Juno Shows the Normalcy of Brokenness

Note: This commentary was delivered by PFM President Mark Earley.

The following commentary includes details from the movie Juno. Do not read on if you prefer not to read about the film before viewing it.

If Hollywood is any indicator, I think it is safe to say that the pro-life message is making serious headway. Within the past year or two, a string of movies has shown women in a heroic light for choosing to keep their babies. That includes the films Bella, Waitress, Knocked Up, and the most recent surprise-hit, Juno, which just won the Oscar for best original screenplay.

But while there is no denying that such a trend is encouraging, we have still got a long way to go in changing the culture, and the movie Juno perfectly illustrates what I mean.

I recently talked about Juno with a colleague of mine who commented that despite the fact that the movie is being hailed as one of the smartest, funniest movies of the year, she left the movie theater feeling downright depressed. What is so tragic about the film, she commented, is the normalcy of brokenness.

Juno, the title character, is a teenage girl whose birth parents are divorced. Her prickly relationship with her absentee mom is brilliantly expressed by the once-a-year cactus that Juno receives from her mom on Valentine's Day.

As broken as Juno's home is, her own relationships are even more fractured. The movie depressingly portrays the casual banality of modern teenage sexuality. Juno finds herself pregnant after a less-than-romantic encounter with a boy named Bleeker, whom she does not even love. Indeed, nothing could be bleaker.

But the brokenness only becomes more pervasive after Juno finds out that she is pregnant. She jokingly contemplates suicide. And she almost goes through with an abortion, but notably-and nobly-decides against it.

Her dad and her stepmom, though supportive, chalk up Juno's sexual encounter to what kids do when they are bored. Her actions are taken as unfortunate, but normal. The only thing that seems to surprise her parents at this revelation is that Juno was not smart enough to use protection, and that Bleeker was the boy she chose.

When Juno consults the local newspaper to find a childless couple for her baby, Mark and Vanessa seem the perfect fit. But things are not what they appear. When the adoptive family seems on the verge of unraveling, viewers realize Juno's baby seems destined, one way or another, for a broken home.

Through this movie, we catch a glimpse of a worldview where sex, marriage, children, and even love are treated with utter casualness, stripped of their holy and sacramental nature. There is no sense that it is a gift from God. It is no wonder that this, the surprise comedy of the year, turns out to be a rather depressing reflection of our culture.

Now, although I am not recommending you go see this film, I think we can, nonetheless, be grateful that a film with the pro-life message has won an Oscar.

But here is the point: If cultural attitudes toward abortion can change, why not cultural attitudes toward sexuality and marriage? Think about it. Movie heroines can now decide to bring their babies to term. Is it too much to hope that one day Hollywood might re-discover the sacredness of family, the blessing of children, and the gift of human sexuality within the bonds of a sacramental marriage?

Such a storyline may seem like fantasy, but I say it is a hope worth nurturing-and bringing to term.

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