It turns out there’s this movie star who is a feminist. Uh oh! Right? Men are people too you know. Human rights. Don’t talk to me about women’s rights; human rights.
Who is this twisted radical person who is a feminist? Ellen Page, of the irritating Juno in which our quirky brave intelligent heroine age 16 decides to have the baby and give it to some nice people instead of having a nasty filthy ol’ abortion, because girls of 16 have nothing better to do than bear children.
Apparently she didn’t realize it was an anti-abortion movie until this reporter pointed it out to her, which seems odd for a feminist.
There is, though, an unfortunate irony that one of the very few young actresses happy to describe themselves as a feminist remains most closely associated with a film that many saw as having an anti-abortion message. In Juno, Page, playing the eponymous 16-year-old, decides to have an abortion, only to bump into a classmate in front of the clinic who is protesting against abortions. “Your baby has fingernails!” her classmate tells her.
“Fingernails, really?” Juno replies. She then decides not to terminate her pregnancy.
Was she surprised by the furore the film sparked?
“No because I know what people are like in America about women’s ability to make choices for themselves in regards to their bodies. The only thing that was annoying was people taking it as a pro-life movie because she had the baby,” she says. After all, Page continues, “if she’d had the abortion it would be a short movie”, which is a fair point*. But her voice rises a little when she adds: “And at least we say the word abortion,” suggesting she knows that’s a pretty weak argument.
But the problem wasn’t that Juno had the baby, I say. It was that she decides not to have the abortion because of something a pro-life protestor said.
“Ohhhh, I see, that’s a good point,” she says, sitting back in her chair.
No, it was also that she had the baby.
But apart from that she’s pretty good. (I saw her talking to George Stromboulopooulos recently and she was pretty good then too.)
Ask an American female celebrity today whether she is even a feminist and you are likely to get ignorant verbal diarrhoea (Lady Gaga: “I am not a feminist – I hail men, I love men. I celebrate American male and beer and bars and muscle cars”) and fearful denials (Björk: “[To say I’m a feminist] would isolate me.”) The best Beyoncé could muster when recently asked if she considered herself a feminist was: “That word can be very extreme … I do believe in equality … But I’m happily married. I love my husband.” She was, she conceded, “a modern-day feminist”, and that is probably true, seeing as, if you are a female celebrity, being a “modern day feminist” seems to involve distancing yourself from the word. “At this point,” New York magazine writer Maureen O’Connor blogged in response to Beyoncé’s comments, “women who have a vested [interest] in being popular – ie celebrities – are still afraid of the word feminism.”
It’s a good thing I don’t have a vested interest in being popular, isn’t it.
Like nearly all of Page’s films, The East aims to unsettle the audience as opposed to seeking mass popularity, and Page agrees that she finds it “satisfying” to be in something “that provokes people, even if it’s not positive”. More importantly, perhaps, Izzy – like all of Page’s roles – is a tough, independent woman who isn’t there just to bolster the leading man. Does Page feel a responsibility to seek such roles out?
“Yeah absolutely,” she replies before I finish the question. “Also if I played those other kinds of roles I would just die a slow death. But yes, I think it’s really important, but it can be hard. Only 23% of speaking roles in films today are for women. It feels we’ve gone backwards.” Partly in response to this, she has started writing her own script “which is definitely feminist – definitely. But of course, if you just write a script in which the woman has control over her destiny and love isn’t the main thing in the film, that’s seen as super feminist.” She is also slated to direct a movie, starring Ana Faris, but filming is still some way off: “It’s hard to get stuff made, especially if it’s about women. Everything’s about in-ter-nat-ion-al bank-a-bility,” she sing-songs to words, mockingly.
So has she ever encountered sexism in Hollywood?
“Oh my God, yeah! It’s constant! It’s how you’re treated, it’s how you’re looked at, how you’re expected to look in a photoshoot, it’s how you’re expected to shut up and not have an opinion, it’s how you –” she pauses. “If you’re a girl and you don’t fit the very specific vision of what a girl should be, which is always from a man’s perspective, then you’re a little bit at a loss.”
A dangerous radical. Yay.
*No it isn’t. You could have stuff happen after the abortion. It’s not very feminist to think Juno’s story would stop once she was no longer pregnant.
She’s an awesome young woman.
Anybody here seen Hard Candy? Now there’s a film liable to make an MRA’s head explode.
NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently... says
Is it bad that this actually makes me a little happy? It’s a step in the right direction, at least. With all the fear of feminism in Hollywood, having someone actually proud of it is nice. Maybe others will start to follow in Ellen’s footsteps?[/hopeless hope]
Ophelia Benson says
[makes a note of it]
Seconding the recommendation for Hard Candy. A fantastic movie.
Also, I can see why she was surprised that people see it as anti-abortion because of the “fingernails” scene. When I first saw Juno, I didn’t think the girl she knew dissuaded her from having an abortion…it seemed like she was mainly amused by the information.
It’s a pro-choice movie because, you know, she had a fucking choice.
Yeh, I highly recommend Hard Candy. It’s hard to watch, but both Page & Patrick Wilson are brilliant in it.
I agree with Sarah. I rather dislike Juno, but the audience was clearly supposed to find the anti-choice protester laughable. Now, the scene in the clinic on the other hand…
Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says
It’s funny how they assume that all pro-choice people are all abortion all the time, for everybody. As opposed to, you know, actually supporting the right to bodily autonomy, which includes having kids, not having kids by whatever means, having kids but also having had abortions. No, to them, we’re all about removal of choice, because they can imagine nothing else.
When I lived in the same city as my parents, we sometimes went to pro-choice events together. Now, we don’t resemble each other much, though I look a little like Dad now. Which always led to… interesting reactions when antis thought they’d won by asking me what if my parents had been pro-choice, when I could say “They are, and they’re right here.” Then they get bodily autonomy lectures from both my parents, who are a bit more intimidating than me.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
It was a pro-choice movie. All along the choice was seen as hers & only hers. Whatever choice she makes, and whether it’s being weirded out by fingernails or whatever it is, it’s her choice.
one of the things I like about this movie is that you can see that the decision is difficult, you can see her vacillating, and you can see that some of her decision making process [though not nearly all] is immature because Juno is herself immature. It’s not photo-realistic, but there’s an emotional realism that really works for me.
This one was floating around Facebook today, and I had to share it if only for this one passage:
Dammit, we need more women like her.
Mike Flex says
Thirding “Hard Candy” as well worth a re-watch or two.
Random Factor and Happiestsadist hit the nail on the head about its being a pro-choice movie. When I watched it again recently, I felt uncomfortable about how there’s a superficial appearance that the fingernails argument seems to swing her opinion. But there’s more to it, the anti-choice schoolmate remains as stupid as ever, and Juno decides to plot her own course in life. Even to the point of becoming a surrogate to a couple who eventually (aargh, spoiler alert, I can’t finish that sentence.)
Yeah I’m with the people who say its pro-choice, Juno was clearly making the decisions herself. Even to the point that when she decided to have the baby she had sorted out adoptive parents before telling her own parents. No one forced her into anything which is the key part of it, also everything was not a bed of roses so it was more realistic than most hollywood films on this issue. The abortion clinic scene to me was laughing at the anti-abortion protestors and where she comes to the realisation, with no help from the protestors, that she doesn’t want an abortion. Totally valid *choice*, that the anti-crowd see that as a win for them shows how little they understand the point of being pro-choice.
Of course the movie is pro-choice. Not only does Juno consider abortion as a viable option, but her step mother implicitly suggests it as well. And Diablo Cody has repeatedly stated she is a pro-life, pro-feminist liberal. Her goal was to tell the story of a scrappy, working class girl giving up her baby to an uptight yuppie family. You don’t get there with an abortion in the first fifteen minutes.
Wouldn’t in a million years hope a big budget american movie would feature an abortion that didn’t result in a worldwide catastrophe or similar.
Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says
Another recommendation for Hard Candy here. That movie was eerie and suspenseful. I like that combination.
S Mukherjee says
‘If she’d had the abortion, it would be a short movie’ — well, this would be true if the film was all about pregnancy and baybeeez, as ‘Juno’ appears to be. But it is perfectly possible to have a film where the protagonist has an abortion early on, and then the rest of the film deals with how her life progresses after that.
i need to make a correction–I should have said Cody was explicitly pro-choice. My brain slipped when I identified her as pro-life.
Ophelia Benson says
Hmph. I think you’re all ignoring subtext, and context. The context is one in which no Hollywood movies show abortion as a valid normal choice. Oh gee golly what a coincidence, Juno decides to have the baby so that she can give it away. Why would she do that?! If abortion weren’t so demonized, she wouldn’t.
And no, she doesn’t take her anti-abortion classmate seriously at the time, but then when she goes inside she gets all squicked out by fingernails and then has the mandatory “no no no no I can’t do it” moment.
It’s naïve to think it’s “pro-choice” when the “choice” is invariably to go ahead and have the unplanned unwanted pregnancy.
Seems like the basic problem here is that in any movie made today in which a woman has an abortion, abortion will be *the big thing*; it will be what the movie is about.
I saw some old programs in the “Prime Suspect” series a few weeks ago — wow, are they good. And in one of them, Our Heroine has an abortion, and while we see her going about her business and considering her choices, eventually she has the abortion, and it is *not* what the show *is about*.
(Okay, they had the luxury of having the character already established, and a one-off movie would not; I would think having the character established would make it easier to keep a decision about an unwanted pregnancy from becoming the be-all and end-all of the story.)
@18 With that in mind, then, I have a question. How would the reasons for her deciding to keep the baby have to be different in order for you to consider it a true blue “choice”. Are there any circumstances resulting in giving the baby up for adoption that would still count?
Was it Smurthwaite who told us to make abortion normal?
“What a Relief! Like when I had an abortion. Could you pass the peas, please.”
Ophelia Benson says
Yes, I think it was Smurthwaite. I look forward to that video!
The anti-abortion message may not be intrinsic to the plot, but movies don’t exist in perfect isolation. We’re living in a society where misogynistic extremists are trying to mandate Juno’s choice for all women. By way of analogy, if you saw a movie from the civil-rights era, where a white woman has a romance with a black man, but messily breaks up with him, and finds happiness with a white man, would you regard it as a simple romance-movie, or as racial propaganda?
The scene where Juno and her father first meet the Lorings to discuss adoption is the scene that the entire movie was built around–literally the first scene Diablo Cody thought of. The whole point was to make a film about this adoption between two families from two very different class backgrounds. This kind of context ought to count for something, shouldn’t it?
At no point did the film need to take us to the abortion clinic, of course. But from the perspective of those of us who are stridently pro-choice (all of us, I assume), is it better or worse that Cody had that scene at all? If Juno never considered abortion in the slightest and the option wasn’t even mentioned, I see that as pretty bad for the pro-choice agenda. Then I would say you could legitimately flag the movie as anti-choice had that been the case.
Better that at least Juno takes it seriously enough to go as far as walking into the clinic, no? I wish the reasons she had a change of mind had been better handled, because the writing is unfortunately ambiguous and in retrospect that is kind of regrettable. But Juno, Bleeker, and Juno’s best friend treat the option as something casual that is hardly worth debating–until she has her ambiguous panic in the clinic itself. Even then, her step mother suggests it as an option, a choice that her family would obviously support.
G Pierce (Was ~G~) says
It would be a short movie? Not necessarily. Lebannon, PA was called the “anti-Juno” in one review and is now streaming on Netflix- http://lebanonpamovie.com/ (Disclaimer, I’m married to one of the actors in this.)
I think the abortion option was not handled well, but considering Cody’s intention was to make a movie about adoption, I appreciate her going out of her way to include it, as opposed to something like “Knocked Up”, where they call it ‘shmubortion’, and the very idea of it is treated as distasteful. And I did find the anti-choice protester pitiful and laughable. They just didn’t handle the choice decision very well, and it was a mistake to harp on the fingernails like they did.
Actually, “A good idea not handled particularly well” sums up a lot of my feelings on Juno. Cody and Reitman are lucky they got the cast they did. Page, Cera, Simmons, Janney, even Rainn Wilson in his tiny role managed to deliver that difficult material really well.
Ophelia Benson says
Well if “the whole point was to make a film about this adoption between two families from two very different class backgrounds” then there was an issue, and if Cody never noticed the issue, that was pretty foolish.
Amy Clare says
I see what you mean. If the story is about an adoption, then the points about Juno not having abortion are fair – but there’s also a problem because adoption is presented in the film, especially at the end, as all positive, no negative.
In fact the adoption is the end of the film and it’s unequivocally a happy ending. No health problems for Juno following pregnancy and birth, and the film pretends that there will be no emotional issues for birth mother or child (or adoptive mother). The child’s new middle class home, while not perfect, is presented as pretty blissful – while Juno just picks up her life where she left off and it’s actually better than it was before.
Isn’t this exactly what pro-lifers would want young girls to believe about adoption? That even if you don’t want to raise a baby yourself, you can give it to someone else as a wonderful gift and there will be no bad consequences for anyone?
So there is something inherently wrong with making a movie about a teen giving a baby away for an adoption? We must be against this? Why, exactly?
Now that I think about it for a moment, there’s a disturbing class aspect to the movie, where a poor kid is subtly coerced to give birth for the benefit of a middle class couple. The privileged using the poor as makeshift incubators.
Amy Clare says
Faustus5, I can’t speak for anyone else but personally no, there is nothing ‘inherently wrong’ with making a film about adoption, but surely the way the adoption is portrayed can be criticised? Given that many pro-lifers push adoption as a preferred alternative to abortion?
It was meant to be a heartwarming story I know, with a happy ending, but as such it comes over as being a bit unrealistic by portraying adoption in such an uncritically positive light. The story required Juno to not have an abortion, granted, but why was there no acknowledgement of any of the potential consequences of pregnancy/birth for her? Or any mention of potential consequences for the child?
By all means write stories about adoption, but a bit of realism would be good rather than the oft-repeated simple message of ‘abortion bad, adoption good’.
Ophelia Benson says
Yes, I certainly do think there’s something wrong with making a “feel good” movie about a girl of 16 having a baby to give away instead of having an abortion.
Here’s another feel good movie:
Drug addict fails at robbing a grocery store, goes to prison, knows a priest, converts to christianity, a guy from the christian patriarchy movement marries her (but he likes guitar music and smiles a lot, so he’s one of the good guys), she leaves her godless life behind and has 17 children, all while smiling a lot all the time. Final scene shows a landscape of their nice house with the children laughing and playing in the yard.
Got another one!
A young man from Texas is concerned about his country’s involvement in a war in the middle east which is being condemned unanimously by all those spineless liberals from the coasts. He decides to volunteer and is deployed to the worst area, where the locals laugh while disemboweling one another. He valiantly saves a hospital full of women and children, one of the women falls in love with him, together they rescue her family at the last minute (the locals were raiding a town and eviscerating everybody) and fly back to America where they get married. Last scene, they stare at the horizon with the hope that America succeeds in bringing freedom to her wretched nation.
Amy Clare: if you give the movie another watch, you will see that Juno’s parents and best friend ask her to think through the consequences of her decision. Ultimately everyone gets what they want, but the levity of what she is doing is acknowledged. I don’t know what percentage of the time these things end happily, but surely they do some of the time. Must everything be gritty?
Ophelia: I don’t think you are being fair minded at all. Options are a good thing, in life (like deciding to give your baby away at 16) and in art (like telling this kind of story). We should allow that someone can retain their feminist and pro-choice cred in telling a story like this, but we should insist that in an America with Christian Taliban on the loose, an important condition must first be met: that along the way, the author makes efforts to acknowledge that supporting a woman’s choice is a good and important thing. In not one but several scenes, Cody makes sure we understand that everyone close to Juno is going to support her if she chooses abortion (her best friend even lobbies for it). No debate, no discussion, it just isn’t an issue–they are behind her 100% if that’s what she wants. That’s the essence of progressive, pro-choice politics: respecting the decisions women make in these circumstances and firmly supporting those decisions once made.
Jose: your counter examples don’t make any kind of sense, as they involve people being wretched to one another or getting sucked into goofy religious or political fantasies. With the exception of the ultrasound scene, Juno is about people trying to be kind and decent to one another, and no one has to succumb to any religious or political fantasies to do so.
(But wait for Cody’s next movie. Her treatment of religion and disbelief is annoying as hell. Very, very annoying. I will be expecting a gruff and witty take-down, Ms. Benson!)
Ophelia Benson says
Faustus, no, I don’t agree with that at all. Juno is 16 – she’s a minor. She’s several years away from completing her brain development. I don’t think 16-year-olds must be allowed to make all their own choices or that all their choices should be respected. That’s not to say I think she should have been forced to have an abortion, but it is to say I think abortion should have been presented as much the best option for her. It’s really not good or clever to let a girl of 16 have a baby to give to someone else.
Steve Roby says
It might be worth considering one fact no one seems to have mentioned: Ellen Page is not American. She grew up in a country (Canada) where even prominent conservatives are often afraid of talking about limits on abortion. So her reaction may seem a little off to Americans.
(First post on FreeThoughtBlogs. Finally.)
[quote]I don’t think 16-year-olds must be allowed to make all their own choices or that all their choices should be respected. [/quote}Good god–you’d support forced abortion? What happened to respecting the choices of women? They don’t count when you don’t agree with them?
“they involve people being wretched to one another or getting sucked into goofy religious or political fantasies.”
Duh, that’s my point. Juno is an illustration of how things are and should always be according to anti abortion lunatics. That’s the political fantasy you’re buying into. You have to think whose narrative the movie does a better job at supporting (spoiler: the pro life narrative). Let’s do a little role playing to make it clear:
“Hello Faustus, I am an anti abortion nut. Oh, you’re pregnant? You’re 16 years old and want to have a career? Don’t just murder your baby! You should consider adoption. It will all work out. The pregnancy will be a breeze, as will the birth. You’ll find nice adoption parents for the baby that are fine and smile all the time. You will just give the baby and it will no longer be a concern for you, ever, and she will be happy and your life will continue as it was and you will be just as free and everything will be just so nice. Just like in that movie, Juno.”
Now some questions: why people who support abortion think it’s a good thing that the option is there for 16 year olds? Why is an abortion the best idea for many girls? And is this reason portrayed well, if at all, in this movie?
Ophelia Benson says
Faustus – for heaven’s sake – did you miss the part where I said “That’s not to say I think she should have been forced to have an abortion, but it is to say I think abortion should have been presented as much the best option for her”?
And you keep saying “women” – Juno is sixteen. She’s not a woman. She is a minor. She’s underage. She’s not an adult. No, I don’t think her “choice” to continue the pregnancy should be respected, because it’s a bad, stupid, harmful choice. I think the movie treats it as a good choice, and I think that’s disgusting. I dislike the movie, and I dislike it even more now that I see a lot of people take it at face value.
Amy Clare says
“If you give the movie another watch, you will see that Juno’s parents and best friend ask her to think through the consequences of her decision. Ultimately everyone gets what they want, but the levity of what she is doing is acknowledged. I don’t know what percentage of the time these things end happily, but surely they do some of the time. Must everything be gritty?”
Faustus5, I have seen it a couple of times. Juno being asked to think things through doesn’t really weigh up against the portrayal of the adoption in general though, which is uniformly positive. As you say, ‘everyone gets what they want’.
Not everything must be gritty I agree, but as Jose says, the movie’s plot mirrors the ideal fantasy adoption scenario pushed by pro-lifers, to the degree that SPUC et al could use it as propaganda. It’s political, even if the writers don’t realise it.
The reality is that women very often have mental and physical issues with pregnancy and birth, they suffer complicated emotions when giving up their babies (and after), and adoptive homes aren’t all beds of roses. Not to mention adopted kids often have issues around being given up by their birth parents, and if they choose to find them later in life there can be emotional difficulties with the reunion.
It’s likely that at least one of these things will definitely occur in any real life adoption, and I tend to agree with OB that a 16 year old girl isn’t really equipped to consider all of this maturely. You can acknowledge this as a writer and still tell a realistic and even optimistic story.
Equally, the film could encourage false expectations for women who can’t have children… that if you want a baby enough there’ll be a young girl out there ready to provide one for you. (Of course the film portrays the baby-hungry woman and the commitment-phobe man… standard gender stereotypes.)
As an alternative adoption story, Mike Leigh’s ‘Secrets and Lies’ is fantastic.
Jose: ” Juno is an illustration of how things are and should always be according to anti abortion lunatics.”
Ridiculous. This is utterly irreverent. Juno was written by a pro-choice feminist who was simply interested in exploring the dynamic of open adoption. Unless we are going to be grumpy, humorless, and culturally useless, we should acknowledged that such stories are valid and worth looking into.
Jose: “That’s the political fantasy you’re buying into.”
I am resolutely pro-choice and pro-feminist. There is absolutely nothing in Juno which conflicts with these values. I would argue that in fact, Juno is pro-choice and pro-feminist, as its writer claims. The movie clearly lets us know that everyone close to Juno supports the abortion option. Case closed.
Ophelia: “And you keep saying “women” – Juno is sixteen. She’s not a woman. She is a minor. She’s underage. She’s not an adult. No, I don’t think her “choice” to continue the pregnancy should be respected, because it’s a bad,”
Why is it necessarily bad? And what do we mean by “respect”? You have established that she shouldn’t be forced to have an abortion, thank heavens, but what follows from the fact that she wants to have the kid and give it away? Are her desires meaningless? Can you make a case that what she wants to do with her body is irrelevant?
No one has been able to articulate, in the slightest, a moral case that adoption is wrong or morally despicable. Unless someone can do so, the case against this movie fails. Sorry, but a movie in which everyone close to the protagonist supports abortion as an option cannot rationally be spun as anti-abortion film. Let us give the finger to mindless ideological purity and acknowledge that supporting choice means supporting actual choice. We should support what women want to do with their bodies so long as they are not coerced in their decisions, by threats of violence or ideology. Enough said.
Ophelia Benson says
Faustus stop saying things like case closed and enough said. You’re not right by fiat.
I can’t muster up the energy to answer your questions because it seems too obvious to me, and your exaggerated trust in what you take to be the intentions of the movie make it look like too much work.
Ophelia Benson says
Ok I will say one thing. If it’s true that Cody was just interested in exploring open adoption she shouldn’t have decided to make a high school kid the vehicle for the adoption. She shouldn’t have glamorized a kid of 16 deciding to be an incubator for someone else, and done it in such a laughably unrealistic way.
Amy Clare says
“No one has been able to articulate, in the slightest, a moral case that adoption is wrong or morally despicable.”
Nobody is claiming that it is either of those things. What’s being claimed as far as I can see is that the portrayal of adoption in Juno is unrealistically positive, which is a dangerous message to be playing around with in a climate where many politicians want to erode a woman’s right to choose.
What’s more, it follows the standard TV/movie trope of ‘woman goes into abortion clinic, changes mind at last minute with heartwarming results’ which is a way for popular culture to reinforce that you may have a choice in this world, but it’s clear which is the right choice and which is the wrong choice.
“Juno was written by a pro-choice feminist who was simply interested in exploring the dynamic of open adoption”
I don’t know who wrote it. Just talking about the movie, not the writer. Who the writer is doesn’t matter to what s/he wrote. The topic here what s/he wrote.
“Unless we are going to be grumpy, humorless, and culturally useless, we should acknowledged that such stories are valid and worth looking into.”
Sure, that’s what I’m doing. I’m looking into that story and explaining to you in detail why it is a perfect depiction of the anti abortion fantasy. In short: any pro life group could use the movie to convince girls to not have abortions with no disclaimers at all. The movie supports their narrative regardless of the motivations of the author. I have explained why in the previous comment. You haven’t responded.
“There is absolutely nothing in Juno which conflicts with these values”
lol, there’s plenty. There’s the idea that having a kid is no big deal because you can give it up for adoption. That the months of pregnancy are no big deal either, that the birth itself is no big deal either, despite the fact that you can die of that. Everything is perfect and goes very well, the adopting parents are perfect, etc. Which is what the anti abortion folks tell you to convince you not to have an abortion.
You say you’re pro choice. Why is having an abortion good in many cases? Answer. Why is having that option good? And do you see that reason in the movie? All I see in that movie is why not having an abortion, carrying on with the pregnancy, having the kid and giving it up is good. That is portrayed very well. But why is being pro-choice good? Sure, some characters pay lip service to it saying it’s an option. But why is that option good? That I can’t see in the movie. Show me.
“The movie clearly lets us know that everyone close to Juno supports the abortion option.”
lol, obviously you don’t want to alienate the people you want to reach. Right wingers will tell you that they absolutely don’t hate workers or unions. What the movie tells you is that adoption is the better thing to do, or else why did she not just have the abortion? Obviously a movie where abortion is banned and the girl tries to have the abort illegally and something terrible happens to her wouldn’t sell the anti abortion message very well. It would be more realistic though. But if you want to make a feel good pro life movie that will make people happy to not support abortion (because you’d be killing that little thing with nails! Aww), I can’t think of a better way of going about it than Juno. Do you?
Finally, I don’t care about your politics or the writer’s intent. We were only talking about a movie and what’s in it.
Yes, I think this sums it up. I disagree with the idea that there’s something ‘wrong’ with a 16-year-old girl bearing a child and giving it up for adoption per se…but that ‘per se’ is doing a lot of work there. Pregnancy is not an inconvenience. It is not a superficial event that affects a woman’s life mildly for the duration, and that she just gets over. It is an enormous physical, mental and emotional ordeal and transformation. It’s PAINFUL. Not just the childbirth part, which is the worst, but also the months leading up to it. Plus, there’s nausea, which (as Atul Gawande documents in a chapter in “Complications”) can actually be harder to bear than severe pain. It commandeers every element of your life, from eating to sleeping to transportation. There are innumerable medical complications that, even if they don’t threaten your life (which some anti-choicers will grudgingly concede makes abortion acceptable), will severely deplete the quality of your life. It makes it much harder, and sometimes impossible, to flee an attacker, or defend yourself against him. It makes it harder, and sometimes impossible, to leave an abusive domestic situation. It makes it much harder, and sometimes impossible, to flee a burning building, or extricate oneself from a smashed up car, or, or, or.
Your body is not a triviality. It is something you rely on for EVERYTHING. That’s why pregnancy can affect EVERYTHING, and that’s why it’s harmful to portray adoption as no big deal. Which, IMO, Juno did. It didn’t just present adoption as a ‘choice’ and honestly portray its downsides. It seemed to ignore the downsides entirely.
Ophelia Benson says
So, Lyanna, aren’t you actually agreeing that in fact there is something ‘wrong’ with a 16-year-old girl bearing a child and giving it up for adoption per se? That she’s just too young, her body is not yet ready, and in the culture and society we live in (and many people aspire to live in) she has other things to do, which pregnancy interferes with?
Not in the sense of espousing a blanket rule that it’s always inferior to abortion for every girl, no. I’m agreeing that there are very serious issues with it that the girl and her guardians and her doctor should always consider.
Ophelia Benson says
Mkay. I’m not absolutist about it either, I guess.
Okay, okay–I’ve been worrying too much about what the undeveloped brain of a 16 year old wants and not enough on what would actually be best for her. I’ll totally concede failure on that front—yeah, I was being kinda stupid. Abortion is the best option, hands down. I did not mean to seem as if I was dismissing the option or diminishing its value. Apparently that’s just what I did, and that was wrong.
And in an ideal world where Diablo Cody had known that her politics and intentions were going to be incorrectly judged, giving the Christian Taliban a victory in some people’s minds, the script would have had Juno’s parents begging her to abort instead of merely just suggesting the option before dropping it. Sure, fine. Give the pro-choice cause this acknowledgment before you go on to tell the story you intended to in the first place, which necessitates there is no abortion.
But supporting that decision once made, once beyond the drama, is morally required. They don’t need to approve the choice, just support it, because young underdeveloped brain or not, it’s her body, dammit. Can we at least agree on some version of this as a pro-choice ideal?
And please, cut Cody some slack here. Does anyone realize the movie was supposed to be a writing sample, nothing more, and that she only wrote it in the first place because some stranger from Hollywood had been bugging her to do so for eight months via email? You don’t think some things through when you have no expectation your project is going to be a hit film rather than something which gets you gigs doing script polish work on “real” screenwriters’ movies, which was the original plan before she turned it in. It’s pretty clear that subsequently, she’s developed a keen sense of responsibility for the effect her stuff has once she puts it out in the world. Isn’t it the decent thing to do, granting someone a learning curve, particularly when they’ve been thrust unexpectedly into a pretty weird, public situation?
You sound so very defensive 😀