Why that kind of girl wouldn't just have an abortion boggles the mind--as well as reality. Her family is not particularly religious, or evangelical; yet an unpleasant but frivolous encounter at the abortion clinic turns her off and sends her packing straight into the arms of a couple she finds in a penny-saver. "I could have this baby and give it to someone who totally needs one," she says enthusiastically. (No, I do not have perfect recall, I just watched the trailer at IMDB.)
I probably overstated my reaction--I said I change the channel if Page is on the tube, I just don't want to see her--and this lead to Movie Buff's surprise and amazement because Page, he said, can't be held responsible for the part she played, it was just a role, et cetera. He then went on to point out that "Ralph Fiennes played Amon Goth in Schindler's List and he was one of the most evil characters ever to appear in any movie--but he's Ralph Fiennes, not Amon Goth, and I don't believe he harbors any sadistic Nazi tendencies."
A COMEDY ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST?
But we want our Nazis to be horrible! I responded. We all know what they did and being able to portray the Nazis who ran the concentration camps as the most evil people who ever lived naturally would be a role to savor. Anyone playing that part would only cement what we already know and feel about evil Nazis.
Our discussion continued the next day via email because I kept thinking about how what people do via adoption--and what celebrities and movie stars do in particular--colors how we feel about them--and adoption, as Jane discussed in the previous blog. I don't think Movie Buff could see it from my point of view, which is to imagine Steven Spielberg and Ralph Fiennes making a movie about the holocaust that played into the delusions of holocaust deniers, and make Fiennes a devilishly charming and amusing fellow who might have a few qualms now and then, but what the hell! Exterminating Jews--that's life.
Instead of making giving up a child a mind-altering experience that leads to lifelong grief for most women, Page, as Juno, made it only somewhat disturbing to give up a child, and thus played right into to mind set of the people who really "need" a baby. Furthermore, Page made finding a cute couple like Jennifer Garner and her husband (who splits before the kid actually arrives) a possible and cool thing to do. In other words, Juno strengthened the view that "birth" mothers are, in the end, more or less fine with giving up a child to somebody who really needs a baby. Then teens like Juno/Page get on with their lives and go back to their boyfriends without much trauma. We see some of Juno's distress, but in the context of the character, you see her getting on honky-dory with her life after childbirth.
THE DAMAGE FILMS LIKE JUNO DO...
What possible impact did Juno have, continue to have? I know that at least one young woman who knows me well and said that she doesn't have the same view of adoption as I do--whatever that meant. I do know that she saw Juno and thought it was probably a realistic view of what it would be like to give up a baby. We had to agree not to talk about Juno. I am sure she is not alone in her opinion, and that Juno had an impact not only on young, impressionable women, but also prospective adoptive parents who do not want to think about how awful it could possibly be to give up a child.
My college-student friend did not see Mother and Child, a movie that realistically depicts relinquishing a child, but did not have anywhere near the impact or reach of Juno, even with stars such as Annette Bening and Naomi Watts. Bening is the first mother who doesn't get her life back together; Watts is the tough-as-nails adoptee who doesn't know who she is and gets pregnant herself, and dies in childbirth. "Every thought in my head takes me back to her," Bening says. And: "I know in my heart we will meet one day and you will forgive me." That's dialogue that many of us can relate to, in contrast to the one-liners in Juno.
I don't think any comedy about giving up a child is palatable, just as a smart comedy about the holocaust wouldn't be either. Perhaps others can find any subject open to humor, but relinquishing my daughter scarred my life to the point where I'll never be laughing at jokes about giving up a baby. (For those who wonder, I saw Juno at home, by myself, with a box of tissues. I wanted to see the movie, but knew I couldn't handle it in a theater with other people laughing at jokes that made me cringe.)
Diablo Cody, the young woman who wrote the smart script for Juno, is of course where Juno, the movie, all began, and who I hold most responsible for the despicable film. Cody said in interviews that's what it would be like if she got pregnant, a statement so ignorant and vacuous as to make my head hurt. Diablo Cody won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Juno. Jane reports she heard Terry Gross of Fresh Air on NPR interview the director Jason Reitman, who said he had an adopted sister and was pleased to be able to do a move to show how wonderful adoption can be.
Jane's previous post about celebrity adoptions led to comments from readers wanting to add to the list of other stars who have adopted because we, both adoptees and first mothers, know that their doing so encourages more adoptions. Our opinion of them is somewhat framed by their adoption, especially if they keep at it, and get more children borne by other women. Movie Buff wanted to know if my blog readers had the same opinion as me. In other words, am I crazy, and am I over-reacting, or what? Some of you must have seen Juno. Or not? Opinions wanted.--lorraine
Birth Mother's Lament: The Pain of Giving Away My Baby
Adoption, It Seems, Is Everywhere, coming to a screen near you
Is adoption ever funny to the adopted, to first mothers?
Life Unexpected an Unexpected Hit on the CW
Mother and Child is a film not be be missed, though critics overlooked
Jane's previous post:Why I'm not bullish on celebrity adoptions
Mother and Child "Nine Lives director Rodrigo García explores the maternal instinct in Mother and Child through three disparate L.A. women: Karen (Annette Bening), a physical therapist, cares for her ailing mother; Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) works as a high-powered attorney; and Lucy (Kerry Washington), a bakery owner, plans to adopt (only Lucy has a spouse). An opening sequence reveals that Karen, who became pregnant at 14, gave Elizabeth up for adoption. Though the daughter has no desire to track down the mother, Karen has been mourning her loss for decades, never working up the nerve to take the next step. All three turn to the same adoption agency (Cherry Jones, who donned a nun's habit for Broadway's Doubt, plays Sister Joanne). When Karen yields to the advances of a kindly divorcé (Jimmy Smits), and Elizabeth, who's been sleeping with her boss (Samuel L. Jackson) and her married neighbor (Marc Blucas), finds herself with child, their feelings of anger and resentment start to melt. Lucy, meanwhile, has been meeting with a prickly expectant mother (Half Nelson's Shareeka Epps) who may hold the key to her happiness--assuming that a baby will solve all life's problems. García clearly venerates motherhood, but he doesn't let any of his characters off the hook: Karen can be cruel, Elizabeth can be cold, and Lucy can be whiny, but they overcome their lesser natures. There are a few missteps, like a soft-focus montage toward the end, but García manages a sprawling cast with finesse, and his gifted leads have rarely been better. --Kathleen C. Fennessy"--Amazon
Other movies that portray adoption realistically:
Secrets and Lies (For some reason this film is amazingly expensive, I suggest renting it if you have not seen it. A touching but messy reunion. Mike Leigh directed, Brenda Blethyn is the mother.)
Casa de los Babys (Adopting from South and Central America; should be tough for adoptive parents with children from poor countries to watch. John Sayles directed.)
Loggerheads (Have not seen, but others rave about it)
Oranges and Sunshine (A courageous social worker in England reunites children removed from England and sent to Australia, very realistic, and a true story.)
Rabbit-Proof Fence (About the forced adoption of aboriginal children in Australia; bring a hanky. No, bring two.)
Gosford Park (One of my favorite movies all all time. Great acting, great story. What did I read about the writer, Julian Fellowes? Is is possible he is adopted? If you remember this tidbit from somewhere, please leave a comment. Also tell me if I am delusional about this.)
Order or rent the films by clicking on the links.