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False Positive (2021) & the Horrors of Patriarchal Birth Practices

John Lee’s False Positive offers up thin layers of horrors around pregnancy but never actually explores them in the film. Gabe talks about the missed opportunities and many lackluster scenes that left her wanting more. Kat talks about the real-world cases that are represented in the film's ending. She also discusses the misinformation around childbirth and women, the patriarchal shift of childbirth, and how to decolonize it.

Sources in this Episode:

Hulu's False Positive Isn't Horror But It Will Freak You Out

‘False Positive’ Review: Ilana Glazer’s Pregnancy Thriller Isn’t a Bad ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Riff, It’s Worse

Families say a fertility doctor used his own sperm to impregnate patients. Now, he must pay them millions

Fertility Doctor Donald Cline’s Secret Leads to New Law

Doctor is Found Guilty in Fertility Case

Patriarchy Constructs Motherhood

It is time to reassess our obsession with women’s fertility and the number 35

What Does it Mean to Decolonize Birth

Male appropriation and medicalization of childbirth: an historical analysis

Other Reviews on False Positive:

​​‘False Positive’ Review: Ilana Glazer’s Pregnancy Thriller Isn’t a Bad ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Riff, It’s Worse

Ilana Glazer Talks 'False Positive' and Pierce Brosnan

Hulu's False Positive Isn't Horror But It Will Freak You Out

‘False Positive’ Review: Ilana Glazer’s Pregnancy Thriller Isn’t a Bad ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Riff, It’s Worse

Ways to Help/Get Help:

9 Organizations Working to Save Black Mothers | Black Maternal Health Caucus


Research Centers and Organizations that Support Women's Health | Research Centers and Organizations that Support Women's Health


Media from this week's episode:

False Positive (2021) Director: John Lee

Summary by IMDB: As if getting pregnant weren't complicated enough, Lucy sets out to uncover the unsettling truth about her fertility doctor.


False Positive: Dabbling in the Horrors of Pregnancy

by Gabe Castro

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.

Trigger Warning: Rape, Sexism, Medical violence, Systemic oppression, white supremacy, abuse against women

John Lee’s False Positive is a slow, anticlimactic thriller dressed up as several other films with none of their charm. It was marketed as being a new, millennial vision for Rosemary’s Baby with modern pregnancy horrors featuring IVF treatments. The story follows a couple, Lucy (played by Illana Glazer) and Adrian (Justin Theroux), as they navigate the world of IVF treatment after years of failed attempts at pregnancy. False Positive wants you to fear pregnancy but not for any of the appropriate reasons. Comparing this film to Rosemary’s Baby is a disservice to not only the film but the horror genre. Rosemary’s Baby was as much a scary film about Satan as it was about the lack of bodily autonomy for women in our medical systems. It was a social horror whose commentary blends the genre with its message quite flawlessly. False Positive wants you to think it's a smart film about women’s empowerment while also reaffirming the same narratives that bind them. We on the Ghouls have covered horror films about pregnancy previously. The strength of those others (Good Manners & Lyle) was that they didn’t lean into the “pregnancy is terrifying” premise. Though it certainly can be terrifying and risky, there is no end to what horror media could make from the very real horrors of creating and birthing a human being. People have died giving birth or have had their bodies drastically impacted by the process. There is so much to be said about the horrifying ways in which women’s bodies are controlled, manipulated, and stolen by our patriarchal society. We could discuss abortion, genetic manipulation, rape, postpartum depression - the list goes on. False Positive tees up opportunities to explore these themes but never dives in, leaving you confused and dissatisfied. Maybe even angry.

There’s one line in particular said in the beginning of the film that immediately rubbed me the wrong way. Lucy and Adrian are discussing the decision to switch to IVF after years of trying the “old-fashioned” way. Lucy is feeling sad about her supposed failure as a woman for not being able to do this one thing. Which is totally valid and for any people attempting to get pregnant for years with no luck, it wears you down and can do a number on your emotional health for sure. But Lucy says something along the lines of, “I’m not able to do the one thing women are supposed to do.” which is incredibly false. Women can do many things, all things. And not all women can have children or want them - that doesn’t make them any less of a woman. And though it is an inward and sad remark towards Lucy herself, Adrian doesn’t push back and there is no revelation in the end that that is not the case. Lucy and every other character in this film have a specific vision for women and what they’re supposed to be. The aggravating thing about this film is that that isn’t the commentary being made.

In an article on Vulture, Hulu's False Positive Isn't Horror But It Will Freak You Out by Helen Shaw, they say, “Yet at various points in the movie, some seemingly feminist guy — a boss, a husband, a doctor — will let his pretense slip. Which one will be the monster? The movie hints that, in some way … they all are.” Even the women in this film were anti-feminist, dismissing Lucy’s concerns as mommy-brain or working to uphold the patriarchal, white supremacist, and eugenic-ideological beliefs held by Dr. John. I would go even farther in saying that Lucy too is a monster. For all their performative feminism; the husband who gives Lucy the illusion of control; the Doctor who acknowledges the strength of women but diminishes their worth by insinuating they exist to produce more men; the boss who “values” her female input but uses her pregnancy t