Fitzgerald L (2011) Let's play mummy: Simulacrum babies and reborn mothers. European Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 25–39.
This article examines the Channel 4 ‘shock doc’ My Fake Baby to question the relationship between ideas surrounding contemporary femininity, and historical and social discourses about legitimate and non-sanctioned ideas surrounding play and gender. Bringing together cultural, screen and feminist studies, Fitzgerald argues that that in a postfeminist cultural environment that emphasises age freedom while policing age dictates in ever more repressive ways, the images of women bonding with dolls in My Fake Baby strays outside our cultural imaging of ‘natural behaviour’.
Underpinning by Fitzgerald’s previous investigations into the relationship between motherhood, femininity and consumerism, this paper focuses on the way the programme constructs and articulates different forms of motherhood and femininity to successfully articulate discourses and ideologies about problematic, inept, immature and non-material failed femininity as challenged in this show. Drawing on and engaging with historical, social and cultural theories regarding the social function of play, and through a close analysis of the narrative of the documentary and the passionate responses to the show in newspapers, online and on TV, Fitzgerald demonstrates how the disproportionately excessive and intense response to My Fake Baby mirrors the programme’s extreme emphasis on the trope of motherhood.
Through the development of a conceptual framework that contextualises some of the reactions to My Fake Baby, this article shows how the punitive approach taken to the women in the programme reflects cultural and social perceptions in the UK and other western countries about gendered play. Fitzgerald suggests that while ‘play’ seems to have moved from a childhood prerogative towards an increasingly adult one, ‘play’ for adult women is still regarded as inappropriate and symptomatic of female pathology.