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  • 作家相片Ralph M. Tsong

YouTube Short Film Review: Dhar Mann Studio’s SURROGATE HOLDS BABY FOR RANSOM

youtube film surrogacy “Dhar mann”

Dhar Mann Studios is a popular YouTube producer who makes short films which come with a positive moral lesson for his fans, who are mostly kids and adolescents. In his recent short film with the sensational title "Surrogate HOLDS BABY For RANSOM, What Happens Is Shocking," he enters the world of surrogacy. The idea of the surrogate holding the child she is gestating for emotional or monetary ransom is nothing new in the movie industry with examples like The Sinister Surrogate, When the Bough Breaks, and so on. It is extremely rare in the real world though. The most famous case would be the Baby M case in Michigan which was a traditional surrogacy case and occurred after the child’s birth.  


youtube film surrogacy “Dhar mann”
The film opens with Intended Parents Sandra and Jeremy with Gestational Carrier Emily at their kitchen table. Emily asks the Intended Parents for an advance on her last pregnancy compensation check of $5,000, which the Intended Mother Sandra is happy to give. Emily leaves the house and we are introduced to Emily’s boyfriend Seth, her abusive partner and father of their child with a gambling addiction. We learn that the couple have been facing financial struggles, and Seth pressured Emily to become a surrogate from the start. After drinking and gambling away her last check, he devises a plan to steal from Sandra and Jeremy during their baby shower while Emily rests inside. Despite Emily’s efforts to stop Seth’s plan, Seth manages to steal Sandra’s expensive jewelry pieces and forces Emily to cover for him.  

youtube film surrogacy “Dhar mann”
Sandra even offers Emily a credit card to use since her due date is nearing. Seth uses all the money he received from selling Sandra’s jewelry to gamble and takes the credit card to book them a flight to Mexico. He plans on forcing Emily to hold the baby for ransom.  Sandra and Jeremy confront Emily and Seth when they are arrested and escorted off the plane. Although Seth denies any illegal doing, Sandra reveals they have video footage of Seth stealing the jewelry which shows Emily was resisting his plans.  
Sandra encourages Emily to leave Seth and reclaim her independence. The film ends with Emily realizing that staying with an abusive partner does her own biological daughter more harm.  

How realistic is this portrayal of surrogacy?  

Coercion and Manipulation. Seth manipulates Emily to become a surrogate for financial gain although she did not want to. In a legal surrogacy arrangement, there will be a recital that all parties should enter into the agreement voluntarily, willingly and without duress. While there are anecdotes of partners attempting to coerce women into surrogacy, it is our experience that surrogacy in the United States is voluntary and is not a result of financial duress. Most agencies will not take surrogates who are on government assistance to avoid situations of financial duress and we recommend independent intended parents follow this guideline as well. 

Surrogacy Compensation. Surrogacy arrangements typically have an escrow account which is a third-party escrow company or attorney that is responsible for making payments to the surrogate. In fact, in California, a third-party escrow or trust account is required for any surrogacy contract with an agency involved. In this case, the surrogacy appears to be independent, and Sandra writes a check to Emily which is an advance on her last payment as she states money is tight.  In our contracts, the parties agree they shall not contact each other to discuss financial issues they are having and to talk to the agency or attorney if they are having issues. However, in an independent arrangement, direct payments to the surrogate from intended parents may take place if there is no escrow. It is ill-advised to advance any payment before its scheduled time.  
Sandra also gives Emily a credit card near her due date which is unrealistic and something we have never seen in a surrogacy agreement. There are maternity clothing allowances or even dietary allowances which could cover expenses that the credit card was contemplated for, and it is advisable to follow the contract rather than provide an open-ended credit card to the surrogate. 

Including the Surrogate’s Partner in the Contract. While spouses of surrogates are almost always included in the surrogacy contract, it is a best practice to include the surrogate’s live-in-partner in the surrogacy agreement. It is further a good idea to do a criminal background check of all the parties including the surrogate’s partner. In this case, the intended parents did not even recognize Seth when they saw him in the car late. Best practices were not followed to learn that the surrogate has a partner late in her pregnancy.  

Travel and Other Restrictions. Surrogacy agreements typically prohibit travel after a certain gestational week, as travel out of state could result in an emergency birth and the surrogate’s health insurance or parentage order not being accepted in the state she gives birth in. International travel is prohibited for multiple reasons including health and legal reasons. Travel by air usually requires doctors’ permission from a legal standpoint. It’s unlikely a surrogate who is later than 32 weeks pregnant could get on a flight so easily without doctor’s permission.  Lastly, as an aside, Emily looks like she had a spray tan or has been to a tanning salon, and this might also be a violation of the surrogacy agreement.  Such restrictions are to ensure the health of the baby and prevent premature births or miscarriages. 

Parentage Considerations. It appears Emily is in her last trimester in this film as her compensation check is supposed to be her last one. In pre-birth order states, with the proper attorney, legal parentage should have already been established in favor of the intended parents. In such states, the intended parents would be the parents and the surrogate’s cooperation might not be necessary. Traveling internationally would be the sticker though as Mexico might recognize the child as the surrogate’s.   


Dhar Mann’s films appeal to older children as his characters get into dangerous or difficult situations and either end up getting caught or making the right choice.  This film diverges from his normal subjects as it just jumps into the subject of surrogacy without explanation, so some children might be confused what exactly the arrangement is. Although the ending is positive, it might not be a good early example of surrogacy to show to your kids as it might make them fearful of surrogacy and feeling it lacks legal security, even though the surrogate in the end was never “holding the baby for ransom.” For kids who feel comfortable with surrogacy, this could be fine to show as entertainment and to understand other people’s situations. 

Although this short film is short on realism, it is a step towards normalizing surrogacy, as it makes the moral dilemma no different to many other moral dilemmas Dhar Mann’s characters face in his other shorts. This short film has over 12 million views with positive feedback from its audience. For a short watch, it might be worth a view as long as you keep in mind it is not an accurate portrayal of the vast majority of surrogacy journeys.  

If you are looking for a more legally secure journey than the one depicted in the Dhar Mann short, contact us now. 


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