best picture nominee has stirred up a lively debate on this question. Much of the discussion revolves around why the eponymous character, a 16-year-old high school student, decides to have her baby when she accidentally becomes pregnant. Here’s a quick roundup: In Slate
Ann Hubert suggests that it’s an assertion of her own autonomy:
She isn’t moved by thoughts of the embryo’s hallowed rights, however, but by a sense of her own autonomy. And for her, that doesn’t mean a right to privacy, or to protect her body ("a fat suit I can’t take off," she calls it at one point). Juno is driven by the chance to make her own unconventional choice.
The Atlantic’s Ross Douthat examines
the film’s pivotal scene at the abortion clinic, where a prolife protestor (one of Juno’s classmates) urges her to reconsider:
The scene at the abortion clinic invites the audience to giggle at the Asian girl’s pro-life idealism ("all babies want to get borned," is her lisping chant), while simultaneously giving her the sincere line that makes all the difference in Juno’s decision. None of this means that movie is a brief for overturning Roe v. Wade; far from it. But like Knocked Up, it’s decidedly a brief for not getting an abortion.
Finally, a few weeks ago the always interesting Caitlin Flanagan opined in the Times
that the real fairy tale of the film is not that Juno has the baby, but that she seems able to go back to her normal life after the birth: "As any woman who has ever chosen (or been forced) to kick it old school can tell you, surrendering a baby whom you will never know comes with a steep and lifelong cost." (See here
for some good letters from readers.) I think it’s a mistake to label Juno prolife--as Hubert writes, the film excels at skewering both pro-choice and pro-life sentiment. That Juno has her baby seems less a sign of the film’s pro-life message than of narrative necessity. (Let’s face it, abortion is not as funny as pregnancy.) Still, Juno
is further proof that a young generation of writers and directors isn’t interested in fighting the same old battles on life issues. When it comes to abortion, the change in hearts and minds that many of us seek may still be a long way off; but the shift in tone signaled by films like Juno
is surely a reason to be encouraged. UPDATE: For those of you who haven’t seen the film, here’s the preview: Tim Reidy