Movie Reviewer Not Satisfied by Presence of 'Choice'

A movie depicting a pregnant teenager scheduling an abortion, and even going to the abortion clinic, isn't pro-choice enough for one film critic. 

Unlike summer hits Knocked Up and Waitress, the latest film about an unexpected pregnancy, Juno, treats abortion as a real option. Nevertheless, Entertainment Weekly film critic Lisa Schwarzbaum criticized Juno for failing to preach about the “hard-won, precious rights” of abortion.

SPOILER ALERT: Juno, the pregnant 16-year-old lead character, scheduled an abortion but decided instead to place her baby for adoption after an encounter with a pro-life activist outside the clinic.

In contrast to the New York Times, USA Today and Rolling Stone, which focused on the movie rather than the politics of abortion in their reviews, Schwarzbaum couldn't resist lamenting the absence of such politics:

The old-school feminist in me wishes Juno spent more time, even a tart sentence or two, acknowledging that the options taken for granted by this one attractive, articulate teen are in fact hard-won, precious rights, and need to be guarded by a new-generation army of Junos and Bleekers, spreading the word by text message as well as by hamburger phone. 

What a reversal from the summer.  Critics were infuriated by the failure of Knocked Up and Waitress to present abortion as an option, as CMI reported last July.  In this case, Juno's considering of abortion was enough to keep most abortion proponents at bay.  

But not Schwarzbaum, which makes it particularly strange that she would launch a feminist argument at Juno. She never raised feminism concerns in her review of Knocked Up, a movie that did not even include the word “abortion” in the script.  The only references to abortion in the movie are from a friend who, when discussing options, said “I won't say it but it rhymes with shmashmortion,” and from the lead character's mother, who urges her to “take care of” the pregnancy so she can have a “real” baby when the time is right.   

Schwarzbaum did manage to overcome her feminist qualms sufficiently to give Juno an A-, which is in line with what other critics are saying about the film. But the question remains: is Schwarzbaum's real problem with Juno the fact that abortion isn't depicted as a “hard-won, precious right,” or because the movie features an abortion-minded young woman deciding instead to carry her baby to term?

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter