Magazine article The American Conservative

Survival of the Hippest

Magazine article The American Conservative

Survival of the Hippest

Article excerpt


LAST FALL, I received a half-dozen invitations to screenings of a "quirky" comedy about a "whip-smart" pregnant teen hipsterette who plans to give her baby up for adoption by an affluent couple. With my finger planted firmly nowhere near the pulse of popular opinion, I tossed each one out, thinking, "To listen to teens with attitude, for this I need to leave the house?"

So, in the wake of "Juno's" Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Director (Jason Reitman of "Thank You for Smoking"), Actress (petite 20-yearold Ellen Page), and Original Screenwriter ("Diablo Cody," which is the pole name of 29-year-old self-promoter Brook Busey, whose confessional blog became popular when she started working as a stripper), I ended up paying to see it.

Juno, a cute tomboy who dresses in flannel shirts like Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and has a snarky pop-culture reference ready for every situation, turned out to be just as insufferable as I had expected. If she's so whip-smart, why did she get so pregnant after one evening with a bright but baffled cross-country runner (the subversively blond and bland Michael Cera from "Superbad") with whom she says she's just friends?

Fortunately, my wife, who admired "Juno" greatly, patiently explained to me the film's considerable subtleties until even my clueless male brain could begin to grasp them.

First, though, let's dispose of the controversy over the purported politics of "Juno." Is Juno betraying feminism by choosing adoption over abortion? Sure. Yet there's no mystery why Hollywood heroines (as in the recent "Knocked Up" and "Waitress") almost never have abortions: because babies are adorable and abortions are hideous. Nobody--including, and perhaps especially, pro-choice ideologues--wants to think visually about abortion.

What is interesting is how Cody's semi-autobiographical screenplay undermines teen-movie status cliches about attractive but moronic jocks and cheerleaders lording it over the brilliant but socially oppressed outcasts who presumably get their revenge by moving downtown and writing screenplays about high school.

This conventional dichotomy between the successful versus the cool is embodied in the infertile couple that Juno finds to adopt her baby. Jennifer Garner plays the yuppie wife who maintains a spotless McMansion in a gated community while also working long hours in a corporate career. …

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