The Choice Issue Goes To The Movies

I've seen the trailers for the new movie "Knocked Up" and what I remembered about it was that it was from the director of "The Forty Year Old Virgin." The last thing I would have guessed is that the movie would be seriously debated as pro-choice or anti-choice. But so it goes. Here's Ezra:

The early efforts of folks on both the Right and the Left to brand the movie pro-life were discomfiting. Some in my group seemed genuinely distressed that the main character didn't choose an abortion, and were ready to write off the film for that initial bit of betrayal. I found that baffling. The flick is pro-choice in the most literal sense of the term. Katherine Heigl's character receives advice in both directions, and then makes a decision -- a decision the audience may very well conclude is the wrong one. But she has a choice; nothing is forced on her . . . [T]hat's a perfectly allowable, and indeed respectable, decision within the choice framework.

Of course everyone knows this. The word choice means, um, choice. But this is not the first time abortion has gone to the movies. The last time was a bit more high brow however. It involved the film adaptation of John Irving's book "The Cider House Rules." Here is an excellent 2000 discussion of the issue of abortion and the movies from Amy Goodman's Democracy Now program. THIS discussion delves into the issue of the taboo in film and TV regarding abortion. We have not come a long way baby since Maude had to make her choice in the 1970s.

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    all well and good, but (none / 0) (#1)
    by scribe on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 05:53:40 PM EST
    let's look at this from a purely "movie-making" standpoint:

    Some in my group seemed genuinely distressed that the main character didn't choose an abortion, and were ready to write off the film for that initial bit of betrayal. I found that baffling. The flick is pro-choice in the most literal sense of the term.

    If she'd hae gone out and had an abortion, there would have been no need for a movie.  The point of this movie is to be silly summertime comedy entertainment - "The 40 y/o Virgin" was so silly I couldn't watch it.  By dithering about her decision, she and the guy get to go through all the familiar pitfalls, etc. of pregnancy.

    That she makes a choice is both subversive of the anti-choice zealots, and (since she makes the "right" choice) subversive of those who would have her choose to abort the pregnancy.  The outliers on both sides get pie in their face and everyone laughs about the situations these two find themselves in.

    This markets itself, which is all in service of the central point of making movies in the first place:  making money by drawing people in and entertaining them.

    Or, in other words, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a silly movie is just a silly movie.

    Just a cigar (none / 0) (#3)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 06:30:46 PM EST
    My sentiments exactly.

    This strongly reminds me of friends comparing (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 06:01:18 PM EST
    An Affair to Remember w/Love Story--but no one had actually seen the latter movie.  

    Actually, I think to the casual movie-goer (none / 0) (#4)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 06:39:59 PM EST
    the issue of choice v. life was a pretty (very?) minor part of the movie. It was mostly about how men relate to both men and women - from a male point of view.

    Although I think if one is hyper-sensitive to the issue of life v. choice, then I imagine every nuance of the movie would be fraught with import.

    For me, it was just a damn funny, laugh out loud character sketch.

    We have not come a long way. (none / 0) (#5)
    by Lora on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 06:52:02 PM EST
    The last time was a bit more high brow however.

    OK, so when was the last time a low-brow, er, Hollywood, movie had the star choose abortion?  

    (and have it be all right?)

    Since Maude?


    It was just mentioned in passing (none / 0) (#9)
    by Deconstructionist on Tue Jun 05, 2007 at 08:57:32 AM EST
    but in "High Fidelity" the female lead (can't recall her name) tells John Cuzack's character she had aborted his baby. It didn't occur "during" the movie but is mentioned as something that happened in the past.

      Let's face it. Abortion is not a humorous subject  in any respect and even in a drama because the issue is so controversial, studios  that are seeking large mainstream audiences are unlikely to choose to inject the issue.

      It's a lot easier to have the woman decide to have the baby and it opens up a lot more fertile territory for mainstream movies. (old mommy, career mommy, hapless daddy...)

     An "abortion movie" is necessarily going to have a limited audience and a limited range of possible themes-- all a good bit more dreary and "deep" than the average movie watcher wants. Making a "non-abortion" movie where a female character has an abortion would seem pointless from a stoty-telling aspect unless the goal is to make the woman seem unsympathetic to a large segement of the potential audience.



    Daytime TV (none / 0) (#6)
    by Maggie Mae on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 10:25:30 PM EST
    I have to say I think that soaps are much farther along than movies or prime time tee vee.  General Hospital, within the last year, I believe, had a teenager, who got pregnant the first time she had sex, go through the whole process of finding out, keeping it a secret, trying to decide what to do, listening to those who told her it was her choice and those who tried to talk her out of it and they let the character (who is a major character) have the abortion.  She then went through the loss and moments of fear wondering if she had done the right thing.  In the end, she always came back to it being right for her.  

    The discussions (sometimes more verbal sparring than discussion) she had with the boy whose baby it was, his family, her family and friends, whether they were supportive or discouraging, always centered around it being her choice.  

    Soaps have been doing these kinds of stories for years.  Sometimes the woman has the baby, sometimes she doesn't.

    agreed narius (none / 0) (#8)
    by cpinva on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 11:37:06 PM EST
    however, that said, i was always kind of under the impression that the whole point of having a choice was to, um, well...................make a choice. hopefully, an informed one.

    as cleverly noted, sometimes a cigar (movie) is just a cigar (movie).

    ABortion in the movies (none / 0) (#10)
    by hgardner on Tue Jun 05, 2007 at 09:30:43 AM EST
    The Roumanian movie that won Cannes last week is about the search for a doctor to do a late second term abortion.  According to one reviewer, the abortion scene is grisly.  I expect the debate to heat up when it opens here.