Is Hollywood censoring abortion?

knocked up2.jpgI previously blogged about two recently released movies with strong pro-life plots. Both female leads in Waitress and Knocked Up encountered crisis pregnancies and soundly rejected abortion.
In the Washington Post this past Sunday, columnist Ann Hornaday incredibly blamed this on Hollywood – for being afraid of controversy? Please.
Of course, this is false. These days Hollywood enjoys poking controversial sticks in America’s face, badgering us from Brokeback Mountain to Iwo Jima.
But Hornaday theorized that on the topic of abortion, Hollywood has wilted….

“I think it’s shocking that the subject of abortion as a choice has been so eliminated from the discussion,” says New York Press film writer Jennifer Merin, who is also president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists. “It’s not even on the table.” The omission, she adds, “undermines anyone’s claim that Hollywood has a liberal agenda.”


For Merin, the contradiction can be explained by one word: marketing. “They’re always afraid of anything deemed too controversial,” she says of movie companies. “They think that if they talk about abortion, these women will not be liked by the people they perceive as being the majority.”…
Indeed, it’s passing strange that both films go to extreme lengths to avoid offending viewers who find abortion repugnant, but apparently think those same viewers won’t be put off by Russell’s character having an affair with a married man or, in Knocked Up, protagonists who have sex outside marriage, regularly get high and use nearly every swear word in the book….
If moral hypocrisy in Hollywood isn’t necessarily breaking news, it’s instructive to cast one’s memory back about 20 years. As Dana Stevens recently observed in the online journal Slate, in at least two classic 1980s movies, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Dirty Dancing, the filmmakers featured abortion as a serious plot point “without fainting in horror at the notion.”


Or consider a film that came out of Sundance a decade later that now looks positively fearless in its treatment of abortion. Alexander Payne, who went on to make Election, About Schmidt and Sideways, made his promising debut with Citizen Ruth, a scathingly funny satire about abortion politics starring Laura Dern. With pointed, sophisticated humor, Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor skewered the most appalling extremes of the abortion debate, with Dern’s character – a pregnant glue-sniffer named Ruth Stoops – fought over as a mascot by both sides. “I’m gonna stay here,” Ruth says at one point, “and I’m gonna have that abortion like I wanted. ‘Cause I’m a citizen and… and I got my rights to, um, pick!”
In today’s climate of culture wars and self-censoring, it seems impossible that a movie could be so explicit about an issue that, while undoubtedly contested, has enjoyed roughly steady levels of support over the years. As they did in 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, a majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose an abortion: 53% describe themselves as “pro-choice,” according to the most recent Gallup Poll (compared with 42% who call themselves “pro-life”). Then again, the same poll reveals that 51% consider abortion “morally wrong.”…

While pro-lifers disagree that abortion is as popular today as it was in 1973, what if, for the sake of discussion, Hornaday is correct and it is? She says the perception is it’s not. How is that?
How also could it be, if true, that abortion has morphed into an untouchable topic in Hollywood, where nothing liberal is?

25 thoughts on “Is Hollywood censoring abortion?”

  1. Michael Medved talked about this on his show yesterday. He says it because abortion isn’t a “feel good” topic and can’t produce a “happy ending”.
    Drug use, promiscuity, adultery, can all be funny, and be turned around to provide laughs and a good feeling about the outcome…but abortion is, as we all know, kinda final…

  2. I think it’s pretty funny that, not two days later, you post an argument contrary to that of your prized John Coonan rant. However, unlike John’s piece, which is completely divorced from reality (i.e. politicians do indeed declare their stand, if not capitalize on it), Hornaday’s not just “theorizing” per your asinine suggestion. She’s quoting the president of an organization of women film writers. Seems to have a little more authority at least than Hornaday “theorizing.”
    Anyhow… I don’t think much of Hornaday’s opinion. As I said the last time you brought this up… there wouldn’t really be much of a story to make a film about in either case if they’d had abortions. If your going to make an amusing story about the trials and tribulations of pregnancy… well.. you best not abort the baby at the begining.

  3. Cambo, both story lines could certainly have gone other very interesting directions had the writers chosen abortion over birth following unplanned impregnations. And both women could still have ended up with the good guys. Hornaday used the example of “Citizen Ruth” to say abortion can even be used for attempted humor.
    Wasn’t Hornaday’s partial point that story lines purposefully are not taken that direction?

  4. “However, unlike John’s piece, which is completely divorced from reality (i.e. politicians do indeed declare their stand, if not capitalize on it)”
    not Barack “Im present, but do not have the courage to vote” Obama. …see quote of the day…
    of course, this also applies to the RINO’s as well, and there are plenty of them.

  5. I hang out online in scriptwriters forums and follow the (writing) side of the industry.
    These films ARE intended to cause controversy. In Hollywood, a pro-life/”abortion is not my choice” view IS controversial – very much so. This is just another example (for them) of pushing the envelope even further. It is possible to lean so far left you end up leaning right.
    Want even more controversy? The writer/director of Waitress was killed by an illegal immigrant before the film’s completion.
    Although, the writer/director of Knocked Up also wrote The 40 Year-Old Virgin… maybe there is a countercultural (or at least a counter-free love) zeitgeist out there!

  6. I’m pretty sure that Laura Dern attends the pro choice rallies. I remember in the movie ‘Derailed’, Jennifer Aniston’s character says, “I had an abortion.” Although her character never really did, it was part of the twisted plot. I do know that in real life, Aniston is pro choice. I was reading that she has been considering adoption though. I would assume that the actress would have to be pro choice to play that kind of part. Just as some say no to nudity. My opinion.

  7. Fast Times at Ridgemont High; Don’t forget that the girl in the movie initiated the sex. She was the high school “tramp.” She was promiscuous. After she told the guy about the pregnancy, his response was “How do you know it’s mine?” He was backing up the fact that she was a tramp. They agreed to each pay 1/2 for her abortion, and he said he’d give her a ride to the clinic. He was a no show. She went alone, and had to pay for her own abortion. That scene left me feeling very unsettled. When school resumed after summer break, she was already pursuing the guy’s best friend. The other guy wanted nothing more to do with her. Remember when he was actually hiding from her? Blah!

  8. Isn’t the whole plot of Dirty Dancing hinging on the fact Baby has to take the place of the pregnant girl? And she hits her father up for the $ to procure the abortion, since she’s a philanthropist like that. But I didn’t make it through the whole thing, I could be mistaken.

  9. Did anyone notice that abortion was actually in Knocked Up’s dialogue? Her mom pressured her to get an abortion, and the male protagonist’s friend also suggested abortion.
    Quit complaining media!

  10. Heather,
    Remember when she had to run to get her father because he is a doctor and afterwards he won’t talk to her?

  11. Thank you Rosie! I honestly did not see Dirty Dancing all the way through. Just the dancing scenes mainly. Maybe I’ll rent it.

  12. Maybe ‘Fast Times’ was trying to send an antiabortion message after all. They sure didn’t paint the girl in a very flattering light. Actually, they filmed the scene as somewhat of a warning to girls. Don’t have sex with jerks who don’t care about you!

  13. In Fast Times, the girl that got pregnant wasn’t the “tramp,” the “tramp” was her friend who dated all the older guys. She was super naive` and had never really dated before. So, I think calling her the “tramp” in the movie is a little off, because the girl that was actually more promiscuous/exploitive of her sexuality, didn’t get pregnant and didn’t have to face any negative consequences.

  14. Gretchen, The guy who slept with her TREATED her like a tramp. After the abortion, he didn’t even want to say hi to her. He blew her off on the day of the abortion. She was already on to her next conquest anyway. What a love story.

  15. The girl who had the abortion in Dirty Dancing was the dance partner of Patrick Swayze’s character. She got pregnant from one of the rich kids who came to the camp. She went to a back alley abortionist who botched it up and then came back to the camp. Baby (jennifer grey’s character) got her father who was a doctor to come and make her better. He thought Patrick Swayze’s character got her pregnant and then got her the abortion which is why he was so much more against Patrick Swayze than was warranted.
    The only reason I know all this is b/c my roommate in college watched this silly movie about 100 times after it came out…everytime I walked into the apartment that year it was on!!!

  16. Heather4life: I was responding to this post by you where you said she WAS the high school tramp and WAS promiscuous. “She was the high school “tramp.” She was promiscuous.” She wasn’t, her friend was, and I agree, the guy she hooked up with did treat her like she was nothing more than sex, and that knocked her out of being the naive`, sweet girl that she was. Her friend, the one from the famous “getting out of the pool” scene would definitely be construed as the “slutty” girl in high school.

  17. Well, it is just a movie, but I still say that it was somewhat of a warning to girls. Beware of who you sleep with. Her choice to have casual sex lead her to the abortion clinic. She didn’t want to be bothered and neither did he.

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