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|Hollywood and the Unwed Mother - Page 5|
In their amiable way, both Knocked Up and Juno ask us to consider some serious issues, but they present them through the soft-focus lens of comedy rather than in the harsh light of tragedy. How much of our life should a woman—or a man—invest in our offspring? Are fetuses really human beings? Are they more sacrosanct than their mothers? Or fathers? Instead of inducing tears and dwelling on our suffering and isolation, these films turn the previously tragic subject of mistimed babies into a laughing matter of fun and games.
Using the yellow-warning light of humiliation, comedy makes us see social attitudes with a detachment and clarity that tragedy can't reach. It takes us outside ourselves, sometimes making us laugh at things we didn't previously know were funny. But comedy is also careful not to push us too far, and, according to these two commercially successful comedies, abortion—even the mention of the word—is too far to go, given today's polarizing social debates. As a culture, we're still a long way from being at peace with this sometimes necessary yet always traumatic act, which generates varying proportions of heartbreak and relief. Whether or not we condone abortion, one thing is clear: it is no laughing matter.
Frank Pittman, M.D., is a contributing editor to the Psychotherapy Networker and is in private practice in Atlanta, Georgia. Contact: Fsp3md@aol.com. Letters to the Editor about this department can be e-mailed to Letters@psychnetworker.org.