I 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?