A new Hollywood comedy by Judd Apatow called "Knocked Up" is taking heat for its perceived stance on abortion from an unlikely source; the left. The movie is a comedy bordering on raunchiness that is proving a popular diversion this Summer with strong box office takes. It's about a slobish sort of slacker (actor Seth Rogen) who has a one night stand with an incredibly beautiful and together woman (the delightful Katherine Heigl) who's life is on the rise. Unfortunately for her, she gets pregnant. The rest of the movie centers on how these two very different people attempt to get together to have and raise their child... and therein lies the left's displeasure.
You see, the couple decides to keep the baby instead of aborting it. How revolting, eh?
A snippy little review by Anthony Lane in The New Yorker snidely comments upon how Apatow's film is geared towards the great unwashed "conservative" audiences, as if that in and of itself is a disgusting proposition.
Apatow, unlike his hero, is nothing if not careful: born in Syosset, New York, now living in the Los Angeles area, he clearly wants his movies to shock, but not to repel, a conservative audience, and thus the idea of his heroine’s aborting the child is no sooner floated than dispelled.
How dare Apatow "dispel" the idea of killing a baby, even if it is only a fictitious one!
In fact, The New Yorker seems to be disgusted with the entire theme of giving birth. Lane haughtily desparages the film with: "I suppose that, with a baby due, there is no way it was ever going to avoid a sentimental splurge." Here he is obviously turning up his nose at the very idea of a such a "sentimental" thing as a baby's birth.
Slate is no better with reviewer Dana Stevens seeming to insist that no one in an "upper-middle-class, secular L.A" would ever imagine that abortion isn't an option.
Allow me to briefly divagate here on the nonexistence of abortion as an option in Knocked Up. This omission smells of the focus group, and it's a disappointment in a movie that otherwise prides itself on its unsentimental honesty about the realities of unplanned parenthood. It's just not believable that, in Alison and Ben's upper-middle-class, secular L.A. milieu, abortion would not be matter-of-factly discussed as a possibility in the case of a pregnancy this accidental.
Her pedantic use of "divagate" aside, Stevens is amazing because she is such a true believer in abortion that she just can't imagine that anyone else except, perhaps, a knuckle dragging midwestern rube, would ever care about the life of a fetus... or is that an unviable clump of cells? What ever the hip phrase for infanticide is today.
And let us not leave out The New York Times, all the news that's fit to abort, which quickly jumps on the why-not-have-an-abortion bandwagon with a review by Mireya Navarro.
The possibility of not having the baby is never discussed by either woman despite her circumstances. The word “abortion” is never uttered...Though conservatives regularly accuse Hollywood of being overly liberal on social issues, abortion rarely comes up in film.
One interesting portion of Navarro's NYTimes review, however, was a bit shocking for it's unexpected honesty.
While pondering exactly why it might be that movie makers don't show abortion as regularly as she would like, Navarro seems to admit that abortion is unsavory and makes the aborter an "unsympathetic character", revealing that even she knows deep in her heart that abortion is somehow wrong and/or bad.
Perhaps directors of feel-good movies don’t want to risk portraying their heroines as unsympathetic characters.
If I didn't think that Sigmund Freud was such a fraud, I'd say Navarro had a bout with parapraxis... or to be less pedantic, she had a Freudian slip there.
Navarro scolds the movie because conservative anti-abortion advocates are recommending the film for the fact that its characters don't consider an abortion as a viable parenting option.
Some on the anti-abortion side seem to think so. Many conservative bloggers have claimed “Knocked Up” as an anti-choice movie, in part because the movie never presents abortion as a serious option.
Gasp! The horrors!
In any case, each and every one of these political positions parading as a movie review says the same thing about the reason that Hollywood is reticent to highlight the abortion option in their films. They all assume that the box office take would be a bust for a film where expectant Mothers go about killing their babies.
And this begs the question... if abortion is so well accepted by everyone, if it is so matter of factly an option for most "sensible" Americans, why would a movie that reflects that be such an obvious bomb? Could it be because even common folks who accept abortion at some perfunctory level don't want to see movies where Mothers kill their babies? Could it be that even nominal supporters of abortion are uncomfortable with the procedure when all is said and done? Could it also be that far more people are either totally against abortion or are at least are uncomfortable with its moral implications than there are those who easily accept it as a mere choice in life?
In any case, these abortion supporting reviewers seem to be straight forwardly admitting that their blasé views on abortion are in the minority -- making them an awfully small audience -- and this would seem to be troublesome when spending the millions it takes to make a film.
Were I a movie producer, I think I'd like my film to get a wider audience than that tiny fragment of the country who are rabid abortion advocates.
How about you?
Related post by Ken Shepherd here.