Friday, November 30, 2007

The A-word is absent from American movies

Carrie Rickey writes, for the Philadelphia Inquirer:

In America, about one in five pregnancies end in abortion, according to the latest figures from the Guttmacher Institute. In recent American movies, however, every unplanned pregnancy is carried to term.

From "Knocked Up" to "Waitress" to "Juno," opening Dec. 14, abortion is The Great Unmentionable, euphemized as "shmashmortion" ("Knocked Up"), "we don't perform, uh, -" ("Waitress"), and "nipped it in the bud" ("Juno"), comedies in which pregnancy is the situation. Abortion is likewise obliquely referenced, if actually considered, in the drama "Bella," now in theaters.

"It's as if there's an `every conception deserves delivery' policy being observed," says Virginia Rutter, senior scholar at the Council on Contemporary Families, a Chicago-based organization of academics and public health professionals.

To the extent that mainstream movies are a barometer of public opinion, the evidence of America's continued ambivalence about abortion can be found at the multiplex.

See also NY Times: "On Abortion, Hollywood Is No-Choice".

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It seems that abortion as a theme in movies isn't so much absent as it is reduced in complexity and made (interpersonally) unrealistic so as to not incite protest and alienate moviegoers, and to play better nationally across states with widely varying and in some cases very restrictive anti-choice laws.

It should be noted that in the list of movies in this otherwise good article the reference to "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" is a bit off. The article's author, Carrie Rickey, writes "High schooler gets pregnant the first time out; her brother and friend help her get an abortion." Actually her brother and friend don't HELP her get an abortion, they SUPPORT her choice to get an abortion. She's more than capable of getting it on her own, raising money is the biggest problem, that and dealing with the sudden loss of support and interest from her loser boyfriend Damone.

That's one of the issues in the film that made the movie significant in how it portrayed Stacy, the young woman who got the abortion. Minors around the time of the movie (1981) could legally get abortions in most states without parental consent, it was issues dealing with boyfriends and peers that was more of an issue and a problem for them to learn to deal with. It's also significant that the abortion subplot was not a major part of the movie, and with few issues Stacey got over her feelings of discomfort and alienation and got mentioned at the end of the movie as going into a good, steady relationship with one of the "nice guys" of the bunch.

Of course, one can't expect most mainstream articles on abortion themes in movies to go into this detail, but at least in mentioning "Fast Times" most don't even make the point about how the woman who got the abortion was given support which she needed from her closest friends, much less the importance of that support. And considering how these stories -- and there have been ones like this from the NYT, the LA Times, now the Philly Inquirer, and others -- how can we expect smaller papers in more conservative communities to do much better?

Well, maybe pro-choice activists can start writing some movie reviews of our own and getting them published in the local papers, huh?

It's difficult enough to read about how so few movies are made today in a pro-choice vein about abortion, as if most of the really good movies were made decades in the past and have become some sort of period pieces.

Or maybe more accurately, missed period pieces?

Posted by: southern students for choice-athens | Dec 2, 2007 5:32:51 AM

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