The daughters of Pepsi and the pill: de-dramatising abortion in the French New Wave

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This article examines the representation of abortion narratives in
the work of a selection of directors associated with French New
Wave cinema. In 1960s France, reproductive rights were high on
the agenda for many women’s rights movements and feminist
activists. Rhetorical strategies of advocates for abortion law reform
often involved underpinning the state of danger and disempowerment that criminalisation of abortion led to for multitudes of
women across the social spectrum of France, and cultural representations of abortion in film and literature tended to use it as
a dramatic plot point inspiring sympathy for women characters as
victims. Whilst such pathos was often highly impactful, it also
constructed a monolithic way for women to experience abortion
which was built upon victimhood and disempowerment. Sex,
unexpected pregnancy and abortion continue to be explored as
themes by New Wave directors, but the movement’s rejection of
the film-à-thèse meant that such representations were less emotionally and morally didactic. This article examines how representations of abortion by New Wave directors can offer more diverse
and nuanced expressive possibilities for women’s reproductive
experiences that move away from typifying ideas of victimisation,
looking particularly at films by Chabrol, Truffaut, Godard, and
Moullet and Pizzorno.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-379
Number of pages14
JournalModern & Contemporary France
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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