Film Juno Analysis Essay

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Jason Reitman's 2007 film Juno addresses a difficult and potentially controversial topic: unwanted pregnancy and the challenges of deciding whether to terminate the pregnancy or carry it to term. Braha and Bryne describe Juno as a "comedy-drama," but it is also a young adult film because its protagonist is a teenager and because it frankly addresses coming-of-age issues linked to uniquely adolescent sexuality and gender identity. The film focuses on titular character Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) and her decision to carry the pregnancy to term and give up the baby for adoption. Focusing on Juno empowers the protagonist and shows that Reitman deliberately sets out to make a film that is as much about the politics of sexuality and gender as it is about the specific issues related to decisions related to abortion. Juno remains fully in control of her decisions about whether or not to stay with Paulie and of course decisions related to the baby. Therefore, the film has a feminist approach. Yet inadvertently or not, Reitman ends up drumming up questions related to the depiction of masculinity, and Juno does convey problematic gender discourse in spite of its essentially feminist outlook. By conveying a soft brand of feminism with ironic overtimes, the Reitman film manages to appeal to a broad mainstream audience, pleasing the pro-life set in that Juno keeps the baby and also avoiding what could have easily become proselytizing for the anti-choice movement.

The writing is one reason why Juno became relatively successful, earning Diablo Cody an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Adding liberal doses of both wet and dry comedy helps to uplift what might otherwise been a heavy film about a difficult subject. For example, when Juno breaks the news to her parents about her pregnancy, their reaction is ironic and wholly unexpected. After the dad says, "Did you see that coming?" Mom replies, "No, I was hoping she was expelled or into hard drugs." Then the father adds, "Yeah, or a DWI. Anything but this." Making fun of the issue helps to dissipate some of the tension surrounding an unplanned teen pregnancy but also covertly covers up an underlying pro-life discourse because making light of the situation suggests that getting pregnant and carrying the child to term is not the end of the world even for a teenager still in school.
The film fails to get into the negative effects of teen pregnancy, presenting an unnecessarily rosy picture. Still, the writing remains clever and punchy throughout the film, as when Juno's friend comments that there are advertisements for parents who are "desperately seeking spawn." In addition to clever writing, Juno is successful in spite of its thematic flaws because of its tone and style. Geared toward a young adult audience, the film is quirky with a protagonist who is frank and honest about herself and has a realistic outlook on life. For example, Juno's father mentions, "I didn't know you were that kind of girl," to which Juno responds, "I don't really know what kind of girl I am." Reitman addresses issues related to adolescent identity formation as well as issues related to gender.

Juno sends an empowering message to young women about healthy identity construction within a white, cis-gender framework. Using the feminist analysis presented by Hayward in Concepts as well as auteur theory, it is apparent the title character never has to negotiate other elements of intersectionality like race or social class, as she is white and from a privileged background as is the father of her child, Pauli Bleeker (Michael Cera). By placing the female body and the female choice related to sexuality and childbirth at the center of the film, Reitman does create a feminist discourse. As Cohan and Hark points out, in film "traditionally the male body has been viewed as the norm; the female body a deviation,"….....

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Works Cited

Braha, Yael and Bryne, Bill. Creative Motion Graphic Titling. Burlington, MA: Elsevier, 2011.

Cohan, Steven and Hark, Ina Rae. Screening the Male. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Clover, Carol J. Men, Women, and Chain Saws. Princeton: Princeton Unviersity Press, 2015.

Hayward, S. Key Concepts in Cinema Studies. Birmingham: University of Birmingham Press, 1996.

Hayward, Susan. Cinema Studies: Key Concepts. 4th Edition. New York: Routledge, 2013.

Tarancon, Juan Antonio. "Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007): A practical case study of teens, film, and cultural studies. Cultural Studies. Vol. 26, Issue 4, pp. 442-468.

Willis, Jessica L. "Sexual Subjectivity: A Semiotic Analysis of Girlhood, Sex, and Sexuality in the Film Juno." Sexuality and Culture, Vol. 12, Issue 4, pp. 240-256.

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