I love the brilliant opening scene of Gillian Robespierre’s short film, Obvious Child , starring SNL’s newest cast member Jenny Slate. Nothing screams “hipster” like breaking up in a New York thrift store, half-buried in a turtleneck. Genius.
But as far as message goes, I felt like this short film fell flat. Its explicit purpose is to preach the pro-choice counterpoint to the anti-abortion undercurrent so winningly portrayed in films like Juno and Knocked Up . I was unswayed. I can’t help wanting a little hope and redemption in my entertainment (not to mention real life). That’s why the plots of all of the recent pregnant-mama films resonate: Selfish, naive young people get pregnant and decide to stop living entirely for themselves and take responsibility for their actions. And we cheer for them, because we want their fictional careless escapades to be redeemed by some warm-hearted selflessness.
I can hear the criticism piling up already. “But it’s not responsible to get pregnant! Abortion is the responsible thing to do, unless you’re the privileged daughter of a well-known politician!” That’s certainly an argument that has a lot of traction in our society today. But for me the most poignant line of Obvious Child was when leading-lady Donna, who fits the classic selfish and naive stereotype to a tee, tells her mom over the phone, “I’m going to have an abortion today.” Her mother’s calm, scripted voice doesn’t waver with the slightest bit of emotion, and soothingly assures her, “Well, you know, that’s probably the best thing to do. You’re so young. You have your whole life ahead of you.” Except, from what I can tell, Donna is a self-absorbed partier in her late 20s or early 30s, prone to one-night stands and brainless conversations with her best gal pal. If I had to flash-forward to a Donna in 20 years, I feel like I’d imagine her living the same old self-absorbed way, only with more wrinkles. All of which is to say, a little dose of reality might do her some serious good.
There’s a lot happening on the political level regarding abortion these days-a lot of scientific questions, economic questions, and moral questions being debated and legislated on. The latest Gallup poll indicated that 51 percent of Americans consider themselves to be pro-life. After watching Obvious Child , I feel pretty confident that until the pro-choice movement finds some heroines that have a little more heart, most of us will take Juno over Donna any day.