It takes just a quick glance at movies, TV shows, and books to realize that our entertainment is packed with attractive and unmarried characters, and a good portion of those that are married look and act like they aren’t married. Fictitious families usually have one or two children, and the only times we see large families are either for comic effect or to provide a challenge for our middle-sibling protagonists to overcome. Depictions of marriage and family vary by genre (you’ll find a lot more husbands, wives, and kids in Western and Amish stories) but it’s interesting to observe how rarely families show up in speculative fiction.
Fantasy, with its medieval roots and settings, naturally has more instances of families featuring prominently in the story, either as the fertile soil from which our hero springs or as a tangled web of secrets and lies, especially if the story centers around a royal family. In quest-based fantasy, our marrying-age hero or heroine is usually still single or must rescue their kidnapped love. Rarely do we see our intrepid traveler leave a wife and children behind to go on their epic quest, and this is for a number of reasons. One, it’s not very realistic (as far as fantasy goes). A man or a woman with a family to care for would not go on a quest unless the survival of the family depended on it, and there are usually more capable and less married people around to do the job instead. Two, it wouldn’t sit well with readers if a spouse and parent left their family in pursuit of the Scroll of Destiny as the Prophecy Foretold. It would be hard to generate sympathy for such a character, especially from readers with families of their own. Three, families are a mental, physical, and emotion burden. A joyous burden but a burden nonetheless. An unattached protagonist is much easier to read and write since they are able to devote themselves to the cause at hand.
Science fiction goes even further. I would have to think long and hard to recall a sci-fi story or movie where a large family was central to the storyline (I’m sure some of you could come with some examples, though). Lost in Space is one of the few instances of where a family remains together for the duration of the series. By and large, the people hurtling through space are either unattached or have left loved ones behind, but these tangential characters exist only to elicit empathic emotions from the audience (and to cry when their intrepid parent nobly sacrifices themselves).
The bottom line is that kids (and to a lesser degree, spouses) get in the way of a good story, or at least that’s the popular perception. Turn on a movie or TV show and take a look at the characters on the screen and ask yourself if these people would be single and/or childless in real life. I believe that as entertainment consumes greater amounts of our time – and we fashion our lives into entertainment thanks to social media – marriage, children, and families are being perceived in an increasingly negative light. The young, hot, wealthy Instagram influencer is able to live that way because she is unmarried and has no children. She is carefree and stretch mark-free. Contrast that with “mommy blogs” where stressed-out moms seek guidance and support to make it through their hectic days. A society that craves the perfect body and the drool-worthy backdrop looks at family life and says, “Ew.” They see how children consume the lives of parents and think of kids as a ball and chain.
This viewpoint naturally features heavily in our entertainment, especially futuristic stories. Granted, it’s hard to have action-packed adventures when you have half a dozen hungry mouths to feed, and single people have often been the heroes of stories since ages past. Yet it’s clear that this antagonistic attitude towards traditional families and children goes beyond entertainment. We see women “shouting their abortions” and hits like The Handmaid’s Tale stirring up imagined persecution complexes, while children are exposed to gay marriage as young as elementary school. At its core, this sentiment is based on hatred of God and His word. The Bible says, “Male and female He created them,” and the world says, “We’ll see about that.” The Bible says, “A man shall cleave to his wife,” and the world says, “Boring!” The Bible says, “Be fruitful and multiply,” and the world says, “And miss out on all the fun?!”
Even among Christians, not everyone will get married, and not everyone will have children. And yes, children would be a bit of an encumbrance in many stories. But despite what we see on the page and screen, marriage and parenthood is a wild and exciting journey, and above all, a blessing from God.