Hollywood’s Anti-Choice AgendaNovember 17, 2011 2 Comments
To keep, or not to keep, that is the question.
In movies, it seems like the answer is almost always the former. While our leading ladies may consider abortion, it’s just for a fleeting moment. The audience is left thinking that “to keep” is the only real choice. As a result, abortion barely gets its 15 minutes of fame.
Let’s look at the almost complete absence of abortion, in practice and discussion, from most movies that address subjects like unplanned pregnancies.
The most famous film inspecting the ins and outs of unwanted pregnancy is probably Juno. I must say, I did enjoy Ellen Page’s eloquent ramblings and Michael Cera’s quiet kindness. It’s an entertaining movie that caught my attention. My disappointment stems from the fact that it had this amazing platform to open up a discussion about abortion and reflect the real dilemmas young women face, and then, sadly, it fell flat on its face. Its treatment of the subject is rather blasé and, ultimately, anti-choice.
Sure, abortion is a consideration, if only for a brief moment that we tend to forget by the end of the flick. Juno makes an appointment with the local abortion clinic, but when she arrives she’s met by a protestor who says that her baby already has fingernails. Before even speaking to a counsellor, doctor or nurse, she’s already leaning towards having the child.
What’s worse, when she goes into the clinic we’re met with grim decor. It’s set up as a pretty awful place that nobody in their right mind would want to be. “Instead of a clean and comforting bastion of freedom and the rights of women, the clinic has the personality and feel of a post office. Juno receives the type of respect and concern usually reserved for cattle in a slaughter house,” writes one blogger. Of course this uninviting environment is no place for a young and relatively carefree woman like Juno, so she leaves and confirms that she should have the baby. At this point, we realize that it wasn’t a serious consideration from the outset.
Although the depiction of the clinic is supposed to be funny, it’s extremely unrealistic. Gloria Feldt, the former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, didn’t exactly laugh at the inaccurate representation. A clinic is supposed to feel warm and inviting and it shouldn’t intimidate or frighten women. But the criticism extends beyond the cold and inhuman feel of the clinic. Juno’s parents are also strangely detached from her situation. They learn their daughter is pregnant but the topic of sex is never even brought up. Perhaps it was immaculate conception? In the end, she takes the adoption route and continues to hang with her best friend/boyfriend as if having a baby was a minor bump in her past. It’s that simple.
Another movie from 2007 had a great opportunity to bust the doors open on abortion and offer women a dose of realism, but (no surprise) it too failed miserably. In Knocked Up, Katherine Heigl’s character gets pregnant accidentally during an alcohol-induced one-night stand. Instead of examining abortion as a feasible option, Heigl’s character decides to keep it before the word “abortion” is even uttered. Weird. Seth Rogen’s buddies tell him that she needs something that starts with “A” and rhymes with “smortion.” Can’t they just come out and say, “ABORTION?!” Then her mom suggests that she “take care of it.” It’s great she decides to keep the baby, but why use euphemisms and dismiss the subject entirely as if it wasn’t an option in the first place? Giving birth becomes the right thing to do for this particular character and, it seems, in general.
I apologize in advance to Twilight die-hards, but Breaking Dawn: Part 1 is yet another movie that follows the pro-life trend. Bella may be bed-ridden, emaciated, and on the verge of death (the doctor literally says, “Your heart will give out before you can deliver”), but it never crosses her or Edward’s mind that maybe she should abort the baby to save her own life. The message we’re inevitably left with is that good people (especially good moms) don’t have abortions because it’s not the moral choice. There’s no real alternative to risking your own life for your baby’s. Of course Edward gives her immortal life to keep her alive so she can raise her half-human, half-vampire babe, but without the element of the supernatural Bella would be dead and there would be no Part 2.
In sifting through the handful of films that do discuss abortion as a viable option, I find that they’re either outdated or something bad happens to cast a cloud over the woman’s decision. In If These Walls Could Talk, for example, the two women who decide to get abortions both die. One hemorrhages after getting an illegal abortion and the other gets shot by an abortion protestor. Abortion is not only taboo, but it’s dangerous. At least Penny survives in Dirty Dancing.
Maybe we have to go to documentaries like Lake of Fire to see both sides of the coin, but I can’t help thinking that movies should (and have tremendous power to) tackle the controversial subject. After all, it’s part and parcel of every sexually active woman’s reality. They don’t have to shout it from the rooftops, but, at the very least, the characters should have the freedom to say “abortion” instead of shoving it under the rug as if it was a curse word.
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