Last weekend was the opening, at least in L.A. and New York, of Obvious Child starring comic actress and voiceover artist Jenny Slate. The film is being touted as “the most winning abortion-themed rom-com of all time,” implying that it tops director Judd Apatow’s hugely successful Knocked Up. It has also been called “the abortion movie we all need,” because – and this doesn’t quite qualify as a spoiler, since it is merely the subject of the film – it puts a positive spin on a young woman’s choice to abort her unplanned pregnancy.
Obvious Child was conceived, if you’ll pardon my very pointed pun, as a 20-minute short which made the film festival circuit back in 2009, and it has since grown into a full feature. I have not yet seen it, so this is not a review, only a commentary on the movie’s theme.
Right after Christmas, Krystie Lee Yandoli at Bustle wrote “Why Obvious Child is the Abortion Movie We All Need” and called it “an exciting development for anyone who pays attention to how abortion is represented in major motion pictures... Movies like Juno and Knocked Up perpetuate the idea that single women who unexpectedly get pregnant universally opt to complete their pregnancies against all other practical odds.” In reality too, she continues,
abortion stories receive an especially stereotyped treatment: women don’t get them, and if they do they’re often portrayed as horrific and regrettable experiences. Hollywood fails to depict the wide range of possibilities that come along with the actuality of abortion. Not everyone is devastatingly sad or talked out of going through with it.
True, not everyone is devastatingly sad about aborting a baby – a fact that is itself devastatingly sad. Not that I wish guilt and depression on anyone, but the reality that Yandoli avoids mentioning, that pro-abortion advocates always avoid (just try to find the word “baby” in any pro-choice article), is that abortion isn’t simply about ridding yourself of an inconvenient clump of “goo,” as comedienne Sarah Silverman refers to an unborn baby; abortion is about ending your child’s life. For pro-life advocates, whether or not you feel good about or comfortable with that choice isn’t the issue and never has been. The issue is your responsibility to the budding life you have conceived, unplanned or not.
But women like Yandoli want more entertainment which glosses over that reality. “That’s why films like Obvious Child are so important,” she writes. “We need more pop culture narratives that normalize the idea that women… end up being okay after having an abortion.” Actually, we need more pop culture narratives that normalize the reality that abortion isn’t just about you – it’s about the right to life of your unborn child who doesn’t get a choice.
An example of the abortion movie we all really need is Bella, released in 2007, a critically-mixed film but an audience favorite that received the Golden Tomato award from the Rotten Tomatoes film review site for the most favorable user-rating of the year, a mind-blowing 96.5%. The pro-adoption Bella tells the story of Nina, a New York City waitress, and her co-worker José, a cook. She is pregnant and alone and seriously considering abortion; he is suffering over his responsibility for the death of a little girl in a car accident. Together they face a choice to heal their emotional emptiness.
Another example of an abortion movie we all need is Gosnell, the made-for-TV movie that is still in pre-production, which surpassed the highest-ever goal of crowdfunding dollars for an entertainment project at Indiegogo – $2.1 million, to be exact. The independent project will take on a subject that the mass media have not sufficiently examined and that mainstream Hollywood would almost certainly never address – the gruesome murders committed by abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell in the Philadelphia clinic he ran. Too dark? Yes, and that’s why we need it. Compared to the life-affirming warmth of Bella, Gosnell will shine a fearless light on the ghastly indifference to human life that is at the heart of the abortion process.
We don’t need entertainment that normalizes indifference to the inconvenient truth about abortion. We need entertainment that normalizes our culture’s values about the sanctity of human life.
(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 6/9/14)