Skip to comments.The plots thicken: As Roe v. Wade turns 35, some in Hollywood changing minds about "choice."
Posted on 01/08/2008 1:27:00 PM PST by rhema
In the movie Knocked Up, blond-and-beautiful television producer Alison is tapped for her on-air dream job, but while celebrating she gets pregnant during a one-night stand. She decides not only to keep the baby but also to build a relationship with the father.
In Bella, a soccer star's life is upended when he kills a young girl in a traffic accident. Realizing a new reverence for life, he convinces a friend to carry her unplanned pregnancy to term.
In Noelle, a priest whose job is to shut down ailing parishes encourages an unmarried woman to keep her baby, the fruit of a liaison with the arrogant heir of a wealthy family.
In the comedy Juno, the title character, a pregnant teenager, decides to carry to term and place her child for adoptionbecause a pro-life teen picketing the abortion clinic where Juno had gone to terminate her pregnancy points out that Juno's baby already has fingernails. The film is nominated for a Golden Globe Award.
Has Hollywood tilted off its reliably pro-abortion axis? With the 2007 debut of these films, has the American abortion debate finally reached a tipping point, where more art now imitates pro-life?
Yes, says Steve McEveety, producer of Braveheart and executive producer of Bella and The Passion of the Christ. He believes moviegoers will see "a lot more films" with an underlying reverence for the unborn "and a lot more pro-life people coming into the film industry based on pure logic."
McEveety is among those working in Hollywood who say a subtle cultural shift, one that also reaches into television, is underway. Some peg the change to ultrasound technology, others to a changing of the guard among filmmakers. But all agree that Hollywood has awakened to this fact: Abortion is not only unarguably un-sexy, but also un-heroic. And without sex and heroes, Hollywood would have few bankable stories to tell.
The New York Times in June raised an alarm about the pro-life current threading through recent hit films. In a story headlined, "On Abortion, Hollywood is No-Choice," writer Mireya Navarro maintained that since data from federal surveys show that nearly two-thirds of unwanted pregnancies end in abortion, then Hollywood's rash of films showing unexpectedly pregnant women keeping their babies is a sign the movie industry is going out of its way to sidestep real life.
In the 2007 hit indie film Waitress, for example, the lead character Jenna (Keri Russell) is about to leave her abusive husband when she learns she is pregnant. Jenna is "more likely to ponder selling the baby than to consider having" an abortion, Navarro pointed out. In Knocked Up, television producer Alison "is torn over whether to keep the man, not the baby," and the closest anyone comes to uttering the A-word is to say, "it rhymes with 'smashtortion.'"
But are such films avoiding reality?
No, said screenwriter and Biola University film professor Michael Gonzales. Despite attempts by Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups to depict abortion as no more uncommon or morally fraught than having a tooth pulled, filmmakers realize that even after 35 years of legality, abortion has not shed its "ick" factor.
"To make a movie on abortion is just not sexy," Gonzales said. "To hear Meg Ryan, for example, say at a party, 'Oh, I really want to do this abortion movie'people would just kind of shriek inside. They kind of shudder."
Further, from a dramatic standpoint, abortion not only makes it difficult to create a sympathetic character; it also ends the story. "You might deal with the aftermath, the psychological trauma the character has to go through," Gonzales said, "but that's a story nobody wants to hear."
Paradoxically, Hollywoodwith its stock in trade the kind of sex that leads to unplanned pregnancymay be subtly turning away from the easy fix. Instead, in movies like Knocked Up, twentysomething, party-animal anti-heroes like Ben (Seth Rogen) are stepping up to meet their responsibilities as new parents. And though Knocked Up is a coarse, profanity-filled film, it may affect its Gen-X and Millennial target audience in ways that reach beyond cheap laughs.
"Stories work in society by putting in front of us better than the realideal choices that shame us about the choices we really make," said screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi, chairman of Act One, a group that trains Christians for the film industry. "Audiences bond to the heroic choices made by the main character."
That seems to be the case with Juno, the film in which a spunky teen (Golden Globe nominee Ellen Page) changes her mind about abortion after hearing about her baby's fingernails. Inside the clinic, as Juno fills out the necessary forms, she suddenly becomes conscious of all the women waiting with hernervously tapping their nails, clicking their nails, biting their nails. As the disparate sounds gel into a kind of heartbeat, Juno suddenly realizes her fetus is a human being.
When she bursts out of the clinic, a teen pro-life picketer outside cries, "God appreciates your miracle!" Astonishingly, the pivotal, life-affirming moment passes without a flicker of condescension.
"Even if what Juno is showing is 'unrealistic' according to The New York Times," said Nicolosi, "the movie is saying the character's choice is heroic, and audiences are responding by saying, yes, it is heroic. And if you're a 16-year-old girl watching the movie, it shows you a different 'choice.'"
Even liberal critics are heaping kudos on the film. KPBS called Juno "a gift every film lover should want this holiday season." The Los Angeles Times dubbed it "poignant and unexpected." Even Rolling Stone praised the movie for taking "the girl view by letting teenage Juno . . . bypass a hasty abortion in favor of having the baby."
Steve McEveety half-jokes that Hollywood's slow shift toward life is all Quentin Tarantino's fault.
In Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Tarantino's 2004 installment in a two-part bloodbath, two female assassins wind up stalking each other. "There's this scene where one of the hit women just found out she's pregnant," McEveety said. "The other hit woman . . . decides not to kill her because she would be killing two people. Nobody got it except for the young kids who saw the film. That's the next generation of filmmakers."
Those would-be filmmakersand many already making moviesare influenced heavily by ultrasound technology, said McEveety, a Roman Catholic who is very vocal about his own pro-life views: "You can go on the internet now and find video of a 24-day-old baby and see the heart beating. Technology is catching up to the lies. You can't dispute the images."
Nicolosi agrees. "These filmmakers are people who grew up with ultrasound pictures on the refrigerator," she said. "And they're saying, you know what? I've got eyes to see. Don't try to tell me that's not a baby."
At a Feminists for Life event at UCLA, keynote speaker and actress Patricia Heaton asked the crowd of about 100 how many were pro-life and how many were pro-choice. A show of hands revealed a mixed group, but heavy on pro-life views. Heaton then asked a pro-life member of the audience to explain why she held that view.
"I don't want to judge my parents because they did what was right for them," said one young woman. "But I've grown up knowing that they aborted two of my siblings. I've grown up my whole life wondering if they were glad they kept me."
Like that young woman, many of today's filmmakers grew up ravaged both by the divorce culture and the promises of the sexual revolution, Nicolosi said: "The pro-life themes in their films aren't political statementsthey're cultural statements. Gen-X and Millennial filmmakers understand that an abortion most often means mom just didn't want to be inconvenienced, in the same way she just didn't want to stay married to dad."
It's possible to argue that Hollywood's startling new egalitarianism on abortion started on the small screen then leapt to the large. While some shows, like Law & Order, have in recent years painted pro-life activists as murderous vigilantes, others have been more fair. On CSI Miami in October 2002, for example, lead character Horatio Caine (David Caruso) watches a technician remove an early-term fetus from its mother's womb following a car crash: "Not just skin cells, is it?" Caine says.
HBO's Six Feet Under in a July 2003 episode had main character Claire terminating her pregnancy at a local abortion clinic. Producers of the episode portrayed the clinic as a sterile, unfriendly place, running women through like cattle at a slaughterhouse. Still, Claire moved through the scenes emotionally detached. After the procedure, a friend drove her home to recover and that was that. But a later episode mirrored real life: Though Claire, like many women, experienced mainly relief in the immediate wake of her abortion, a breakdown followed. Asked to babysit her infant niece, she becomes ill. Then she has a dream in which she meets her aborted child in heaven.
House dealt with abortion twice in 2007. At first the rude, unsentimental, yet somehow lovable Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) sticks to his pro-abortion guns. In a Jan. 20 episode, House advises a rape victim to "terminate" the resulting pregnancy.
"Abortion is murder!" the young woman objects.
"True, it's a life," he replies: "And you should end it."
Later in the conversation, the woman says of abortion, "It's murderI'm against it . . . You for it?"
"Not as a general rule," he says, referring to murder.
She presses him, "Just for unborn children?"
"Yes," he says.
Later, House and the woman discuss God. (She believes in Him; House doesn't.) The episode is remarkable because, though House is always condescending, the scriptwriters allow the woman to state her faith-based, pro-life case without making her seem silly or blindly hyper-religious. Inexplicably, though, the woman has the abortion.
"House does not shrink from controversy," said Robert Knight, director of the Virginia-based Culture and Media Institute. "And the most controversial thing you can do on TV is challenge political correctness on social issues."
An April 3, 2007, installment of House went further. This time, Dr. House and his team treat Emma, a photographer about 19 weeks pregnant with a life-threatening heart condition. House's basic message: The "fetus" is threatening your life. Abort or die. But Emma refuses to abort and demands that House save them both.
House's boss, physician Lisa Cuddy, refuses to back House's recommendation to terminate. That sends the medical team, now led by Cuddy, in search of new treatment. Later, when House agrees to participate in exploratory in utero surgery, the hand of the "fetus" emerges from the incision and briefly grasps House's finger. He freezes in astonishment andin something wholly alien to his grizzled characterrapt wonder.
"It was some of the most shocking footage on abortion ever seen on TV," Knight said of the reenactment of the controversial 1999 photo in which a 21-week-old baby seems to reach from his mother's womb during prenatal surgery and grasp the surgeon's hand.
"House was stunned," Knight said. And, in a stunningly un-Hollywood development, House thereafter refers to the "fetus" as a "baby."
Emma thanks House after he saves mother and child. Thank Dr. Cuddy, he replies. He would have killed the baby to save the mother. And so House remains House: Prickly, pragmaticand pro-choice.
It isn't as though he or any of Hollywood's cast of more open-minded characters seems ready to picket Planned Parenthood. And pro-abortion messages still crop up in film and television. But filmmakers today seem less willing to blindly endorse the pro-abortion agenda typified by 1999's Oscar-winner The Cider House Rules, in which the abortionist Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine) is styled as a woman-saving hero.
The question is, is the new pro-life ethic emerging in film and television here to stay? With ultrasound and the internet spreading truth about what's inside the womb, Steve McEveety says the answer is yes: "And I blame it all on Quentin Tarantino."
Bella is a beautiful movie.
Statements like this always bring tears...
Praise be to God that more people are repenting from such a horrible, evil practice.
Hillary loosing today, the feminazi’s are on the run.
All this shows is that people can intellectually admit something, yet still go through with the opposite because even though they know it’s wrong, they still do the wrong thing.
People may have some understanding it’s wrong and that most people know it’s a life, yet they still write it so that either one has an abortion, or still remains pro abortion.
And as far as Hollywood goes, I don’t believe them for a second that anythign has changed. I totally believe they are simply trying to do novel writing for the total sake of ratings - any way they can get them. Because most prime time shows suck big time now and are losing viewers. That’s the only thing that really affects the big 4’s bottom line for advertising revenue.
What they realize is: psychologically audiences cannot see a character as fun and likable if she has an abortion.
They may see her as an object of pity and not scorn, they may agree with her "choice" - but she can only be believable as a tragic figure.
99% of abortions occur because the mother just does not feel like dealing with the social and financial complications the child will cause.
That's fundamentally repulsive, but Americans mask that disgusting reality by reassuring themselves that most abortions are because of rape or incest or situations that would plunge mother and child into Third World poverty.
So in order to have a movie script in which a major character has an abortion for reasons that do not immediately make the audience disgusted with her, she has to be a victim of rape or incest or someone whose financial situation is irremediably horrible.
And audiences do not go to Hollywood movies to be depressed. They want to walk out amused or inspired or warmed.
Hildy just last week tried to stick to Obama by sending out a mailer that he wasn’t sufficiently pro-abortion (by her standards).
It got a big yawn or worse.
Abortion will never again be the big political bonanza it was to the Witch’s generation. It may not go away, either, but the days of simply being able to raise the specter of abortion “rights” to get some fire in a campaign are over.
There's still Obama.
Great post. Thank you.
The final scene of the second “House” episode mentioned above shows Emma, the photographer, at home, holding her new infant and looking at the framed, informal photos she took during her hospital stay of the doctors who saved her and her child. House is not among them. He is shunned. I liked that.
“Noelle” is a beauty. The young actors portraying the two main characters wrote, directed and produced it. They’re also married and their five children have parts in the film.
Whenever someone says they: “support a woman’s right to chose”, it’s a safe bet that they don’t mean that a woman should have the right to chose any of these things:
the school her children attend;
to educate her children at home instead of at school;
the type of car she drives — unless it’s really tiny;
to say “Merry Christmas” at Christmas time;
her health-care provider — unless it’s a state monopoly;
or, even, the type of light bulbs she buys for home.
We need more groups like this. Christians need to invade the world of entertainment, the media, and academia, not abandon them to the Left.
They don’t kill the baby for the same reason the Indians never shoot the horses, you wouldn’t have a movie.
This article also repeats the idiotic mistake of grouping a bunch of movies that who’s production had nothing to do with each other’s under a generic ‘Hollywood’ ideological monolith who’s existence is dubious to begin with.
That’s a good point. The movie industry is still very clubby, but it is no longer the domain of a handful of huge studios with kept stables of writers and stars.
Calling some of these indie films representative of something called ‘Hollywood’ is like saying the Zapruder film (which is listed on IMDB) is a sign of Hollywood’s support for the JFK assasination.
I have 9 brothers and sisters and love them all deeply.
I also had a little sister die of natural causes at 1 week old.
I grieve the loss of my sister, Monica that I never had the opportunity to love as my sister.
I miss the jokes, the escapades, the phone calls, sharing the memories, the growing up together.
I can’t imagine the loss of knowing that my Mom killed a sister or brother of mine.
In another South Korean film, My Sassy Girl, the lead character is a troubled young women who is going out of her way to humiliate her boyfriend. One of the things she does is tell his professor and a class full of students that she's pregnant with his baby and he's taking her for an abortion. Actually, she isn't pregnant and they've never even had sex, but the idea conveyed is that the worst possible thing she could say about him to make him look awful is to implicate him in an abortion.
Even back in 1958, when the Japanese film Tokyo Twilight depicted a rare on-screen abortion storyline, the abortion was shown to be humiliating and damaging. A girl abandoned by her boyfriend panics and gets an abortion. The abortionist is a sleazy looking, unkempt woman who treats her like a hooker. As she's waiting for the abortion, she hears some passing schoolchildren singing and tears up. Later, when she sees her sister's baby daughter, she breaks down completely, and ends up throwing herself in front of a train.
Abortions are just sleazy and there's no way to sanitize them.
Think of the stories your little sister will have for you (and the introductions she will be able to make) when you finally see her agian.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.