I'll admit my shameful secret upfront: I'm kind of addicted to watching Lifetime movies. I can't help it! There are only so many reruns of Friends a girl can watch in her spare time. Lifetime's made-for-TV movies are sort of like the Candy Crush of television: Totally mind numbing, but also completely addictive. Lifetime knows how to work high drama into absolutely every concept, whether it's the Flowers in the Attic remake (starring Heather Graham's eyes) or Stalked at 17 (a movie about a girl who is stalked... at seventeen). But though I can typically watch these movies with the amount of mental energy that I put into scrolling through Pinterest, I have noticed a very strange, slightly disturbing trend in Lifetime's more recent films, and that's Lifetime's apparent fear of non-traditional family planning.
Lifetime's target audience is women, and it's one of the highest rated networks for women 18-49, which also happens to be the age range at which many women choose to start a family. It's not surprising then that Lifetime's original movies are often focused on women who are planning for a family. Unfortunately, Lifetime's films about pregnancy and family planning have followed a very specific trend with some of the network's more recent films. For a network for the modern woman, Lifetime seems to strongly object to women choosing surrogacy as their option for having a child.
For some reason, Lifetime thought that we needed not one, not two, but three movies about the subject within one year of each other. And let's just say that not a single one of them paints a decent picture of surrogacy. In the 2013 film The Surrogacy Trap (pictured above) a nice, normal couple, hires who they think is a nice, normal lady to carry their child. (FYI, that's Rachel Blanchard, or Cher from the Clueless TV series, so I would also assume she was the picture of perfection.) Things go terribly wrong when the surrogate ends up being a raging psycho. In The Surrogate, essentially the same thing occurs — nice family, crazy surrogate, drama ensues, etc. Lifetime's 2014 film Sorority Surrogate doesn't feature an evil surrogate per se (she's a sorority girl who starred on Degrassi , so what's not to love?), but instead shows how surrogacy is kind of the worst for everyone when the parents of the baby she's carrying die and she's forced to deal with the crazy relatives who want their baby.
While it's clear Lifetime drummed up these plots for drama, the light in which surrogacy is depicted within the films is disappointing. Surrogacy has been at the center of controversy before, but it's also an option that many people use when they cannot carry their own biological child. These Lifetime films take an important subject and turn it into what can be justifiably called horror movies, and it reads as an attack on the practice of surrogacy as a whole.
(Surrogates be crazy, am I right, guys?!)
Whether the network is intending to or not, Lifetime's use of surrogates as the main antagonists of these movies — or, as in the case of Sorority Surrogate, as someone not equipped to handle the demands of a pregnancy that isn't technically "hers" — frames the practice as something inherently "other." That's disappointing, considering that surrogacy is often a last resort for couples and singles interested in having a child.
For example, gay couples who may face discrimination in an adoption process can use a private surrogate to carry their child. A woman whom is unable to medically carry her own pregnancy can use a surrogate with her own eggs. Making the decision to have a child via surrogacy is difficult and involves many factors — maybe it's not a great idea for Lifetime to flash gigantic warning signs against it in the framework of a TV movie.
It seems like the surrogate is the new "stepmom" in Lifetime movies. Instead of the stepmother being ought to destroy the children's lives for XYZ, it's another, non-biologically connected part of the "family" that's under attack. Maybe Lifetime should start creating movies that embrace the unique things about families and how they're formed. Because if I see another movie about a demon surrogate, I might actually flip out... surrogate style.