Cattle and Nudity: Investigating the Pregnancy Reveal in Children of Men

The pregnancy reveal scene in Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men (2006) is undeniably crucial: Kee’s child is the glimmer of hope around which the chaos of the film revolves. The presentation, however, is confusing. Why does Kee begin the conversation talking about cow titties? Why is the barn filled with milk cows? Why does Kee decide to disrobe?

Perhaps Kee is simply nervous and so she just starts talking about the first thing that comes to mind. Why, though, are cow titties the first thing that comes to mind? I do not think that there is a ton of significance to this particular choice, but the question she asks is quite fitting: “Why not make machines that suck eight titties, eh?” Even this lighthearted reprieve brings to bear an example of reproductive brutality. The fact that this pivotal scene takes place with the one hope for humanity standing amongst a herd of milk cows makes it seem that the cows, and Kee’s brief commentary on their mistreatment, are indeed important. The reveal could have happened in a basement, in Kee and Miriam’s room, anywhere isolated. Instead it happens in a barn full of milk cows, ready symbols of motherhood and reproduction, and opens with a commentary on their brazen mistreatment. Perhaps this sort of needless cruelty is part of what the film warns against. Extrapolating, perhaps mankind has driven itself to the brink of extinction through its defiance and abuse of nature.

This still leaves the third question unanswered: Why does Kee decide to undress in order to announce her pregnancy? She could have just told Theo, or she could have bared only her stomach. It seems that this detail reinforces the symbolism of the cows and the importance of Kee’s commentary. Immediately after being presented with the unnecessary removal of mammary glands, Theo and the audience are presented with Kee’s naked breasts. Taking the reproductive process for granted by amputating udders simply because the machine only fits four seems ridiculous when juxtaposed with the first working human reproductive system in over a decade. Kee’s nudity, then, taken with the setting and introduction of this very important scene, can reasonably be judged as a warning against reproductive abuse –  as a reminder that humanity is itself dependent upon the process it often defies.

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