Contemporary Challenges to the Motherhood Myth
Edited By Heather L. Hundley and Sara E. Hayden
3. Motherhood and Mental Health: Carrie Mathison’s Homeland Pregnancy
By ELIZABETH FISH HATFIELD
The mass media’s portrayal of pregnancy and parenthood often demonstrates an unrealistic view of these experiences, idealizing intensive mothering and promoting a pronatalist viewpoint. One recent depiction of pregnancy breaking the Hollywood mold is that of Carrie Mathison on Showtime’s Homeland. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer’s pregnancy became a storyline in the show’s third season for many reasons—the married, terrorist father, Carrie’s nontraditional career, her reaction to the pregnancy, and her ongoing struggle with mental illness. Carrie’s character brings up many questions about capable parenting, inviting viewers to consider their own opinions. Research has shown the media significantly impact how people think about mental health issues, particularly audiences who do not have personal experience with the subject (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, Signorielli, & Shanahan, 2002; Philo, Secker, Platt, Henderson, McLaughlin, & Burnside, 1994; Signorielli, 1989). Additionally, a correlation has been found between television viewing and intolerance to people with mental health issues (Granello & Pauley, 2000; Sieff, 2003). However, in creating protagonist Carrie, show writers have positioned audiences to support and empathize with her struggle—humanizing the challenges of bipolar disorder even as they simultaneously dramatize them. The show highlights Carrie’s periodic struggles to manage her own care by depicting issues with medication dosages and problems with her career. However, by introducing a pregnancy into the storyline, the show asks viewers to question Carrie’s ability to parent.
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