"Smushmortion" Cinema? Caitlin Flanagan, Susie Bright Weigh In

Ever since Jamie Lynn Spears announced she was with child, teen pregnancy has been a hot button editorial topic, especially in the wake of the success of accidental-mom rom-coms Juno and Knocked Up. So it was only a matter of time until Caitlin Flanagan, the former New Yorker scribe who fancies herself an authority on adolescent sexuality, weighed in. Flanagan is infamous for writing a ridiculously fear-mongering screed in the Atlantic in 2006 about how America's 12-year-olds dispense blow jobs like Pez, in part because porn stars like Jenna Jameson used "abortion rhetoric" about "keeping the government out of private decisions about their own bodies" for profit.



Not surprisingly, Flanagan has a conservative view of Juno, branding it a "fairy tale" in a New York Times op-ed yesterday because "surrendering a baby whom you will never know comes with a steep and lifelong cost. Nor is an abortion psychologically or physically simple. It is an invasive and frightening procedure."

Following that overly-generalized statement, Flanagan gets into some sticky paternalistic territory. She mentions the Victorian era as a time when, "[G]irls used to be so carefully guarded and protected — in a system that at once limited their horizons and safeguarded them from devastating consequences." While Flanagan doesn't support the limiting of horizons, she does support the safeguarding from consequences, which doesn't seem to be realistic or ultimately beneficial. What young girls need, in my mind, is to be educated about sex so that they can make their own informed decisions. Some of these decisions, naturally, will be completely idiotic, but the only way a person can forge his or her sexual identity is through trial and error.

Sex scribe Susie Bright certainly disagrees with Flanagan on more than one level, but most glaringly when speaking of her two abortions, which caused her far from a "lifelong cost." "I was filled with happiness and relief in the aftermath of the two abortions I had," Bright writes on her blog. "I had a supportive, enlightening, and even sentimental experience at the abortion clinic, which is either an anomaly, or has simply never been shown on screen. By sheer coincidence, two acquaintances of mine were in the same recovery room; we were in each other's arms as soon as we could sit up! Physically, it was painless, and my doctors were awesome."

Bright also concedes that the lack of abortions in movies has a lot to do with needing to move the plot forward: an abortion is usually a plot ender, not a beginner. Nonetheless, would you go see an abortion comedy in which the abortion was followed through on? Could one even succeed in this country?

Sex And The Teenage Girl [New York Times]
Anatomy Of A Smushmortion [Susie Bright]
Juno, Scolded [Slate]