In what some find to be an audacious effort to both modernize and politicize the traditional romantic-comedy movie genre — often referred to as “rom-coms” —an independent film distributor last month released “Obvious Child,” a film which seemingly attempts to “normalize” the issue of abortion through the use of crude humor, ill-timed romance and New York hipsters.
And it fails miserably, according to several local pro-life Catholics.
The low-budget, Kickstarter-funded film stars former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Jenny Slate as Donna, a stand-up comedian from Brooklyn who has a one-night stand that leads to a pregnancy. An example of the movie’s so-called wit?
“I’m pregnant and I’m having an abortion,” a teary Donna confesses to her mother late in the film.
“Thank God,” her mother replies. “I thought you were going to tell me you were moving to L.A.”
For Catherine Bauer, who saw the movie with a small group of fellow young adult pro-lifers from Holy Trinity Church in Atwater Village, the film was far from funny, and nothing about the script’s dialogue addressing abortion rang true.
“Statistically speaking, 46 percent of Americans are against abortion,” Bauer noted. But in the movie, “the way Max [the one-night stand] responded, the way Donna responded, the way her friends responded — it’s a dream world,” said Bauer. “One-hundred percent of the people you know are supportive? I think you’re going to run into a lot of people in your life who will question you and ask, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’
“Nothing worked about the story,” she added, calling it an “agenda-driven” film.
Meaghen Hale, an editor for Catholic Insight, a pro-life magazine, expressed similar thoughts regarding what she deems as the movie’s lack of sincerity.
“I think the film portrays what people want to be true about abortion,” said Hale. “They want it to be an easy decision. They want their family and friends to affirm them and rail against anyone who says otherwise. They want to believe it is only ‘five minutes of pain’ (paraphrased from the movie dialogue).
“As a NewYork Times review says of the movie, ‘In the two weeks leading up to her appointment, Donna…never wavers on her course of action.’ Of course she never wavers — because abortion is [presented as] a normal elective procedure, like having a tooth removed,” she continued. “The film portrays the veneer of abortion, the picture we hold up so we do not have to look at the horrifying reality.”
According to Kevin Kast, project coordinator for the archdiocesan Office of Life, Justice and Peace, his office coordinated the movie outing with Bauer, Hale and other pro-lifers to ensure “that we have an educated response to it, and really speak to what’s actually in the film, instead of just what we’re hearing about it.
“This movie is probably the first attempt I have seen to romanticize abortion,” he said, noting that the greatest so-called “act of love” in the film is Max’s decision to accompany Donna to her abortion. Later, following the abortion, the movie ends with the pair watching a classic romance film together in front of the television.
“This really does more than just say, ‘This is normal.’ It tries to say that ultimately her abortion led to this great love story,” said Kast. “It’s totally antithetical to what true love is, to what true masculinity is, to what female empowerment really looks like; it’s actually tragic. The movie has a very clear agenda of promoting abortion, but [it] doesn’t really escape the truths of it.”
Instead of gaining broader pro-choice support, one of the movie-goers who watched the film with the Holy Trinity group — a crisis pregnancy and post-abortive counselor (who requested anonymity) believes and fervently hopes that “Obvious Child” might actually have the opposite effect on audiences.
“I hope [this movie] will show people the reality of the culture of death: the anger, vulgarity and negativity that surround it,” she said. “I also hope that it will lead people to dialogue about what abortion really is and that it is not something to joke about. I hope that women who have been involved in abortion and have had a different experience will come forward and express their dismay of the film.”