Considering the avalanche of praise heaped on screenwriter Diablo Cody's debut film, Juno, an equally intense backlash was predictable. In fact, a piece on Slate yesterday explored the potential culture wars on teen pregnancy the movie could inspire. Writer Ann Hulbert quotes NY Times critic A.O. Scott's review of Juno, in which he writes, "Not many [movies] are so daring in their treatment of teenage pregnancy, which this film flirts with presenting not just as bearable but attractive...Kids, please! Heed the cautionary whale." Feminist bloggers have accused Cody of glossing over Juno's deciding against abortion for the sake of moving the plot forward. Here's the thing, though. I don't really want to see a comedy about a normal, happy 16-year-old kid deciding to have an abortion. Because it would be boring, and probably not that funny.
A truly realistic abortion movie would show a teenager going to Planned Parenthood, getting her D&C, and then going to soccer practice. If the film showed the teenager ultimately regretting her choice or agonizing about it constantly afterwards, it would be Lifetime material, not comedy gold. Which is not to say an abortion comedy is impossible (see Citizen Ruth, Fast Times at Ridgemont High), but the ultimate goal of a comedy is to be funny, and abortion is usually, well, not.
It's also insulting to teenagers to imply that seeing a single movie where motherhood was made to seem "attractive" would inspire 16 year-olds to spew babies everywhere (though A.O. Scott's description is tongue-in-cheek). Teenage pregnancy rates have a ton more to do with environment and sex education than cinematic glamorization of fetuses. Jamie Lynn Spears, for one, is probably pregnant because her deeply Christian mother neglected to tell her about rubbers and also (allegedly) let the 16-year-old live with her boyfriend. It comes down to agency, and while Jamie Lynn is not yet a voting adult, I assume she knows how babies are made and the girl just made wrongheaded decisions.
Speaking of choice, the same feminist blog that comes down on Diablo Cody for glossing over abortion, Feministe, also criticizes her being a "white prep school girl from the suburbs who decides to audition at the 'sleaziest' club she can find, for a lark and a blog, who ends up getting a book deal. She's the 'unlikely stripper' apparently... as opposed to the 'likely strippers' who are, you know, working their asses off to make ends meet, not just to be able to buy a new car." But you know, even for the most poverty-stricken, sex work is a choice. If the writer had read Cody's book, Candy Girl, she would know that most strippers don't consistently make any more than they would doing a "straight" yet low-paying job. Before they even start making any money on a given night at a strip club, they have to pay exorbitant house fees, and the strip club takes a cut from every lap dance given. They also have to spend a lot of money up front on boobs, costumes, etc.
I for one didn't find Cody's portrayal of stripping or pregnancy all that glamorous. After all, are there that many women who want to be showing their privates to crowds of men or obstetricians on a regular basis?
Juno: Movie Review [New York Times]
Juno And The Culture Wars: How The Movie Disarms The Family Values Debate. [Slate]
t Why Strip? Because It's Good For Your Blog![Feministe]
Related: Will This Week's Rash Of Pregnancies Cost 'Juno' At The Oscars? [NY Mag]