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Check the fine print on your air ticket. An airline is well within its rights to refuse a seat to anybody at a certain stage of pregnancy.

An expectant woman is a staple character in most disaster movies, who would end up giving birth in the most inopportune of moments. The presence of an expectant woman creates a sub-plot that revolves around her, as a bunch of strangers struggle to find a doctor in the aftermath of a cataclysm that supposively has destroyed all primary health facilities, or they roll up their sleeves and help deliver the baby themselves.

Pregnancy also adds another very human dimension - it suggests that life can endure and replenish itself in the midst of death and destruction, and that perhaps we are more resilient than we credit ourselves. The pregnant woman might appear to be weak and dependant, but ultimately her inner strength and instinct to protect her child becomes apparent.

The plot device may touch on a 'Circle of Life' philosophy; the father of the child might have been the brave fireman who died turning off an intake valve on an exploding oil-rig. If this was the case and she was actually partnered to somebody else, then we have another sub-plot (does the cuckolded guy know? how will he react?). And it suitably makes the ideal for a date as it keeps the girls interested while guys get their fill of suspense and mayhem.

Don't try to perform an emergency delivery of a child using the techniques employed in these films. If male directors and scriptwriters make simple mistakes about technical subject matter (e.g.: you cannot fire a flare gun out of the window of the Concorde in full throttle in order to deceive a heat seeking missile), don't rely on their knowledge of gynecology.

Disaster movies that involve a pregnant woman include:

Gone with the Wind (1939) Ok, this classic is not a disaster movie, but a beseiged Atlanta is burning to the ground. With all the doctors attending to the dying Confederates, Scarlett has to deliver Melanie's baby herself, despite knowin' nothin' 'bout birthin' babies.

Airport (1970) (1970) In less enlightened years airlines would retain pregnant stewardesses (and call them stewardesses), like Gwendolyn Mehan (Jacqueline Bisset), who carries the child of the brother-in-law of Lincoln Airport, Vernon Demarest (Dean Martin).

Skyjacked (1972) Harriet Stevens Marianne Hartley suddenly goes into labour in the middle of a hijacking.

The Swarm (1978) Patty Duke plays Rita, a pregnant woman who falls in love with her doctor only days after her husband died from being stung by the avant garde of a swarm of African killer bees invading North America. I guess it's true what they say…that a woman sort of falls in love with her doctor at this time.

Air Crew (1980) This was the only disaster movie to come out of the Soviet Union; a blatant attempt to mimic the Hollywood disaster movie fad by the country that produced Eisenstein, Tarkovsky and Paradjanov. In Air Crew, a plane must escape from a remote town imperiled by earthquakes, flash floods, fires and even lava. The captain's daughter is pregnant and refuses to marry the father.

Threads (1984) Arguably one of the most shocking films ever produced, showing in graphic but frighteningly plausible detail what life would resemble following a nuclear holocaust. One survivor gives birth to a mentally retarded girl eight months after Britain is nuked with 80 megatons. Thirteen years later that girl would be raped and in turn deliver a stillborn foetus.

Cyclone Tracy (1986) Based on the real-life story of the destruction of the Australian town of Darwin in 1974, although I don't know if a woman really gave birth alone while the storm rained down, or if she bit off the umbilical cord.

Panic in the Skies (1996) The cockpit of a747 is struck by lightning, killing the crew. Somehow the passengers must land the plane themselves, while assist one of their own about to give birth.

Final Descent (1997) Another commercial airliner collides with a Cessna just after takeoff, causing its elevators to jam in the full climb position. The captain has to contend with a cabin decompression, a grudge with an airline inspector, the unethical manufacturer of the plane, his co-pilot (who turns out to be his girlfriend), and a woman about to give birth in first class.

Category Six: Day of Destruction (2004) A massive hurricane from the Gulf of Mexico meets a tornado over Chicago, which is plagued by power cuts. The pregnant woman gets stuck in an elevator, pelted with debris raining down from above, with an opinionated ageing female hippie for company.

On an entirely practical level, it’s important to note that depending on the genre, the pregnant woman is virtually guaranteed to have one of two fates: she is the one character who will survive a disaster movie, no matter what happens, and the character most likely to die in any modern horror movie. I think it’s worth taking a quick look at the reasons for this.

The key factor is the audience. Disaster movies have a mainstream audience. Families are going to see these movies together. The messages you want to see in a disaster movie are themes of bonding, of hope despite all obstacles, and most importantly the survival of the status quo in at least a symbolic manner. The pregnant woman, who will go into labour right about the time the heroes find clean water and an extra blanket, works on all these themes. She reminds us that family values and bonds will survive no matter how society is transformed. More often than not the father of the baby is missing from the picture, which presages the (temporary) breakdown of “normal” society and allows the pregnant woman to bond with another available male, so that the audience can see traditional family structures rebuilding themselves amidst widespread destruction. Right before their eyes, a nuclear family is born, like a phoenix emerging from the flames of society.

While we’re at it, the pregnant woman gives us an easy opportunity to hit audiences over the head with the “surprising strength of a righteous woman vs. assholes” moment, which is always good for audiences. Here, the expecting character will hit the disposable sleazeball character with a book or a shoe or a right hook. It will be a wonderful comedy moment. Your audience will chuckle or cheer on demand.

Of course, all these rules go right out the window if the developing fetus happens to be a zombie, alien or the spawn of Satan. If this is the case, you’re doing a horror movie and it’s quite likely that your primary audience is young and male. They don’t care about the survival of the nuclear family. They don’t give a shit about rebuilding society. The only bonding they want to do is pair bonding, and a trio is definitely not a pair. For this audience, the pregnant chick is a liability. She’s slowing them down.

Worst of all, she is a living, breathing reminder of the hidden dangers of sexual gratification. She symbolizes unwanted responsibility. Commitment. Entrapment. Nobody wants to think about that stuff, so the sooner you kill this lady and the terrible thing growing inside her the better off you are.

You’re going to get your secondary market segment with this character, too, because teenaged females aren’t generally any more enthusiastic about pregnancy than their male counterparts. For them, pregnancy is an even more dangerous trap, and one that carries far more disastrous consequences. Your teen male has the option of running away from an unwanted pregnancy (and, of course, at this age all pregnancies are unwanted) - but your teen female’s only escape option is to actually get rid of it.

You could spend all day thinking about the horror implicit in those four words. The possibilities are deliciously nauseating.

And what we’ve touched on there (eww!) is the best part of the whole business. The pregnant woman is your gateway to one of the most physically repulsive themes horror has to offer – the fear of your own body. By planting an unwanted grotesquerie inside a female character, you remind your audience that our bodies themselves are pretty disgusting, and apt to go haywire in horrible ways, and there isn’t a damn thing we can do to prevent it. The zombie fetus in our movie isn’t only a fetus – it’s an appendix, a melanoma, a blood clot in a major artery. It’s the blackened and festering root of a tooth that is about to cripple you with pain. It’s every painful malfunction our bodies have to offer. It’s a suffering so awful you’ll kill yourself to get rid of it.

There, I said it again. Mmmm.

Having said all this, it seems a little strange that more horror movies haven’t been made that feature pregnancy as the central theme, instead of a running sideplot. But of course, the notable exception to the rule is one of horror’s classics, the utterly fabulous Rosemary’s Baby. Written by Ira Levin with his usual deft touch, and filmed by Roman Polanski. The book is very good, but in my mind the surrealistic nightmare of the Polanski film stands even taller. Mia Farrow is the perfect Rosemary, a young woman in a new apartment, terribly unsure that her husband is the right man for her and timidly entering the new world that pregnancy symbolizes. She has lost her bearings, her body is betraying her, and she is afraid of everyone and everything. And then there is that silly, nagging, dreadful question – what exactly is Rosemary’s baby, and who is the father?

I really hope that most modern audiences already know the answer to this, but in any case it isn’t the mystery that makes Rosemary’s Baby a great film. When you come right down to it, the story isn’t really about the baby at all, but about the pregnancy, and all the real reasons why pregnant women rarely survive horror movies.

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