The MadLab: Out of Wedlock Births on Film that Play Out in Real Life

Nicole Ayers: The MadLab

In “All Things Fall Apart,” Lynn Whitfield plays Dee, a single mother of two teenage sons. While very protective and nurturing, Dee has to make huge sacrifices to ensure the happiness and safety of her children but struggles even more when one of them faces a life threatening illness.

In “Jumping the Broom,” Valarie Pettiford plays Aunt Geneva, a woman whose married sister took her child to provide a more stable life for a baby that would be raised by a single parent otherwise.

What do all of these movie characters have in common? Their similarities go further than becoming pregnant and having a child out of wedlock. Each mother listed here lacked the resources necessary to take care of the baby that she brought into the world. The keyword here is RESOURCES… important factor that does not appear to be considered much when women decide to engage in activities that result in unplanned (or even planned, for those who are so infatuated with a man’s personality, looks, status or whatever attracts them that they want to have his baby) pregnancies.

Being a loving mother in “All Things Fall Apart” did not make up for the fact that the biological father of Dee’s sons were not in the picture and she gave the only man (played by Mario Van Peebles) who was a father figure in their lives her butt to kiss when he tried to convince this strong and independent woman to allow her ill son some room to learn how to take care of himself. Dee had a job and an active side business but still struggled to afford the best possible life for her children and had difficulty paying her ill son’s medical expenses. Not only did this have an impact on her son’s opportunities to be all he can be, the resources that she does have are pretty much spread thin since Dee has not one, but two kids.

Aunt Geneva seemed more concerned about traveling the world than being a parent and good role model for her daughter. Unlike Dee, however, Aunt Geneva was gracious enough to realize that her sister could provide a better life for the child that she chose to have without ensuring that the daughter was born into the best possible circumstances….with two parents in a stable environment that did not include her mother flying off to Paris or some other getaway whenever she felt like doing so.

In reality, the percentage of mothers in the African-American community who are having children out of wedlock under circumstances similar to the main characters in “All Things Fall Apart” and “Jumping the Broom” are likely very small. A lot of single mothers who have a chip on their shoulder but express pride in being “strong and independent” do not have a man in their lives who are willing to take over as step-father and pay for, motivate, encourage and care for children that they had from a previous relationship with another man, like Dee had in Mario Van Peebles’ character, Eric. There are even smaller numbers of single mothers who come from a wealthy family where their married older sister has the ability and resources to come in and save the day like Aunt Geneva had in her sister Claudine, played by Angela Bassett.

Often than not, the picture of out of wedlock births, especially among African-American women tend to be similar to “Claudine” starring Diahann Carroll or “Lean on Me” starring Morgan Freeman. There is a scene in “Claudine” where the main character spanks her suddenly pregnant daughter after learning that there will soon be another mouth to feed in her already financially shaky, welfare stricken household.

In “Lean on Me,” a high school student named Kaneesha Carter gets upset, scared and angry at her male partner after learning she is pregnant. A baby could not only affect her chances of doing well in school and going to college but also spreads her already limited resources very thin since her mother has been unemployed for some time and just landed a new job….so who is going to babysit this kid in 9 months?

The focus of this post is not about marriage, single mothers or African-American women. It is about out of wedlock births and the importance of lowering the rate at which these births occur and this can only happen when adults make more efforts to assess the resources that are available to them and consider the amount of resources that would be available to their children….before deciding to get pregnant and bring a child into the world that is at a disadvantage on so many levels, compared to other children who were born to parents who have the ability to care for them.

Children deserve all that they can receive when and after they are born but resources to cover their needs such as finances for basic expenses including food, shelter and clothing, a stable and safe home environment along with positive people around them are the least that they should experience, or else the children become at risk for social, mental, emotional and financial problems as they grow older while also likely having kids out of wedlock themselves, thus continuing this sad cycle of poverty and broken families…..and it doesn’t have to be this way. This can be prevented through behaving responsibility and taking family planning more seriously, because it means more than buying condoms at the grocery store or getting birth control at a free clinic.

For those who may be familiar with the Mario Van Peebles/50 Cent film, please note: I watched both of the movies highlighted in this post at a movie theater and am well aware that “All Things Fall Apart” is about a football player who wants to build a career in sports and provide a better life for his family. However, I chose to focus on a specific aspect of the plot as a way to help illustrate my point on the subject of out of wedlock births.


Maid in Manhattan


Erin Brockovich


Lean on Me

*Kaneesha’s unplanned pregnancy


Nicole Ayers is a writer and filmmaker who has made several shorts. She is currently working on a feature film and educational television program while supporting original work through anti-piracy campaigns. Nicole blogs at The Madlab Post, which is updated weekly.

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