An interdisciplinary collaboration between the Faculties of Arts and Medicine & Health at the University of Leeds
Thanks to Jesse Olszynko-Gryn for his talk on Monday entitled ‘Thin blue lines: Clearblue and the rise of pregnancy testing in British cinema and television’.
I think the most fascinating thing I learnt was that toads were used in early pregnancy testing – the toad was injected with the woman’s urine, and if it laid eggs the woman was pregnant. Remarkably, this was a highly accurate method of testing!
For those who missed the event, here’s the abstract:
Today, the thin blue lines pioneered by Unilever’s Clearblue in the mid 1980s are ubiquitous and highly legible: soap operas and romantic comedies structure plots around this dramatic turning point; artists’ renderings hang from gallery walls; and hopefully expectant mothers post live videos on YouTube. Frequently portrayed on screen, a typical sequence of shots will link the self-tester’s intent downward gaze to a close-up of the small, hand-held object, and a reaction shot of her delighted, disappointed, or distraught expressive face. A particularly versatile trope, pregnancy testing can be accommodated in a range of narratives including those about teenage pregnancy, single motherhood, romantic love, infertility, abortion or some combination thereof. Though also found in women’s magazines, online and on pharmacy shelves, home pregnancy tests are perhaps nowhere more strikingly and memorably displayed than when used as props in film and television drama. But where did today’s highly stylised routine come from? This paper investigates the aestheticization of pregnancy testing by Britain’s entertainment and product placement industries. It shows how increasingly visible public concerns around ‘schoolgirl mums’ and the biological clock, dramatised on television and in cinema.