The Golden Compass was sold out at our local movie theater last night, which proved fortuitous since it meant we saw Juno instead. Wonderful movie! By all means, go see it. The dialog was extremely clever, even verging on Whedonesque. The basic story is about 16-year old Juno getting pregnant (after what seemed like her first time, though I don’t think that was definitively established) and then giving the baby up for adoption. I do wonder a little about a girl as intelligent and strong-willed as Juno not figuring out how to use reliable birth control, but I guess that was necessary to get the plot moving.

Of course, the movie had the obligatory, girl-goes-to-abortion-clinic-but-decides-not-to-go-through-with-it-at-the-last-minute scene. Otherwise it mostly avoided clichés. At least it didn’t go with the usual television cop-out of Juno magically discovering she wasn’t pregnant after all.

Still, just once I’d like to see a movie about a teenage girl who gets knocked up, has an abortion, and lives happily ever after, just like thousands of real teenagers do every year. We have all the other standard plots almost every year:

  • Single woman gets pregnant and has a shotgun wedding (Knocked Up, Riding in Cars with Boys, The Simpsons, Roseanne, Nine Months)
  • Single woman raises child on her own (Where the Heart Is, Baby Boom, The Opposite of Sex).
  • Single woman gives child away for adoption (Juno. More common on television where it’s a recurring plot on virtually any nighttime soap that last for more than a year. Interestingly, the protagonists of the series are almost always the prospective adoptive parents, never the birth parents. Disposable characters are introduced to play that role.)

In fact the most common plot of all is probably the least realistic: “Single woman gets pregnant and someone other than the father falls in love with her and marries her.” (Look Who’s Talking, Home Fries)

Why is the most likely scenario so toxic that it can’t be touched? Talk to any nurse who’s worked in a college health office, and they’ll give you the real story on the ratio of completed to terminated pregnancies. (Catholic universities are no exception: they just refer students to off-campus obgyns so the school doesn’t have to know exactly what’s going on.) The last American movie I can remember that dealt plausibly with teenage abortion was Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and that was in 1982. Possibly they got away with it because it was a semi-documentary. I suppose you could count The Cider House Rules, but that’s not really in the same genre. Even Citizen Ruth copped out with a miscarriage. Isn’t it time for a movie that treats teenage pregnancy mildly realistically?

One Response to “Juno”

  1. Mario Says:

    Fast Times added the common wrinkle to that common plot — the guy who knocked the girl up is not the guy who takes her to the abortion clinic.

Leave a Reply