Thin blue lines: product placement and the drama of pregnancy testing in British cinema and television

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This article uses the case of pregnancy testing in Britain to investigate the process whereby new and often controversial reproductive technologies are made visible and normalized in mainstream entertainment media. It shows how in the 1980s and 1990s the then nascent product placement industry was instrumental in embedding pregnancy testing in British cinema and television's dramatic productions. In this period, the pregnancy-test close-up became a conventional trope and the thin blue lines associated with Unilever's Clearblue rose to prominence in mainstream consumer culture. This article investigates the aestheticization of pregnancy testing and shows how increasingly visible public concerns about ‘schoolgirl mums’, abortion and the biological clock, dramatized on the big and small screen, propelled the commercial rise of Clearblue. It argues that the Clearblue close-up ambiguously concealed as much as it revealed; abstraction, ambiguity and flexibility were its keys to success.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-520
Number of pages26
JournalBritish Journal for the History of Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2017


  • pregnancy testing
  • movies
  • consumer culture

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