Sunday, June 03, 2007
Pop Culture Abortion Politics
This weekend was movie marathon weekend. I will probably talk about all of the movies we watched at some point or another but the most pressing thing on my plate is to chat a little bit about Knocked Up--the new comedy by Judd Apatow (Freaks and Geeks, 40 Year Old Virgin). I am picky about my comedies. But I find Apatow's material VERY funny. Laugh out loud funny. This movie was no exception. I enjoyed it immensely as did the other 8 people I know saw it that day. As did the 1500+ people on IMDB.

The dialogue was realistic, the story line wasn't cheesy, and Paul Rudd was in it. I lurve Paul Rudd. Only, since the movie was about a one night stand gone wrong (Alison gets pregnant after sleeping with a guy that has no job, no motivation, no money...) you'd expect at least a [albeit funny] conversation about abortion. Alison is a young, successful woman not planning on becoming a mother. But the only option after she finds out she's pregnant is to have the baby. Granted, if she decided otherwise, there wouldn't be much need for the movie to continue. However, the lack of discussion is what bothered me.

Obviously the word "abortion" is never once uttered. There are two characters who address the option in a vague way. Jonah, a friend of Ben [the father], refers to it as the thing that "rhymes with 'shmashmortion'. " This discussion is not productive, however, because of Jonah's lack of ethos throughout the movie. He doesn't have a job. He doesn't have a successful interpersonal life. He smokes a lot of pot. The list could go on and on. He's a joke. And he is built as a character who is completely out of touch with reality. How fitting, then, that he would approach the subject of abortion. HIM. The guy totally out of touch with reality.

The second person to address abortion is Alison's mother who urges her to "take care of it." "IT." She is represented just like abortion advocates in the mainstream media--you know, the crazy people who hate babies and ignore the extremely personal aspect of mothering. She was cold and unloving. The more loving and mainstream characters never mention abortion or choice as a possibility for Alison. Alison is instructed by a doctor to "take care of" the "baby"shown on the screen at her first check up. Shortly after the visit, Alison tells Ben that she's "keeping the baby." The movie never addressed her thought process or the impact of that decision. An unrealistic storyline about her workplace struggle follows but most of the material realities of her decision are overlooked.

I know there will be people who think/comment that this is a "movie" and should be treated as such. I'm "over-reading the significance of the film" a reader may say. Obviously I disagree with that assessment. Media helps us make sense of complicated events. Even entertainment media. Maybe even especially entertainment media. This film sends a specific message about choice and responsibility. The message is covert, yes. But that makes it all the more dangerous.

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Blogger Kourtney said...

I am going to see this today...I will read this post after that :)

Blogger erika said...

i want to see this movie as well and i just want to say that now that i am in comm i know what "ethos" means. :-)

Blogger Cagney Gentry said...

I am on board with the abortion politics argument. I was pretty put off by the scene where the mother says that her daughter (main charatcer's sister) took care of it and now she has a real baby. Everybody in the theater got totally silent and there were a few hisses. I mean what an unwhitting jab. The mother is not a character she is a caricature of a California, elitist, crazy liberal, and it is careless of Apatow to put such loaded dialogue in her mouth. It was hard for me to recover throughout the movie, the scene in the hotel room was hilarious and so was Rudd. But, such a naive and undeveloped use of abortion argument is unfair and anathema to the act of debate and discussion. And, the storyline was cheesy.

Blogger kristen said...

Paul Russ is adorable. I love him.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slate article:

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