At the end of September, I presented a paper on P.D. James’s The Children of Men and technological anxieties. I used two academic metaphors: Michel Foucault’s reading of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon model; and Donna Haraway’s cyborg. I argue that these examine male anxiety and female empowerment, particularly in an age of surveillance. That’s the sparknotes version, because I am fairly certain you don’t want to hear my presentation, but my thoughts on the book instead. Obviously, because I wrote about Children of Men, I had to re-read the book. I read it for the first time last year and didn’t love it, but I believe that’s because the movie was still fresh in my mind. This time, I decided to keep the book fresh, and I’m really glad I did.
Last year, when I read it for the first time during CBR8, I struggled with the gender dynamics in Children of Men. As you can see from my blog post, fyrehaar posted a really insightful comment that changed how I had previously viewed the novel. When I thought about the book as a commentary on male anxiety, suddenly it all made more sense. Theo is anxious, Xan is anxious, Rolf is anxious. The people who aren’t anxious? The women. Julian and Miriam are total badasses in the way they go about the country seeking a safe place for Julian to carry her baby. They think one step at a time and not about the future that may rip Julian’s baby away from her and force her into a breeding program. The men, however, are kind of wrecks, and Theo is one of them. James is unflinching in her examination of the ways that women’s bodies make men nervous, and it’s a brilliant commentary.
One thing that was new to me was the emphasis on disability. Both Julian and Luke suffer from different kinds of disabilities that render them exempt from mandatory reproductive testing, and it feels like outright defiance for Julian to carry a child when her body has been previous deemed as lacking or unwanted. It’s a powerful moment. I do recommend this book enormously. It’s also time for a film rewatch. It’s been several years.
Cross-posted to my blog.