KATE EMERY: How moronic Hollywood bro-comedy Ricky Stanicky got it so wrong on skin-to-skin for newborns

Kate Emery
The Nightly
3 Min Read
In coming for skin-to-skin contact between a parent and a newborn, Hollywood has got it hopelessly wrong.
In coming for skin-to-skin contact between a parent and a newborn, Hollywood has got it hopelessly wrong. Credit: Prime/Amazon

There’s a scene in Hollywood’s latest bromantic comedy, Ricky Stanicky, where a new dad holds his baby for the first time.

This scene is supposed to be the culmination of a running joke in which the dad-to-be, JT, refers to himself as “daddy doula”, micromanages his wife’s pregnancy and expresses a desire for “skin-to-skin” contact when the baby is born.

“I don’t want to be naked, I just want my shirt off for the first embrace. Skin-to-skin. It’s a bonding thing,” he tells his sceptical friends and horrified wife.

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When the big moment comes, JT defends his decision to go shirtless, saying: “It’s a proven way of regulating a newborn baby’s temperature and it calms him.”

He’s absolutely right but the moment is played for laughs, doubly so when the baby (sigh) latches onto his nipple. Just look at this emasculated doofus! Trying to bond with his child! And improve the kid’s health outcomes!

Hollywood loves an offensively sexist stereotype. The entire premise of Ricky Stanicky, in which a group of childhood friends invent a fake friend to avoid boring family commitments, presupposes a world in which men find their partners so tedious they must invent a web of lies to escape them.

Ricky Stanicky (2023)
Hollywood loves an offensively sexist stereotype. Credit: Prime/Amazon

But in coming for skin-to-skin contact, Hollywood has got it hopelessly wrong.

Skin-to-skin contact, sometimes called “kangaroo care”, is a science-backed practice that is known to improve health outcomes for newborn babies — particularly, but not exclusively, those born premature.

Skin-to-skin contact between a newborn and their mother or father is shown to improve the baby’s temperature, breathing and heart rate, while promoting better sleep and growth.

There’s even studies to suggest skin-to-skin in the early hours may lead to a baby that cries less at six months, has better mental development at one and gets to enjoy parents with lower levels of stress and depression.

For those reasons, virtually every Australian hospital recommends skin-to-skin for premature babies and many promote it for all newborns.

But normalising skin-to-skin as best practice, not hippy voodoo for the crunchy granola set, has been a decades-long process. So, to see a mainstream comedy portray it as something weird, laughable and even just a little bit disgusting is, frankly, a bummer.

John Cena in Ricky Stanicky
I doubt that anybody is looking to raunchy comedies like Ricky Stanicky for life advice. Credit: Ben King/Prime

I doubt that anybody is looking to raunchy comedies like Ricky Stanicky for life advice. At least, I really hope not. The film is the work of Peter Farrelly, one half of the legendary Farrelly brothers, whose other films include There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber: great movies that absolutely do not offer a roadmap for a good life.

But societal norms become norms at least in part through the culture we consume, which tell us what’s cool, what’s acceptable and what’s going to make us the butt of the joke.

Some men — and women — who see this silly, insubstantial movie will walk away with the impression that wanting to hold your newborn against your skin is indeed as lame as ordering “organic vodka” at a bar or trying to make your pregnant wife go vegan. That’s a real shame.

The one positive in this unfortunate situation is that Ricky Stanicky is not a very good movie.

Lacklustre reviews and minimal word of mouth for this decidedly middling comedic effort should, at least, mean that not a lot of people will get to see for themselves how Hollywood got it so embarrassingly wrong on skin-to-skin.

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The front page of The Nightly for 21-05-2024

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