For democrats and people who believe women should be able to control their own bodies, abortion has been a key issue in the sadly enduring battle for women's rights. However, that hasn't stopped supposedly liberal, godless Hollywood from consistently portraying abortion not as a reasonable, arguably responsible option, but as a tragedy where anyone who's had an abortion is wracked with guilt and regret, and a "happy ending" to an unwanted pregnancy is almost always for the woman to have the baby regardless of who the father is or whether the potential mother is ready or able to raise a child at that moment in her life. That's why a film like Obvious Child feels so needed and important as it tells the story of a 20-something comedienne who unexpectedly gets pregnant over a drunken one-night stand and never wavers in her decision to have an abortion despite the inevitably uncomfortable conversations it will involve. And did I mention it's a comedy? Watch the trailer for Obvious Child below.
Stand-up comic Jenny Slate plays stand-up comic Donna Stern, whose confessional, oversharing, often body function-related humor (along with her undeniably winning charm) has earned her fans at a Brooklyn bar's comedy night, though not in numbers that would allow her to quit her day job at a bookstore. After an unexpected and humiliating breakup, Donna takes solace in a drunken one-night stand with a nice but somewhat square business school-type named Max (Jake Lacy). When Donna realizes that not enough contraceptive care was taken, the idea of having the baby is never seriously considered. She isn't ready emotionally or financially, she hardly knows Max, and is still trying to get her career started. While the good-humored support of her best friends (Gabe Liedman and Abby Hoffmann) is appreciated, Donna's mind is already made up -- and in keeping with her personality, she isn't afraid to make inappropriate jokes about it to relieve tension. But that doesn't answer the questions of what she might tell her parents (Richard Kind and Polly Draper) or Max, who continues to show interest in her.
Like Donna, most of my unmarried female friends consider a surprise pregnancy to be their worst nightmare, where having a baby before they're ready (particularly with a one-night stand) and scuttling the personal and career plans they've made for themselves is utterly unfathomable. Yet in two of 2007's hottest films, Knocked Up and Juno, we're supposed to accept that a career-driven woman who had just been offered her dream job and an independent, intelligent, non-conformist teenager would, with no religious or family pressure, decide to have babies with men they aren't attracted to -- or, in the case of Knocked Up, a guy who is a total slacker with no money or discernible future.
I'm not saying that women who make similar decisions are dumb, despite the fact that I (and probably you) would probably give the opposite counsel to friends in similar situations. But in a country where 1 in 3 women will have an abortion at some point in their lives, I think popular culture needs to do a much better job of showing the reality of what abortion is for millions of women: a difficult, emotional, but ultimately prudent decision made after a lot of careful deliberation, soul searching, and evaluation that by no means forgoes the possibility of having children in the future with the right person at the right time. Abortion obviously isn't something to be bragged about or taken lightly, but in light of the facts, there should be more characters who reflect the reality of what abortion is to so many women. And if you want to play the "God hates abortion" card, just show me the passage in the Bible where God or Jesus explicitly condemns abortion, which you can't do because it doesn't exist.
That's why Obvious Child, in addition to being funny, well-acted, and touching, feels so important. There will be over two and a half million unplanned pregnancies in America this year, and those women (especially those who are young and frightened) need to know that they have a choice. That choice isn't good vs. bad, tragedy vs. blessing, or guilt vs. celebration, but whether making the lifetime commitment to having a baby at this moment with this father is really what they should be doing at this point in their lives. While movies like Obvious Child are fiction, they are stories that can act as a reference and a shared experience that can be valuable when applied in the real world. And considering that, at this very moment, there is undoubtedly a young woman who is learning that she is unexpectedly pregnant and knows that she isn't ready to have a baby, I'm heartened to know that there's a movie like Obvious Child out there for her to watch so she can feel that she isn't alone and shouldn't be condemned for doing what she feels is best.