A friend posted something on FB recently about a screenwriter who writes under a moniker too corny for a comic book supervillain, even if the comic book were about cowboys. The one who got work stripping so she could write about stripping and how skeezy all the real strippers are. Yes, I mean the screenwriter who wants to be called something that means Devil TowninWyoming. (I will NOT.)
I could forgive her most of that (not the outright treachery to her sex, though) if she hadn’t written this:
I watched Juno with great trepidation because certain of my a’relatives said the main character reminded them of me. (I still talk to these people, but only when we’re in the same room.)
What I liked: The acting.
What I hated: The cheesycute indie music, the cheesycute indie wobbly-drawn-letters opening credits, the straight up Mary Sue-ness of the main character, the flippant treatment of every serious issue it pretends to engage (teen pregnancy, abortion, adoption) when all this movie really wants to do is show us all how adorable and clever it is; the casual racism, many of the movie’s fans, and every
of that horrible,
I hate it from chair to chair. (Oh, look! A Frame! There’s no reason for it to be there at all, but…A Frame! Sooo intelligent, so literary!) I hate it so much there was no need for me to re-view it in order to write this post, because very horrible line, every inappropriate moment, every conflict or hint of trouble Juno dodges just by being Juno is seared into my brain as if by a woodburning set. This movie is such a perfect shitstorm that I truly enjoy hating it. Join me, won’t you?
I’ll skip the music and credits crap and merely observe that so lame and so cute and so trite are they that the a’relatives I mentioned, the only ones I know who found this clever and new, were all in their seventies at the time. I don’t think that’s the audience the creators were going for here.
First, the Mary Sue-ness! The only thing to know about Juno is that she is absolutely perfect. She is the coolest hippest cleverest funniest capable-est teenager ever. Just in case you don’t figure it out, the script has the father of her baby TELL her so: “You’re, like, the coolest person I’ve ever met, and you don’t even have to try, you know?”
The problem is that this guarantees nothing bad will ever happen to her, and therefore she cannot be in a story because stories require conflict. I didn’t see any. None, anywhere, about anything.
Had her wisecracking character had to actually face an actual teen pregnancy with actual repercussions, she might have grown. We might have seen that the wisecracking was a facade, that Juno really cares that her only interaction with her mother is getting a cactus in the mail every year. Nope! None of that shit. She remains perfect throughout, and nothing seems to touch her. Her pregnancy and adoption are a Wacky Adventure that end with the same guy and the same chair and the same song, as if to underscore how little has actually happened in the last 90 minutes or so.
A serious issue: Teen pregnancy! Juno is such a hip, unusual free spirit that that she took it upon herself to get pregnant by initiating sex for the hell of it one day and oops! getting pregnant her very first (and apparently only) time. Yes, this is possible, but that’s not why it’s written that way. It’s written that way so that awesome wonderful Juno is A) in control of the pregnancy from the beginning and B) Not a slut. So not a slut like those Other pregnant teens (or strippers) one encounters in Real Life. They had sex more than once, every one of them, the dirty little whores. Juno is so cool she can get herself pregnant with hardly any help at all and not even “deserve” it. The worst reaction to the pregnancy I remember is a scene where a bunch of other students back away from her in the hall lest she breathe on them and make them Catch Pregnant. Her family thinks it’s just awesomesauce she got knocked up, and so does pretty much everyone else. Hey, teens of today? I don’t know why you make such a big deal out of this. Being up the spout is totes the shit!
Again, a missed opportunity for character development: If Juno expressed a need for boundaries from her permissive family by getting pregnant, and anyone dealt with this in any fucking way at all beside shrug, that is. But character development and conflict are way too conventional for Devil TowninWyoming.
A serious issue: Abortion! Know why you shouldn’t get an abortion? The receptionist in the clinic is a complete freak, and your embryo has fingernails.
In the first place, NO. I looked it up. Fingernails start to form around week twelve, by which time more than nine out of ten of the abortions done in this country have already been performed. More gender treachery from Devil TowninWyoming, who has no reason to lie about such things but does it anyway.
(I’ll pause here to note that some people consider Ms. TowninWyoming a feminist. Think about that as you read.)
In the second place, when real girls and women get pregnant, they really face a hard choice. They really have to make a freaking choice. Juno doesn’t, because the script can’t be bothered. One senses that the author felt some conflict coming and felt that this might make her
youthful self-insert main charatcer look bad in some way, and ducked around it at the last second. Juno rejects abortion based on zero information and very little emotion. No decision-making at all. Well that was easy. Everything’s easy when you’re Juno! (What kind of choice was that?!)
Third: The receptionist is a freak partly because she actually has too many piercings and tats to be truly Hip, but mainly because she uses, with her boyfriend, the flavored condoms the place hands out. Oh my god, what a freaky slutty-slut-slut. If you stay in the abortion clinic with someone like that, you will so catch Slut and then the next thing you know you’ll be pregnant again because those flavored condoms are for sluts so you didn’t use them.
(Yes, they do, I swear. Some people really believe this woman is a feminist.)
Serious issue: Adoption! Juno wants a closed adoption–no reasons given, she just wants to “kick it old school” and do like “Moses in the reeds.” Considering adoption? Open versus closed adoption is a question you need devote zero time to, because not having this kid around will not affect you and not having you around will not affect this kid. It’s Movie Adoption Magic! And it would do a lot less damage if the world weren’t full of people who still believe this shit.
Why did Ms. TowninWyoming do this? Why? I don’t get it. The screenplay does not continue for long after the birth. There would never have been any scene in which the open adoption plays out. All I can figure is that Juno rejects open adoption because she is So Very Good and So Very Not A Slut that she is compelled to do what a “Good birthmother” does: Pony up the goods and GTFO. She’s so Good she doesn’t even want to know the baby’s sex! (Again, if there were any indication this were Juno toughening up because she loves the baby and wants to keep it, and that a character developing downfall is coming, I’d go along. Nope. “Close it up!”)
She finds parents for the baby in the Penny Saver and tra la la, goes to meet them. I don’t remember if both sides of the adoption use the same lawyer or anything awful like that. I do remember that the woman, whom I’ll call Mrs. Mommy, is a responsible career woman who apparently lives to harsh her husband’s buzz. She might have been the villain of the piece, but she’s rather sympathetic. All she wants, after all, is to be a mother, and this is a Good womanly ambition. And someone has to be Good enough to raise Juno’s baby.
(That feminism–I’m somehow not feelin’ it.)
Her husband, who shall be known here as Mr. Manchild, doesn’t want to be a father, but never had the balls to bring this up during the process of getting married, being married or putting “looking to adopt” ads in the Penny Saver. There’s an incredibly creepy scene in which Juno drops by and Mrs. Mommy isn’t home and she and Mr. Manchild discover they like the same films and music and–Well, here’s went through my mind:
This is so wrong. He’s gonna try to kiss her to prove he’s not a grown-up or something–that’s just the kind of guy he is. It’s gonna happen. So carefully has this conflict been set up that it has to happen–dude has to make a move on this kid half his age who’s the mother of his child-to-be–and then won’t we have something to really chew on?
But that would be a conflict, and Juno might look bad, so of course nothing happens at all. The scene apparently only exists to provide more more more evidence of how cute and clever Juno is. Haha wow, she is all up in the nostalgia of an older generation. (It’s different and special of her because no young person ever spurned what all the other young people liked in favor older cooler stuff–it’s so off the wall, amirite? Crazy kid!) So Mr. Manchild and Mrs. Mommy divorce, and Juno gives birth and cries. The next thing you know, she’s with the same guy near the same chair playing and singing the song from the opening credits. Adoption is easy! It changes nothing!
In the delivery room, Juno’s stepmom says “Someday you’ll be back here, honey… on your terms” and my head explodes. These WERE her terms. Everything in the movie, from conception to birth, from chair to chair, was done on wonderful Juno’s wonderful terms. Now you throw out this line like you want to make it look like there was coercion or pressure or I dunno, some sort of problem to be solved in this movie? Pfft. Too late.
The casual racism! The only non-white character I remember is Su Chin (?), the girl who convinces Juno her fetus has fingernails. She’s in classes with Juno, so she can obviously write a decent paper, but she’s Chinese. So when she stands outside the abortion clinic? You guys are not gonna believe this–Her slogan? Is “All Babies Want To Get Borned!”
Borned. It’s funny because she’s Chinese.
Fuck you, Devil TowninWyoming. Of course, there’s this:
“You should’ve gone to China, you know, ’cause I hear they give away babies like free iPods. You know, they pretty much just put them in those t-shirt guns and shoot them out at sporting events.”
(She’s a feminist. That’s why she finds jokes about sex-based child abandonment so fucking funny. Know what else is a riot? Infanticide! which some women who give birth to “the wrong sex” surely still practice somewhere. LOL!)
And don’t think that just because there are no black people in Juno’s world that they’ll escape the casual racism. Did you know Morgan Freeman starred in The Bone Collector? Me neither! Fuck it, it was SOME black guy, and being accurate would ruin the lame-ass joke.
The fans! Here’s one now:
Personally I think Juno is brillient [sic]. Personally I think that so often young people who get pregnant think that their only option is abortion, as does Juno. This film doesn;t take away this option, Juno goes for an obortion [for a what now? you spelled that right not twenty words ago!] and changes her mind, it doesn’t make abortion look bad but shows that it isn’t the only option. Brings in the idea of adoption, so many people never consider adoption as an option, I think it’s great that this film shows young people that it can be an option!
Personally I think you’re a moron. Personally I think that you’ve never considered what being pregnant is like or how any of the options might feel, just as Devil TowninWyoming hasn’t. This film doesn’t take away this option, it waves it away. “So many people never consider adoption” because JESUS CHRIST CAN YOU READ YOURSELF TYPE? Would YOU give your baby to strangers if you weren’t desperate? I think that if you really think young pregnant women aren’t presented with the “adoption option,” you’re even stupider than a moron–and Stephanie Bennet, for one, would like a word with you. She had a baby once….
“Yo yo yiggidy yo.”
“This is one doodle that can’t be un-did, Homeskillet.”
“Honest to blog?”
(On the PAPs) “They were Mark and Vanessa Loring. And they were beautiful even in black and white.”
(To the PAPs) “If I could just have the thing and give it to you now, I totally would, but I’m guessing it looks probably like a sea-monkey right now and we should let it get a little cuter.”
(No, it’s totally an already-baby WITH FINGERNAILS,remember?)
(Juno to Mrs. Mommy) “It’s a baby. It’s your baby. It kinda looks like it’s waving, you know, like it’s saying, ‘Hey Vanessa, will you be my mom?'”
Finally, a few things that just pissed me off: I can tell it’s autumn. There are leaves blowing about. I see lots of orange. I don’t need a big wobbly animated caption saying AUTUMN.
“Thundercats are” not “go.” Thundercats are on the move. Thundercats are loose. Thunderbirds are go. If you’re going to use multi-generational pop culture references to show how cool
you are Juno is, get them right. She could have yelled “Thundercats Ho-o-o-o!” and been at least as funny by me.
After Ms. TowninWyoming was mentioned by my friend, I thought I might do the big fat Juno post, but probably not. It was the comment I quoted from a fan that really made me write this entry. I understand now why people express incredulity that more women “aren’t aware” of the “adoption option.” They really do think it’s as easy as Juno makes it look–two sobs (one before the birth and one after) and it’s right back to your happy quirky teenage life like nothing happened. For all I know, people at agencies still tell pregnant women this; they certainly used to.
So fuck this movie forever for a million reasons, but primarily for contributing to that mindset.