Representations and responses to surrogacy in the reproduction of the family

Le Vay, Lulu. 2018. Representations and responses to surrogacy in the reproduction of the family. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis explores representations and responses to surrogacy on TV and film. It examines how conventional notions of ‘the proper family’ are reproduced. Through textual analysis and audience work, this research explores how conventional ideals of family are constructed, and how female viewers interpret such values. A specific focus is on how narratives are articulated through genre devices, and how particular televisual techniques shape audience perception.

Through textual and empirical methods, this thesis demonstrates how dominant textual narratives are steered by constructing heterosexual infertile characters as non-normative, in need of transformation into genetic mothers through surrogacy, or natural pregnancy enabled by heterosexual love. Same-sex parenting and homosexuality are articulated as more acceptable when positioned within compulsory monogamy. Through the lens of queer theory, conventional notions of family, motherhood and femininity are exposed, as any positions outside of this ideal are portrayed as ’failing to comply’.

The research was conducted through three focus groups of women, consisting of mothers and non-mothers. Clips from popular mainstream texts featuring surrogacy storylines across sitcom, soap, reality TV and film were shown. Despite the hetero-norms that drive the narratives in the texts, the audience data revealed desires to see alternative happy endings that show infertile female characters more positively, and which recognise alternative formations of kinship situated outside of heteronormative monogamy and the genetic tie. The research respondents consider alternatives as meaningful, if not more reflective of contemporary structures of family.

This research reveals the temporal gap between mainstream texts, which uphold the white, heteronormative, genetically-reproduced family as the ideal, at a time when forms of families are continually diversifying, and when more women are choosing alternative life paths outside of marriage and motherhood.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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This is an edited version of the thesis with third-party copyright material removed.


family, surrogacy, queer theory, infertility, motherhood

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31 March 2018

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Date Deposited:

08 May 2018 10:21

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:13


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