One of the pet topics on MSNBC’s The Cycle recently has been the film Obvious Child. The new movie centers on the story of one woman who accidentally conceives after a one-night stand and decides to have an abortion. “It’s sweet, it’s funny, and it’s a rare look at one woman’s story of having an abortion and, spoiler alert, her life does not end broken and miserable,” MSNBC host Krystal Ball crowed on Thursday.
On Thursday, MSNBC hosts interviewed some of the talent behind the movie which, to be honest, sounds like the perfect subject of a film: the exploration of a subject rarely examined objectively and from a relatively unique angle. However, it seems as though the MSNBC hosts are more enamored with what the filmmaker said is the message of the film: the subject’s decision to have a “positive, safe, shame-free abortion.”
Beats “safe, legal, and rare,” no?
Now, just to get this out of the way: I do support the protections provided by Roe. However, what the filmmakers seem to be trying to achieve, and what the MSNBC hosts are attempting to promote, is to make the decision to get an abortion one that circumvents the conscience. That seems to not only be an unattainable goal, but an undesirable one as well.
When asked why their film was so unique in Hollywood in the sense that there are relatively few movies which portray abortion in a positive light, star Jenny Slate countered that film was not breaking new ground.
“Fast Times at Rigemont High is a great example of a positive, regrets-free abortion,” Slate said.
Hmm. Now, it’s been a while since I watched Fast Times, but I don’t recall it being particularly pro-abortion. In fact, from pregnancy to post-abandonment revenge, the character Stacy Hamilton endures nothing but trauma.
After being impregnated by a callous and unscrupulous Mike Damone in a pool changing room, Stacy confronts him with the fact that she is pregnant. When Damone insists that she must abort the child, a decision she has already come to, Damone agrees to pay for half of the procedure and provide a ride to the clinic. When, however, it comes time for him to make good on his offer, Damone is nowhere to be found.
Stacy proceeds to lie to her brother in order to get a ride to the clinic and undergoes the procedure alone. Even at the last moment, she is wracked with indecision:
After leaving the clinic, she is confronted by her brother who comforts her and pledges to take revenge on Damone.
Slate calls this a “sweet, tender moment.” I suppose the tale of sibling love related in that moment is “sweet,” but the circumstances which bring them together are anything but. If this is as close as it gets to a positive portrayal of abortion in Hollywood, I suppose the bar for Obvious Child’s success is set rather low.
There is distinction between “shame-free” and “consequence-free,” and abortion will never be the latter. Most, like the character of Stacy Hamilton, agonize over up up until the last minute. It seems to me that the MSNBC hosts and the filmmakers in this case are reaching to glamorize one of the few acts which is so emotionally draining and morally challenging that even Hollywood has been unable to destigmatize it.
Good luck, team Obvious Child. It seems like it’s going to be an uphill battle.
An earlier version of this post referred to Slate as the film’s “writer and director.”