Monday, June 04, 2007

I Don't See Any Pro-Life Nods in "Knocked Up"

So I heard David Edelstein's review of Knocked Up last week and debated whether or not to actually see the film. I was hoping for a light, summer screwball comedy but his review made it sound like an ode to the Pro-Life movement.

I took the plunge, however, and went to see the film last night. And, I don't see the "conservative" theme at all. I now reject Edelstein's analysis of the film which seems to hinge on a few key points: that Alison decides to not get an abortion and that she and Ben end up together and thereby complete nuclear family bliss. This is what bothers me. Why are these choices deemed "conservative" and thereby considered to be in league with a more right-leaning politics?

First of all, Alison chooses to keep the baby, which is perfectly consistent with a progressive, feminist and pro-choice worldview. In fact, to isinuate that the only way this film would be reflective of those kind of politics would be if Alison gets and abortion and eschews the trappings of nuclear family life is, frankly, a parody of liberal/progressive politics.

The film is funny. My friends laughed far more than I did, only because in some ways the fears, the hormonal rages, and the birthing scenes hit too close to home for me. I probably should have seen this film after I gave birth. I had a hard time believing that Alison could fall in love with Ben, but by the end of the film Ben endeared himself to me.

The film is also very middle class--money is not really an issue. Alison gets a promotion, rather than penalized for her pregnancy. Even Ben lives pretty well for his "squalor." And, I found it hard to believe he could turn his life around so quickly and get a decent job in L.A. But, it is a film--i.e. fantasy.

What did the rest of you think? To whet your appetite, here is snippet of Kathryn Jean Lopez's review from NRO:

In Knocked Up abortion is presented as an option whose time has come and gone. You don’t get a baby “taken care of,” not when you can see the little one and her heartbeat on a monitor on the first post-conception doctor visit. Not when even loser Ben’s dad can tell him he’s the “best thing that ever happened” to him. Not when we know that Alison’s sister had an unexpected pregnancy, and that Alison wouldn’t have that beautiful but bratty six-year-old niece she loves.

That’s the refreshing part of the movie: There’s no question it embraces life. If you stretched optimism a little bit further you would see some kind of ode to marriage in it. First off, even Ben, whose only real relationship is with his bong, thinks he should “make an honest woman” out of Alison — proposing to her with an empty box and a promise that there’s a ring to come if he ever makes a killing off his “job” (a not-yet-launched website showing hot actresses in their movie nude scenes). And instead of laughing at the sitcom model of bitchy wife (played by Leslie Mann) abusing the nice-guy husband (Paul Rudd), we watch a mean wife nearly ruin her marriage. While hitting a club to celebrate her sister’s promotion (and her whole source of confidence being that she knows men there would want to have sex with her), she’s got her own husband so unhappy he feels the need to lie to her about his fantasy baseball league. (Not that he’s a model husband either; he lies about going to work when he’s actually going to a movie.)

The only reason we have hope for these characters is the baby, who only appears at the end. The baby doesn’t destroy Alison’s career. The baby nurtures a love between Alison and Ben, a very unlikely couple. The baby ultimately brings the unhappily married (for no real good reason) Debbie and Peter back together.

But as delighted as I am for the Knocked Up message that sex has consequences (including unexpected joy and transformative love) and parents have responsibilities, there’s something about Knocked Up that still leaves one a bit disturbed — and a little depressed. It’s pro-life and pro-marriage in its crude way. And it’s important that Hollywood isn’t making pro-life, pro-marriage movies just for more conservative audiences.
Here's an interesting interview with Judd Apatow. And as I listened to it, I kept thinking how ridiculously polarized we still are if we think that making clear there are consequences for our behavior is a "conservative" value. Gee Whiz.

What do you think?