Remixin’ Romantic Comedies, Maternity Style


Published: January 31, 2008

Is Tinsel Town unexpectedly dealing with unexpected pregnancies? “Juno” and “Knocked Up” are two 2007 films in which the heroine discovers, after a one-night stand, that she is pregnant.  Life-altering decisions lead both heroines to keep the baby and end up in love with the baby’s daddy.  On the surface, these two movies seem to be starting a trend that brings traditional family values to the silver screen, but is either movie really conveying a pro-life message or a pro-choice message at all?

Initially, the movies seem to communicate traditional values.  Both movies scream  “If you get pregnant and have the baby, it won’t ruin your life!”  However, a message that condones pregnancy out of wedlock is untraditional. As the old saying goes, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.  Characters in a movie with traditional values would get married and then have a baby, not give birth then fall in love.

Reverend Michael Tueth, professor of communications and media studies at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), said “[I don’t] know if you want to label these as ‘traditional values,’ but they are certainly qualities that define what it means to be a genuine, if flawed, human being, who does not need to be stuck in a stereotype but can grow into an honest, responsible and loving adult.”

Furthermore, neither movie necessarily conveys a pro-life message either. Juno and Alison both choose to “affirm life,” said Meir Riblow, Artist in Residence and professor of communications and media studies at FCLC. “Pro-life implies that the films pass along the message that there is something wrong with abortion.”

“Generally there won’t be a movie about abortion because no one wants to see it; people who are pro-choice do not even want to see it.  They will argue that people have a right to have abortion, but no one would see the abortion movie.  Who would spend money to watch that?” Riblow said.

Juno, played by Ellen Page, decides against an abortion after running into her classmate outside the abortion clinic.  After her pro-life peer informs her that fetuses have nails, humanizing her unborn child, her mind is changed.  Although this scene provides comic relief for a touchy subject, this tidbit of information persuades Juno to have the baby and find a suitable couple to adopt her baby.

“Knocked Up” follows a similar plot line. Alison Scott, played by Katherine Heigl, also opts to have her baby after  becoming pregnant during a drunken one-night stand.  Even though Alison hardly knows the father of her baby and has recently jump-started her career, after a serious of hilarious events she gives birth to a healthy baby, and she and the father of the baby end up together and in love.

“‘Juno’ and ‘Knocked Up’ are “classic romantic comedies where two young people not ideally matched end up getting together,” Riblow said. They are the “comedy versions of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’”

Both of these movies resemble the countless romantic comedies of the past.  Like “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” “Drive me Crazy,” “Pretty in Pink” and “Pretty Woman,” in “Juno” and “Knocked Up” a man and a woman can’t seem to make the relationship work, and then they wind up happily in love with each other.  “Juno” and “Knocked Up” just add a new variable—an unplanned baby.  Both movies put a new spin on an old tune.

The heroines’ actions indicate that they are not traditional women; both embody the 2008 hybrid woman who can have sex, have a baby and have it all.   “Juno” and “Knocked Up” fearlessly deal with a subject formally known as taboo.  Ultimately, though, the outcomes of both these new romantic comedies, as well as older romantic comedies, are the same—happiness.