23 January 2008

Smushmortion cinema

Sweet! I called Susie Bright out and she totally took it as a compliment. Well, I didn't call her out; I just said the label "sex-positive" was "creepy." (As someone who grew up in the AIDS era, living in the Bay Area in the 1980s and early '90s, I simply find it too semantically close to "HIV-positive," which was actually a big improvement over the grimmer: "I have AIDS.")

And she read my blog yesterday in which I called Diablo Cody "the Susie Bright of the new millennium," which I definitely did mean as a compliment, and she commented on it! Cool. I have had a lot of great times in my life thanks to her.
I went and read Susie's piece she pointed me to on Smushmortion cinema (the word they dare not utter?): about Knocked Up, Juno, and a zillion other teen comedies young women who get pregnant and make the hardest choices of all. (Read the comments -- they are excellent, too.)

Coincidentally, at the same time, I was in the car during part of the Talk of the Nation show on NPR, where abortion was under discussion. There were two calls in succession, one from a woman who was still devastated by her abortion 20-some years later and had never let herself have children because, she told herself, she had "taken a life." This sad soul had never told anyone or gotten herself any help with her feelings about it. Another woman called right after that and said she had been living with her husband in England and together they made the decision to have an abortion because of where they were and what they were doing, and she was wondering if she should have more feelings about it but said she didn't have any shame. It was true. She was Jewish, not Catholic, which also helped, she said. But it was the right thing for her to do at that time.

All this reading and listening brought me to this. If I have one criticism of the ending of Juno it is that there is no complexity in the young woman's response to having given over her desperately sought spawn to that control-freak of a mom. We only see her tiny little figure dramatically restored, trading tender musical phrases with her boyfriend, never even a thought about her newly stretched anatomical features to come between their love. (And was it my imagination or was there also a presumption that as a married lady Jennifer Garner's character wouldn't be keepin' it quite real enough; but making her into a single mom gave her some of the edginess we now require from our heroines, now that we're all over our collective cheerleader lust and have officially gone gaga for goth girls?)

Yet what I also found out is that there are some weird little hooks in Juno for me for precisely the reason I talked about yesterday: there are some surprising little echoes of things that are true in my world.

In Susie's world, apparently, it's highly unlikely you would ever find out that your high-school sweetheart was really your one true love. So far, however, having just celebrated the 28th anniversary of our first date (still can't believe we picked seeing Kramer vs. Kramer, which you could only say scared us straight if you were waaaay oversimplifying things), I can say this is a happy ending that can work and even be realistic.

And in Susie's world, perhaps adoption is a less likely outcome. But get this: between us we have (eerie parallel number two) adopted a child! Yes, we're one of those yuppie families who adopt children, only we went to India instead of through the Penny Saver. We don't live in any mcmansion, either; the only other parallel between us and that freakish couple in Juno is that I try to keep my sweet magenta hardbody electric guitar in tune most of the time, as I still harbor not-so-secret dreams of becoming a rock star (me, for the record: a 45-year-old mom with crow's feet and saddlebags in a suburb of a Western US city).

Other than the things I have mentioned already (support of family & friends), I suppose the similarities to anything I have gone through begin and end there. But I still am willing to give Juno props in part because I was touched by its attempt to compassionately portray all the different sides of the "adoption triad": the relinquishing parent, the child, and the adoptive family. Most stories want to give all the screen time to one of them, but this one really tried to not give anyone the short end of the reality stick, I thought.

Plus, what no one keeps saying about all the wisecracking Juno does is that isn't it a covering of her tracks, the kind of patter that is usually evidence of a intelligent and defensive person at work not saying some of the stuff that's really going on behind the patter and sleight-of-hand? Couldn't there be more going on than meets the ear in this character's inner life?

And I think enough's been said about Knocked Up. I don't need to add to the din on that one; you can probably guess what I have to say. Call me when Judd Apatow learns how to tell a good story, not just a laughable one.

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