Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays

Issue 12 – 2023 (2)

“Do you really want to have children?”. Off-screen Motherhood in Spanish Dramedies

Lorenzo Torres (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos), Mariona Visa (Universitat de Lleida) & Mª Isabel Menéndez (Universidad de Burgos)

Cómo citar este artículo: Torres, Lorenzo; Visa, Mariona and Menéndez, Mª Isabel (2023). “Do you really want to have children?”. Off-screen Motherhood in Spanish Dramedies. Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays, 12, 2023(2). ISSN: 2659-4269

Fictional works wield considerable influence in shaping and legitimizing evolving social paradigms. The advent of subscription-based cable channels and video-on-demand platforms marked the onset of the Third Television Golden Age, characterized by targeted content production and narrative innovations (McCabe, Akass, 2007). Amidst this transformative era, the digital platform’s potential to broaden representations of motherhood remains an underexplored field.

The shifting landscape of family dynamics, embracing diverse models such as childless couples, blended families, and same-sex parent families, is mirrored in contemporary cultural works. Moreover, the acknowledgment of queer identities challenges traditional gender and sexual orientation classifications, fostering increased diversity in maternal experiences. Advancements in assisted human reproduction further contribute to this diversity, enabling pregnancy for those with fertility issues or pursuing unconventional family structures.

While extensive literature scrutinizes the representation of biological processes related to motherhood on an international scale, the focus often neglects the potential of digital platforms in this regard. Works such as Knock me up, Knock me down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Films (Oliver, 2012) and Pregnancy in Literature and Film (Boswell, 2014) play a crucial role in understanding the visibility of these processes in audiovisual media.

The portrayal of maternal figures in literary and audiovisual fiction has historically been extensive, frequently veering into mysticism or perpetuating traditional and limiting stereotypes (Nash, 2006; Creed, 1993). In the late 1990s, representations aligned with the principles of intensive motherhood or “new momism”, emphasizing elevated standards of dedication to children (Hays, 1996; Douglas and Michaels, 2004). This era witnessed the proliferation of “mom comedies”, exploring reproductive processes and assisted reproductive technologies in romantic comedies (Oliver, 2012). However, these narratives often clashed with contemporary sensibilities, objectifying the female body and neglecting racial and family diversity. The films tended to convey motherhood as an inevitable destiny, with limited exploration of alternative choices.

The early 2000s marked a turning point in television fiction, introducing more realistic narratives that portrayed “good enough mothers” (Feasey, 2012). These narratives delved into the frustrations and negative aspects of motherhood, presenting a nuanced perspective that departed from the idealized portrayals of the past.

Despite the evolution in family models and technological advancements, Spain grapples with one of the world’s lowest birth rates, sparking concerns about generational replacement and a looming “demographic winter” (Schooyans, 1999). Contributing factors include challenging labor market conditions, difficulties in establishing homes, relationship instability, and a lack of support for work-life balance. Anthropologists Dolors Comas-d’Argemir (2016) and Bruna Álvarez (2017) highlight the impact of socioeconomic factors on young women’s decisions to delay motherhood, driven by a desire for freedom and personal time. Insufficient public policies supporting motherhood further compound these challenges.

The primary objective of our research is to analyze the representation of motherhood in Spanish dramedies distributed through video-on-demand platforms. This study aims to identify motherhood-related storylines, examine their connotations, explore the diversity of maternal figures, analyze their interaction with the current socio-economic context, and study the evolution of the protagonists’ narrative arcs.

To achieve this, our study focuses on Spanish dramedies created between 2018 and 2022, distributed through digital portals of traditional television, streaming platforms, and generalist television networks. We employed relevant audiovisual databases and video-on-demand platforms, resulting in a corpus of six series: Pequeñas coincidencias (Javier Veiga, Prime Video, 2018), Vida perfecta (Leticia Dolera, Movistar, 2019), Valeria (María López Castaño, Netflix, 2020), Drama (El Terrat, RTVE, Playz, 2020), Cardo (Claudia Costafreda and Ana Rujas, AtresPlayer, 2021), and Todo lo otro (Abril Zamora, HBO, 2021).



  • Álvarez, B. (2017). Las (ir)racionalidades de la maternidad en España: influencias del mercado laboral y las relaciones de género en las decisiones reproductivas. Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
  • Boswell, P. A (2014). Pregnancy in Literature and Film. McFarland.
  • Carrera, P.; Ciller C. (eds.) (2021).  Maternidades. Políticas de la representación. Cátedra.
  • Creed, B. (1993). The Monstrous-feminine: Film, feminism, psychoanalysis. Routledge.
  • Comas-d’Argemir, D. (2017). El don y la reciprocidad tienen género: las bases morales de los cuidados. Quaderns-e de l’Institut Català d’Antropologia. 22 (2), 17-32.
  • Douglas, S. y Michaels, M. (2004). The Mommy Myth: The Mass Media and the Rise of the New Momism. The Free Press.
  • Feasey, R. (2016). Mothers on mothers: maternal readings of popular television. Peter Lang.
  • Hays, S. (1998). The cultural contradictions of motherhood. Yale University Press. 
  • McCabe J.; Akass, K. (2007) Quality TV: Contemporary American television and beyond. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2007.
  • Nash, M. (2006). Identidades de género, mecanismos de subalternidad y procesos de emancipación femenina. Revista CIDOB d’afers internacionals, 39-57.
  • Oliver, K. (2012). Knock me up, knock me down: Images of pregnancy in Hollywood films. Columbia University Press.
  • Schooyans, M. (1999). Le crash démographique. Le Sarment-Fayard.
  • Visa, M., (coor.) (2015). Padres y madres en serie. Representaciones de la parentalidad en la ficción televisiva. Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, UOC. 



Mariona Visa y Lorenzo Torres: R+D Proyect “Maternidades en pantalla. Representación del proceso reproductivo en la ficción española contemporánea (MaterScreen)” (PID2022-137338OA-I00), funding by Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (MCIN) del Gobierno de España. Proyectos de Generación de Conocimiento 2022.

María Isabel Menéndez: R+D Proyect PID2022-138974NA-I00, “Tecnologías de género en la cultura audiovisual española del nuevo milenio” (2023-2026), funding by Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación del Gobierno de España under the Programa Estatal de Generación del Conocimiento 2021-2023.

Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays
ISSN: 2659-4269
© Tecmerin Research Group
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid