Out of all the things people have forwarded me this week, I am gonna talk about this. Mostly because I’ve seen the sentiment that films like Juno and Waitress and Knocked Up are “pro-life movies” crop up elsewhere and it’s just getting annoying.
Juno and Waitress and Knocked Up are all, emphatically, pro-choice movies. This is not hard to understand. In all of these films, the protagonist becomes pregnant, then – wait for it – chooses to have the child. See? Pro-choice. There is a choice made in each film, and the choice to not have an abortion is made freely in each incidence. In all of the movies, other characters are used to emphasize the fact that these characters are, if they wish, allowed to get an abortion.
That is all that being pro-choice entails.
(Never mind that from a narrative standpoint, an abortion is lousy for a whole movie. Consider: the HBO telefilm If These Walls Could Talk deals with three women who have abortions, in three separate segments, each about forty minutes long, and at least one of them feels stretched out. That’s because an abortion is a single event: it happens and done. You can deal with the fallout or the decisionmaking to an extent, but that’s mostly going to be “talk talk” rather than “do do”, and a good narrative usually goes for the latter rather than the former. That’s why pregnancy is a good storytelling engine: it has a defined beginning, middle and “end” which everybody is completely familiar with, which provides its own set of challenges. It’s a process rather than an event, which is why any writer worth their salt knows it’s easier and offers more possibilities for storytelling than an abortion does.)
In any case, complaining that the characters choose to have the children makes the films “pro-life” is just stupid, because by doing so the complainant, who is presumably pro-choice, is buying into the framing of the pro-life argument that being pro-choice is de facto being pro-abortion. This just isn’t true, as any pro-choice individual knows: the whole point of the movement is to make abortion safe, legal, and (for most people) rare. Abortion isn’t a pleasant experience and wishing it on people is just ludicrous; the point of being pro-choice is to ensure that women have the legal right to determine the use of their own bodies. Yes, the movies present childbirth as miraculous. So what? Childbirth is pretty goddamned miraculous, after all. It just shouldn’t be legally required.
That’s why Juno and Waitress and Knocked Up are all pro-choice movies. They assume their characters have a choice. It’s just that simple. Anything more is arguing for ideological tautologies we really don’t need.