Thursday, December 13, 2007

Movies: Juno

Notes on Preggy Chic and the pro-life media machine:

1. It's been near impossible these past few years to walk past a newsstand without seeing a magazine headline dishing on so-and-so's new "bump;" words can be noxious enough, but a picture's worth a thousand. This month, I'm haunted by this:

Sure, there was this before it:

and this long before that:

but I would argue that frequency and intensity are increasing. There is now such a thing as the "Celebrity Bump Watch," and googling those terms will lead you to loads of slideshows thanks to the patrolers at People, CBS, Us Weekly, The Sun, iVillage, and—roll this one in your mouth for awhile— It's clear that, as stated on iVillage, "The hottest trend this. . . season has been the baby bump."

2. Knocked Up is thinly veiled propaganda, and much more horrifying than it is funny. What's even more horrifying is that audiences did indeed laugh.

3. Critics are saying that Juno is either more realistic or more fair or more feminist-approved. Though it's clearly a better movie, it's still propaganda. If you were an intelligent sixteen year old girl with a future, would the concept of tiny fingernails inspire even a slight hesitation on your way to abortion? Didn't think so.

4. The Center for Disease Control (yes, I did say disease control, does that strike you as odd?) has reported that based on data gathered through 2006, the teen birth rate has risen for the first time in 14 years. Additionally, the non-marital birth rate has reached an all-time high, up 16% from 2002. Finally, and most importantly, the total fertility rate reached the highest it's been since 1971.

I'm actually using the term "propaganda" somewhat playfully; while I don't consider this. . . trend. . . (pun, for once, intended) quite a laughing matter, I'm no conspiracy theorist. I am not proposing that there are or were any top-secret meetings at which George W sat at the head of a board table, flanked by the minister of the female interior, a demographer, Judd Apatow, reps from the major Hollywood studios, and a sales exec from Bugaboo (purveyors of fine baby carriages ($759.99 for the "frog" model), whose website rivals that of BMW, purveyors of fine automobiles), to decide that abstinence-only sex education, when combined with a pro-repro media barrage, was the only way to reinvigorate the country's waning reproduction rate, thereby ensuring the production of future waves of consumers. I'm certain that the films are far more symptomatic of said "trend" than instigatory, although they are guaranteed to be entrenchatory. But here is a question for you: why aren't any of these besmitten, besotted, beset females on the pill? And even if they weren't, what stopped them from inhaling the now-available-directly-from-your-pharmacist Plan B ("morning after") tablets? Narrative devices, of course; no pregnancy means, in the case of Knocked Up, no love story, and in Juno, no single-mom adoption story (oops, spoiler; sorry. . . well, not really).

So what's my problem? The entrenchatory powers of film, of course. It's bad enough for the individual who spends his or her life wondering why love isn't what it ought to be (i.e., the way we see it portrayed again and again on screen); having false expectations for oneself generally leads only to disappointment, self-loathing, depression, and anxiety, and the pharmaceutical industry has got us covered on that front. I'm far more concerned about all the impressionable young women across the country, coveting Hollywood's bumps. It's one thing to covet JLo's six-carat, pink diamond ring; you're probably not going to ever get one, but you can buy an imitation on the internet for $24.99 without much affecting anyone. A bump, on the other hand, is totally procurable, and to get it only requires engaging in a fun and healthy activity you'd probably be engaging in anyway. The only difference is the consequence's duration. When the pink diamond becomes déclassé, you can toss it in the closet or trash or street and forget it ever happened. Doing this with a child is less highly recommended, and has been proven to lead to imprisonment for the parent, followed by imprisonment of the child, once it grows up into a young thug, as unwanted children tend to do (don't believe me? See Freakonomics.

So, is Juno a cute, generally well-written movie featuring the next best thing in female talent (under the name Ellen Page; I give her two years or less to blow up into the thing, just hopefully not naked, preggers, and on the cover of some pseudo-fashion rag)? Sure. But should she have stayed put once she got to that abortion clinic? Hell yeah.

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