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Julia McConnell
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A surrogate holding a glass of water

With Father's Day just around the corner, it's time to celebrate the many different journeys to parenthood. This kind of exposure is significant for families using surrogacy to bring a child into their lives. Surrogacy has become increasingly relevant in modern society due to advancements in reproductive technology. Popular culture has noticed this phenomenon, and we frequently see surrogacy in the news, including television shows, celebrity gossip columns, and social media groups. But how accurate is the media portrayal of surrogacy, and how does this impact public perceptions?

Surrogacy in Entertainment and Films

Thankfully, the portrayal of surrogacy in television and film has evolved and improved. Popular surrogacy storylines in the 1970s and 80s often painted surrogates as greedy or malicious characters, contributing to negative stereotypes. However, changing societal norms succeeded in bringing a more balanced perspective. In 1998, actress Lisa Kudrow’s character Phoebe in Friends is a surrogate for her brother and his wife in a story handled with humor and sensitivity.

In recent years, surrogacy documentaries have become increasingly popular. One example is Having Our Baby: The Surrogacy Boom, a 2017 documentary that follows two Canadian couples and their surrogates as they navigate the emotional, legal, and financial challenges of surrogacy. 

Celebrity Surrogacy

When it comes to surrogacy representation in popular culture, celebrities play a role in shining the limelight on assisted reproduction. The A-list for celebrity surrogacy advocates includes household names such as Kim Kardashian, Sarah Jessica Parker, Paris Hilton, and Rebel Wilson. It’s also vital to include luminaries such as Sir Elton John, Tan France, Anderson Cooper, and Neil Patrick Harris, who all became proud dads using egg donations and surrogates. Their willingness to share both beautiful and challenging experiences has helped normalize surrogacy and fight against negative stereotypes and stigmas.

Overcoming Surrogacy Controversies in Pop Culture

Despite the popularity of celebrity surrogacy stories, there are times when the media’s coverage can be a double-edged sword. While it can raise awareness and acceptance of surrogacy, it can also perpetuate misconceptions, particularly when it fails to represent the legal and medical complexities correctly. The sharing of “fake news” is especially true when it comes to surrogacy in social media. Misrepresentations of surrogates contribute to stigmatization. All too often, surrogates are viewed as either selfless angels or money-hungry exploiters. The reality is that most surrogates fall somewhere in between the two. In the United States, gestational surrogates must complete a comprehensive medical and psychological evaluation in addition to showing financial stability. While surrogates do receive compensation, they must also demonstrate a committed desire to help others have a child of their own.

Like many public service roles, being a surrogate is complex but has incredible rewards. When popular culture offers balanced and accurate views of surrogacy, it reduces the stigma of women choosing to be surrogates and the many kinds of couples and individuals partnering with them to create the family of their dreams. With Father’s Day coming soon, surrogates should also be commended for helping others to achieve their dream of starting or completing their families.