Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies 9 (2).