Among Molly Ringwald's iconic teenage roles was For Keeps, the story of a pregnant high-schooler who chooses to keep her child. Last night, she told me what still bothers her about the movie and her problem with Bristol Palin's message.
At the party for Molly Ringwald's new book, Getting The Pretty Back, I asked her about that movie, in part because she's probably less sick of talking about it versus Sixteen Candles, and in part because I think it's a good topic for our Girls On Film series (more on that forthcoming!). What she said about her experience with the movie was pretty interesting:
"When I made the movie, I really did want to make a realistic movie about what it was like to be a teenage mother. Unfortunately, the script I wanted to do wasn't exactly the movie it became," she said. What was different? "Well, it just became a lot more sort of, us against them, and they sort of triumphed in the end. And I just think that realistically when you make that decision it's a lot harder and more complicated than the movie made it seem. Being a mother of three and being married with a husband that's very active in their lives, it's still difficult. But being a teenager and not finishing high school, I just think the reality of it is so much more difficult. And I would have liked to have shown that more."
Ringwald was about 18 at the time, and as she pointed out, she wasn't the director, so that was that. Still, she regrets how the project turned out. "I didn't want to give the wrong message to teenagers. I sort of felt a certain responsibility -– I mean, I was a very, very famous teenager and I thought a lot of teenagers were looking up to me and emulating me, and I really didn't want to make a movie that said in any way that having a baby at that age was going to be easy."
I asked her about a more recent representation of teen pregnancy in pop culture: the one that involves Bristol Palin.
"To me, it's not a revelation that a teenager would get pregnant," she replied. "Of course. I mean, your hormones are raging, that's what teenagers do. What seems crazy to me is that people would say you're not supposed to talk about it, or preach abstinence. I don't believe in Bristol Palin's message. I think she's a lovely girl. She played a part on the show that I'm on, The Secret Life Of The American Teenager. I don't have anything against her personally, but I do not at all agree with her message of abstinence. I think it's totally unrealistic."
So what was she suggesting as the alternative? "Communication. I mean, that's what I want for my kids. I want to communicate with them, and I want my daughter to feel like she can talk to me about all of that, and also to respect herself and protect herself."
Consider the record set straight.