“Juno” and Pro-life Hollywood

Every year or so, a Cinderella movie leaps into the ultimate Hollywood A-list — the Academy Award nominees for best picture.

The sleeper this time around was "Juno," the sweet but edgy story of Juno MacGuff, a geeky teen who gets pregnant after a sort-of-bored sexual encounter with a friend. The movie also drew Oscar nominations for Canadian Ellen Page, 20, as best actress, for director Jason Reitman, 30, and former stripper turned screenwriter Diablo Cody, 29.

Now it's time for the winner-take-all round of campaigning, which often includes behind-the-scenes maneuvers in the tradition of Niccolo Machiavelli. Do not be surprised if rival studios try to hurt "Juno" by circulating shocking rumors that many religious conservatives who oppose abortion have praised this movie.

It helps that the rumors are true.

Take former Republican Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, for example.

He has listed "Juno" among recent hits — including "Knocked Up" and "Waitress" — that suggest American popular culture is "awaking to the reality of life in the womb."

While these films come from the heart of the "bawdy mainstream," they include images and themes that will surprise traditionalists, argued Santorum, in an essay written as a senior fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

"Ultrasound images awakened characters and audiences to the humanity of the unborn. Having a baby, even in the most challenging circumstances, became the compelling 'choice,' " noted Santorum, a devout Catholic and author of the book "It Takes a Family," written during his unsuccessful 2006 bid to stay in the U.S. Senate.

 "Adoption was held up as a positive alternative to abortion. And, unlike the news media's portrayal of pro-lifers, protesters outside abortion clinics were authentically depicted as warm and concerned. This stood in contrast to the indifference of the staff within."

In a pivotal scene, Juno calls the "Women Now" clinic — a parent's signature is not required — and bluntly tells the switchboard operator she needs to "procure a hasty abortion." But when she approaches the facility, Juno discovers that a high school friend is staging a solo protest outside.

This scene is played for nervous laughs, with the Asian girl chanting, "All babies want to get borned!" But when she realizes that Juno is headed inside, the friend urgently adds, "Your baby has a beating heart! Your baby can feel pain! Your baby has fingernails!"

This last line sticks and, in the waiting room, Juno is haunted by the sound of the other patients around her tapping, clicking and chewing their fingernails. As she flees the clinic, her friend calls out, "God appreciates your miracle!" The pregnant teen chooses — with strong support from her loving father and stepmother — to endure the public ordeal of her pregnancy, surrender the baby through adoption and then move on with her life.

The key is that "Juno" is about people struggling to make real decisions in the real world, according to screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi of Act One, a group that trains Christians to work in the Hollywood mainstream. This isn't a connect-the-dots sermon targeting true believers. The movie doesn't preach, because it wasn't created by preachers.

But "Juno" can be called "pro-life, in the way that just about every Gen-X movie about pregnancy is pro-life," wrote the former Catholic nun, at her "Church of the Masses" website. "I would say 'Juno' is a cultural message movie without being a political one. Certainly, that will be an inscrutable nuance in contemporary Christendom in which almost everything is politics. …

"The movie is also anti-divorce in the way that just about every Gen-X movie about family is anti-divorce. And people with faith are here too, in a decent and gritty way that shows mere secularism to be selfish and shallow."

The bottom line, said Santorum, is that a mainstream movie like "Juno" has a chance to connect with mainstream audiences. Secular critics have, so far, even responded with "thumbs up" reviews.

The most hopeful possibility, he added, is that these movies symbolize a kind of power shift as one Hollywood generation is exposed to the hopes and fears of the next.

"They are… chronicles from the children of our divorce — and abortion-oriented culture," Santorum added. "There is lived experience, emotional understanding, hard-earned authenticity at the heart of these scripts. And pain."

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  • Guest

    I am pleased that an anti-abortion message is emerging from Hollywood artifacts.

    However, the pro-life message is incomplete without the respect for the sanctity of marriage. Treating sex as something you do when bored while out of wedlock itself attacks the dignity of life. The Church holds that such behavior ""is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children" (CCC 2353).

  • Guest

    sigh.  why, oh why, whenever there is a really good article on here, somebody comes along and says…"WELL. that's fine, but they didn't go nearly far enough!!….." I can't believe how many times that happens and it is SO much like the Pharisees!!!

    johncwalker, how about being thankful for small baby steps (no pun intended) in Hollywood and leaving the rest to God.  He can do great things with small steps; and if Juno stops even one teen from getting an abortion, it will be invaluable (especially to that baby!!)

    –You have made us for yourself, O Lord; and our hearts are restless until they rest in You. — St. Augustine

  • Guest

    While I haven't seen the movie yet, it seems like a likable jaunt. I don't know if it is in the forefront of any trend. Alexander Payne's "Citizen Ruth"  (circa 1993) dealt with a pregnant addict in Omaha and it was sublime and dead-on. But even "Georgy Girl" from the U.K. during the swinging 60's looked at an unwanted pregancy, although it was more a comedic turn and hardly dealt with real (economic, social) issues. And of course there was "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," which took the easy way out when the pregnancy was miscarried (which again happened on TV's "Party of Five").


    I'd like to see "Juno," but I 'll only regard it as entertainment, hardly a morality play.

  • Guest

    Often I'll start off class Monday by asking the students, High School, what they did or what movies they saw. Juno seems to be getting a very favorable response. There are options to abortion and getting pregnant is not the end of the world when there are choices like adoption out there. Any, and I mean ANY positive messages are welcomed by me. Allan

  • Guest

    I'm thrilled about the pro-life message of Juno.  I am concerned however, that their is also a message of "pregnancy is not so bad for teens" and  "everything works out in the end".   Several teenage girls were overheard talking after this movie about  how "pregnancy seems cool."  Just a thought.  

  • Guest

    The pregnancy in the movie, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" ended in abortion, not miscarriage. 

  • Guest

    I absolutely loved Juno! While many parts of the movie were Napolean Dynamite-esque (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), it was very realistic. Ellen Page did a phenomenal job acting this part.