Sunday, January 13, 2008

What Was The Question Again?

(spoilers for Juno and Knocked Up)

I saw Juno last night - and loved it. (Ellen Page is perpetually awesome.)

However, I saw it with my mom and some of her friends - and they didn't like it quite so much. They didn't hate it, but....they thought it was too easy. How could this be a lesson about pregnancy and teen sex* when everything worked out so easily?


"It wasn't about the pregnancy," I said. "It was about relationships." The pregnancy was just a plot device.

I rather suspect their disappointment made them even more eager to see the sneak preview of 27 Dresses that they saw today. But me? I was less jealous of their getting to see it today than I had been before.** It's not that you know how it's going to end just by watching the previews, because I knew that before. It's that it seems so very unreal and fake and empty compared to the kind of love that's central to Juno.

I think a part of it is generational. Juno's main problem wasn't the pregnancy, it was learning how to navigate relationships and learning to keep having faith in other people and romantic love amidst the reality of divorce, break-ups, and loss. I think, in a lot of ways, baby boomers still believe in the idea that everybody gets a happily ever after one true love a lot more than younger generations do. Like people tend to do, they kept imagining what they would have done if they were in Juno's shoes. But they've never worn Juno's shoes because when they were 16 and first starting to figure out adult relationships, divorce was still a bad word. So instead, they focused on the part they understood - the pregnancy. They saw the people in Juno's life as being important because of how they affected her pregnancy and the baby and not how they affected Juno and her willingness to be vulnerable with other people. I'm not sure my mom and her friends really understood what Juno was really searching for throughout the movie. I know they got it in the end, but I think that they missed a lot of thematic points because it took them longer to realize it.

BetaCandy suggested the other day that

I think most people do watch movies and TV to escape reality, but that men are more likely to find escape through pure fantasy with little focus on problem solving and women more likely to find it through seeing problems get solved in fiction.

Some of the best proof for the second part of that statement that I can see is that my mom and her friends are still eager for 27 Dresses and I'm not. To them, Juno didn't do what it was supposed to do. I don't think it's so much that it didn't deal realistically with the pregnancy but that it involved pregnancy but didn't focus on relationship between mother and child, between Juno and her body and the person inside her. And yet, they thought it was meant to, giving them the impression for most of the time they were watching it that the movie was doing a crappy job of dealing with the problems it laid before the audience. 27 Dresses, however, will obviously focus on relationships in a more traditional and understandable way. Problem will be clearly presented and fixed. To me, though, Juno presented and dealt with the issue that most people my age are most worried about when it comes to relationships - who can we count on, how long can we count on them, and is it worth it if it doesn't last? 27 Dresses, however, will still give us that fairy tale ending that hampers our ability to find honest and realistic answers to these questions.

Oddly enough, Juno makes me think of The House of Mirth and class discussions on it. I didn't like it at first because I didn't understand why Lily couldn't make up her damn mind. Our professor gently steered us toward the realization that Lily's problem wasn't making up her mind, it was the fact that she wasn't free to choose what she had already decided. Lily didn't want to decide between Lawrence and Percy, she wanted to go on as she had been - single and social - but that wasn't an option available to women. Juno sets up a false either/or situation for Juno as well. I wasn't as bothered by the unrealistic "they have fingernails!" reason for not getting an abortion as I thought I would be. Because by then, I knew it was a gimmick. I already knew that it wasn't about dealing with the consequences of sex, it was about deciding to be intimate with someone. We aren't shown the flashbacks to the act that got Juno pregnant because we need to know how it happened or why she made such a mistake (which isn't ever addressed in the flashbacks), but because she keeps asking that question throughout the movie - the one she supposedly already answered - should I, or shouldn't I?

Oh, I finally saw Knocked Up a few days ago as well.

I don't get it. It made about as much sense to me as Jerry Maguire did.

So much of it just seemed - odd. Not just "why did she not have an abortion?" not just "her career stays on track? how realistic" but - "what did they see in each other, exactly?" Other than desperately wanting that fairy tale ending, why in the world did they ever try to get together in the first place?


ps - you should totally go read Amanda's take on it as well.

*Dear god, must everything be a lesson whenever teen sex is mentioned? Although, to be fair, they didn't come up with this idea on their own - that seems to be what is floating around the MSM/word of mouth.

**I work on Sundays now.

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