It's time for the second TV Tropes Halloween Avatar Contest, theme: cute monsters! Details and voting here.
It turns out we
are the Von Neumann machines.
Take the female body. Now, instead of visualizing a human being, with all the markings of independent thought and higher intelligence, visualize an organic device that can be used to create babies. This is no doubt rather creepy (particularly for our female viewers), but sometimes this is because it is believed to be necessary, to deal with a heavily depleted race of species. On the other hand, this trope can just as easily be engaged in for the sake of evil. Babies can be sold for delicious, delicious profit. Or alternatively, they're just delicious
. You can guess what a sufficiently evil character will do from this point.
The Baby Factory
symbolizes the idea of a woman as being chained to her biology, and also represents the darker side of Babies Make Everything Better
. Come what may, babies must be created. No, she doesn't get to have any interaction with the baby. Probably for the better, since she's likely to resent the life this has given her. Even worse, the mother might actually enjoy it- sure, we've reduced the higher functions of humanity to the economic functions of supply and demand, but it's a living.
This trope is a central ramification of any work where creating Designer Babies
is a societal directive. Many Science Fiction
writers avoid it altogether by providing a means of creating babies that doesn't require human wombs or (usually non-consensual) sexual intercourse. Usually this takes the form of a Uterine Replicator
On rarer occasions, men are also involved in this trope, usually as a result of a Gendercide
forcing the survivors to be as engaged in the baby-making business as the women who carry the babies to term. Usually in these cases things are not as bad for the women, who because of large supply, have the choice of whether or not they participate in this process thanks to their relatively high Gender Rarity Value
In some modern works a woman actually sees herself as one of these, and uses the babies she can make as fulfillment in the more traditional Babies Make Everything Better
vein. This doesn't exactly make things better
. Can result in Too Many Babies
. Mars Needs Women
may be involved if there are aliens in the story.
See also: Mother of a Thousand Young
, and People Farms
, for other human ranching purposes. See also Mandatory Motherhood
and Breeding Cult
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Anime and Manga
- The Psions in the DC Universe treat their females like this.
- In Empowered, Ninjette's own father wants to reduce her to this. Ninjas sent from the clan have no qualms about chopping off her limbs to make this easier.
- Elephantmen were made by Mappo's genetic engineering, and grown from embryos using local African women as surrogates. The mothers were kept under anesthetic and fed with IVs for the whole pregnancy and gave birth by c-section. More accurately had the newborn extracted from what was left of their bodies, as bearing an elephantman to term is 100% fatal. It's not discussed why some other species of mammal wasn't used, other than "Mappo is a monster".
- Shoot 'em Up. The reason the bad guys are trying to kill the Badass and Baby. Several women are impregnated with the semen of a senator who needs a bone marrow transplant. The villains try to kill the senator by killing the mothers; one runs into the protagonist just before she's killed (just after she gives birth).
- Kzinti females in Known Space are non-sentient, due to genetic engineering.
- The Axlotl tanks in Dune are actually the females of the house Bene Tleilax.
- The purpose of the handmaids in The Handmaid's Tale is to provide this service. They're not particularly good at it, though, mostly because the authoritarian society they live in demands that the babies have a specific father, and the society in question is unwilling to acknowledge that the reason some wives can't get pregnant may have more to do with lazy sperm than a faulty ovary.
- On Gor the Priest Kings are - unknown to human Goreans - an insectoid species with a queen in the insect sense; she's revered but doesn't have any actual power. The power of the high council is invested in the First Five Born (of which by the time we meet them there are only two left). The Mother dies in the third book, and the plot of the fourth book concerns recovery of the last female egg, so as to restart the sequence (they already have a male).
- In Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones, the corrupt and oppressive intergalactic government enforces its will by means of psychic assassins called Servants. They get more Servants by picking women with strong psychic abilities to breed to the current Servant and giving them drugs so that they have as many babies as possible (the women, naturally, get no choice in this matter). The children are taken away as soon as they're born, and... well, no one knows what happens to the mother after that.
- Frank Herbert's Hellstrom's Hive. The insect-like humans of the Hive have a practice of salvaging valuable genes from damaged individuals by slicing off most of the body above the waist and below the knees and using the remainder for breeding purposes. Unlike most examples these "reproductive stumps" can be male as well as female.
- Jonathan Swift's famous essay, A Modest Proposal suggests farming women around Europe for babies to eat once they hit 12 months old as a means of dealing with recurrent famine problems.
- In Lois Lowry's The Giver, girls are selected at the age of twelve to begin training as Birthmothers, producing offspring for the Community that are immediately taken away. Once they meet their quota, Birthmothers spend the rest of their lives as factory labourers. The system is elaborated on in Son, and it is as sterile and creepy as one would expect — the women are even referred to as "Vessels" and their children as "Products," and they give birth blindfolded as not to get attached to their offspring.
- In Sergey Lukyanenko's Spectrum, a race of Lizard Folk often travel with four-legged pets. It turns out these are their females who have lost their sentience as a result of a radical evolutionary change caused by an ancient cataclysm.
- Lensman contains a gender-reversed example: The males of Lyrane II are non-sentient and about four feet tall.
- How Werewolves view women in the Women Of The Otherworld series, as a result of Gender Equals Breed.
- In World War Z, the Holy Russian Empire ends up resorting to these after the war ends, since there are so few young, fertile people left. The Russian woman the author interviews is currently pregnant with her eighth child; all her previous children are by different fathers, and they're taken away from her almost at once, presumably so she can get pregnant again as quickly as possible.
- Inverted in China Miéville's Perdido Street Station with the khephri, as the males are big nonsentient beetles who are of little use beyond reproduction to the females, who look like attractive human women ...except for their heads, which look like big beetles.
- Flash for Freedom! Flashman and the other crewmen on the slave ship are encouraged to sleep with as many female slaves as possible, as women pregnant with lighter skinned babies can be sold at a higher price. Oddly enough, given his usual lechery, Flashman isn't particularly keen on the idea, and takes a single slave as his concubine instead.
- Fade to White, an Alternate History short story by Catherynne M. Valente is set in a post-World War III United States where men and women are tested for intelligence, 'loyalty' and most important: fertility. Women who score highly get to raise their children in the more modern houses with the improved radiation-proofing. Men who score high become a Husband, serving as fathers to several families on a rotating basis. Society deliberately maintains the fiction that it's carrying on the values of pre-war era, giving the Husbands phony jobs and each family pretending the others don't exist. Less fertile men (or those who are black or asian) get either shipped out to the front line or take jobs where they must take regular hormone suppressants (so women will be encouraged to only have sex with the fertile Husbands).
- In Bumped, teenage girls are heavily encouraged to be surrogate mothers for older couples after a Sterility Plague makes everyone over the age of 18 sterile.
- In Promised, the final book in Caragh O'Brien's dystopian Birthmarked trilogy, the Enclave starts making fertile women become surrogate mothers. The women are given free housing and care. The women are brainwashed into believing it is a choice, however, leaving has dire consequences.
- In one of the Dragonriders of Pern books, there was a character who kept his wife constantly pregnant (as a way to maintain control over her), until her body could no longer handle it and she died in childbirth.
- The Saga of Seven Suns has secret genetic and breeding experiments being performed for the purpose of producing someone who could communicate with the hydrogues. An unusual example in that both genders are treated equally badly.
- This is Isabel's role at court in The Kingdom of Little Wounds. Notably right after her oldest daughter dies, the king comes to her bed to create another child as though Sophia were just a part to replace and Isabel a mechanism to make that replacement.
Live Action TV
- In one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Doctor Pulaski ends up telling two colonies (one consisting of traditional Irishmen, and the other of slowly degenerating clones) that they must engage in widescale polygyny and polyandry in order to gain an appropriate amount of genetic diversity. One Irishwoman expresses disdain that they apparently have to modify the entire way their culture examines the family for the sake of some oddly defined scientific reasons, but ends up agreeing to go along with it.
- The illogic of the trope being applied in this situation was deconstructed in a Starfleet Corps of Engineers novella that essentially spends the entire story asking "What were the Enterprise crew thinking?"
- The in-show explanation is that neither colony has enough genetic diversity on its own to survive, though there's no reason they couldn't just open immigration from the Federation.
- One world they encounter has recently suffered a massive decrease in the number of available fertile males- the male Sliders are promptly rounded up and sent to a breeding camp once they're discovered.
- The Cromags have to engage in this trope because their females, due to some disease or something, can't effectively propagate the race. Main character Wade ends up as one, and that's the last we hear of her until season five, where we find she and other humans are being used to power new sliding technology.
- The Cylon 'farms' on the occupied Colonies in Battlestar Galactica.
- Space: Above and Beyond depicts the InVitros being born, fully grown, from one of these.
- An episode of Earth: Final Conflict indicates that the Taelons were using human clones and the cover of an infertility clinic to make Half-Human Hybrids. It also stated that Sandoval was also tinkering with the results as well.
- A very distressing example occurs in Stargate SG-1. SG-1 finds a planet where the people have developed a virtual panacea which keeps them in perfect health. They later find out that the drug is basically "ground up Goa'uld", as Jack puts it, harvested by enforced breeding of a captive Goa'uld queen. Things get even worse when they find out that the queen in question is Egeria, the mother of the Tok'ra, and pretty much the only good Goa'uld ever.
- The Lottery has 100 citizens set to become this, pending the results of a national lottery.
- Unfortunate Implication example: Pearl Jam's "Do The Evolution" music video.
- George Carlin finds it offensive. He calls it "pumping out a unit".
George Carlin: I also happen to like it when feminists attack these fatass housewives who think there's nothing more to life that sitting home on the telephone, drinking coffee, watching TV and pumping out a baby every nine months. P-poom, p-poom, p-poom, p-poom, p-poom... will seven be enough, Bob? ... p-poom, p-poom.
- In Warhammer, Skaven females are still bloated baby-makers lacking intelligence or even adequate muscles to support moving their own girth out of their dens.
- Implied among the Death Corp of Krieg in Warhammer 40,000. It is not clear if the "vitae wombs" they use are Uterine Replicators or a method of modifying actual human females to drastically increase fertility, but it is considered "abhorrent" in-universe and only barely tolerated. The end result supports a society that does nothing but crank out Death Seeker Gas Mask Mooks by the million.
- There is actually a fairly horrific version of this burried in the lore. A Chaos Space Marine by the name of Honsou created a device called the Daemonculaba. The details are fairly graphic, but lets just say it was created as a way of rapidly producing Super Soldiers and the nicest part involved forced reverse C-Section.
- Brood Mothers from Dragon Age are this plus a Mook Maker boss.
- The Gears of War Expanded Universe: while all able-bodied men were conscripted into the armed forces after E-Day, all fertile women were required to help repopulate Sera. They were relocated to creches where they could be forced to bear children. Though these women got better food rations than front-line soldiers, some of those front-liners considered time with the women at the "breeding farms" a reward.
- Oddworld has Queen Sam and Lady Margaret, the only mentioned females of the Mudokon and Glukkon species, respectively. While Lady Margaret is more of a case of Bee People, Queen Sam is kept in a controlled environment where all she does all day is lay Mudokon eggs, which will be grown into slaves (or, in Abe's Odyssee, food). Her Glukkon masters have gone to the trouble of engineering The Shrink, an artificial intelligence designed solely to keep Queen Sam from reflecting on where her eggs are going, lest this realization make her stop laying. Also, she's kept in a literal factory.
- In Super Monday Night Combat, one of the announcers can sometimes bring up the "Dame Of The Game" prize: One "lucky" female audience member is selected at random, given a bouquet of flowers, and then shipped off to an offworld colony to help with repopulation.
- Bulborbs, common enemies in Pikmin, are not people, but they still amble around after food, nap during the day, and are dangerous and energetic at night. Except for the Empress Bulblaxes, which have enormously distended abdomens so swollen that their feet don't touch the ground. Unlike every other Bulborb, rather than chasing and biting attackers she can only roll and thrash and continuously give birth. This is not the natural state of female Bulborbs - it happens to the largest one in a given range in response to environmental changes - like, perhaps, Pikmin-sized Captains showing up and making the food do weird things.
- Caesar's Legion in Fallout: New Vegas believes that the only worth women have is to create more Legionaries. However, in Caesar's case, this is less sexism and more simply raw pragmatism in how he feels women are more useful as breeding chambers rather than fighters.
- Referenced in Mass Effect 2; an asari (a species that can mate with any species to produce children,) is considering whether or not to marry a krogan (who have been hit with a Sterility Plague that makes most of them incapable of having children with their own species,) and wonders if her boyfriend sees her as a "baby-making machine", since he seemed briefly surprised when she told him that any children they had would be asari rather than krogan, though he quickly assured her he'd love them anyway. You have the choice to advise her whether or not to trust that he loves her as a person or to break up with him because she doesn't trust him. If you advise her to marry him then Mass Effect 3 reveals that he did very much love her for who she was, and she was pregnant with his child at the time of his horrible death.
- In Sword of the Stars The Zuul females are non-sentient, aggressive, and usually always pregnant. Whats worse is that since they are Artificially made the race that made them did this on purpose. The Suul'ka are assholes like that.
- The Prestor Zuul try to avert this as much as possible. They can't do anything as of right now to make the female more intelligent but they treat them much better then the regular Zuul.
- According to Nazisploitation films and novels (even some mainstream fiction picked up the Urban Legend, e.g. Bear Island by Alistair MacLean) Those Wacky Nazis would select racially pure German women to be impregnated by virile SS men, in order to create the Master Race. In actuality while the Nazis did have an organisation that helped care for the offspring of SS members (even illegitimate children) with the goal of increasing the birth rate (which had fallen drastically due to the Great Depression) there was no 'breeding program'.
- They did, however, encourage women to have children by giving them rewards for doing so. The more children they had, the bigger their rewards would be - some were even given medals for doing "great service to their country". While they weren't forced into it, to increase the birthrate, they made it worth the girl's while to get married to an SS soldier and have several children by him.
- German soldiers in occupied territories were discouraged from forming relationships with local women. The exception to this was in countries that were perceived as being more "Aryan," that is to say Norway and Denmark. Here the soldiers were not only encouraged to seek out the company of the local women, there was also built a state-of-the-art hospital in Norway specifically for expecting women where the child had a German father.
- The Christian Identity movement, a group of Right Wing Militia Fanatics and white supremacists in the United States, turned down a woman who wanted to learn how to fight in preparation for an allegedly upcoming race war. They laughed and said, "Women are for breeding".
- On a related vein, in Fascist Italy women were given medals for bearing many children, and soldiers were required to salute pregnant women. Mussolini specifically said motherhood is to women what war is to men, which should give you some idea where he was coming from.
- The concept of 'let's specifically reward women for having kids' is becoming more and more common in those countries where the fertility rate has fallen close to or below the replacement level (2.1 kids per couple). Russia, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, France, Italy, Germany and Poland outright 'give' stuff to couples who have children (Singapore increases the amount paid per child- $3,000 for having one kid, $18,000 for having a third). Sweden's very generous parental leaves and stem in part from the concept of, "If we make having kids easier, there will be MORE of them!" Results are mixed, but Russia had population 'growth' in 2009 for the first time in fifteen years.
- Imperial Japan encouraged women to live by the creed of "Umeyo fuyaseyo okunino tameni!" (tr: "Let's have babies and multiply for the good of the Empire!").
- Immigrants are often seen as this by the native population, especially when they receive financial aid based on the number of children they have. It contributes significantly to the distrust they receive.
- Any sort of hive queen(whether a real creature such as bees, or a fantasy creature or race), whose primary (or only) purpose is to pop out eggs or babies.
- New Zealand's Domestic Purposes Benefit (Sole Parent) is a special type of unemployment benefit given to solo parents with dependent children, with the condition they do not have to actively seek employment until their youngest child turns six. Right-wing politicians claim the benefit has resulted in a generation of welfare-dependent baby factories, popping out a baby every five years to flout the part time work condition.
- The "Quiverfull" movement is a sect of Christianity which basically states that couples must produce as many "Soldiers of God" as they possibly can, like filling up a "quiver" with arrows. Women who subscribe to this ideology are often constantly pregnant. The TV show 19 Kids and Counting on TLC follows the lives of one of these families, the Duggars.
- Romania under Nicolae Ceaușescu was notorious for this. Abortion was illegal and each woman was expected to bear at least four children. As a result, Romanian orphanages became extremely overcrowded and understaffed.
- Not to mention abortion actually increased as all contraception was also banned. And the long term effects is that it actually caused a net decrease in population as a lot of kids died from lack of care and women died from back alley abortions.