When people would ask me my favourite movie, I used to say the endearing 2007 indie flick, "Juno". Used to. It's not because I saw another movie that I deemed greater or more worthy of my attention, but because of the involuntary reaction: "Isn't that movie about teen pregnancy?"
To be fair, I can understand the origin of my conversational partner's concerns. At the peak of my Juno obsession, I was a mere freshman in high school, a bright and starry eyed girl who was probably too young to pretend to understand the emotional impacts of teenage pregnancy. But as I approach my senior year in high school, I can confidently wave off the comments about how the movie "glorifies teen pregnancy" or how "messing up your life isn't funny". Juno isn't solely notable because of its quirky approach to a tabooed subject matter, it's revolutionary because of how all of the characters handle it.
When I say Juno is a role model, I don't mean that all girls should go out and get themselves pregnant to imitate her (contrary to how my mother understood the meaning of "role model" in this context). I mean that Juno's reaction is right between "shockingly cavalier" and total freak out. The matter of fact is, well, that she's matter of fact. And that's the beauty of this movie. Yeah, she made a huge, life-altering, earth-shattering mistake, but it's not as though she sits in bed and cries for days or goes all "Dirty Dancing" and gives herself a coat-hanger abortion. She tells who she has to and deals with it. Juno fails to be conventional and in doing so inspires audiences to do the same. She doesn't rely on other people for emotional support because she catches herself when she falls and admits that it was her fault in the first place when she gets totally screwed over. She's a vessel for life yet she lives for other people. Plus, the sales of hamburger phones totally went way up after Juno's release.
Leah is the best friend that I strive to be to other people. Leah doesn't spend time worrying about how or why Juno initially got knocked up, but how to deal with the situation. She's the one who originally proposes the idea of adoption instead of abortion ("they have ads for parents?" "Yeah! Desperately seeking spawn!"), she helps move an entire living room set to Bleaker's front yard, and she even accompanies Juno to her ultrasound. The thing with Leah is that she's a minor character in the movie, meaning she isn't like constantly nagging Juno as though Juno is a time bomb or waiting on her every hormonal need. Leah's just doing her own thing, keeping it "honest to blog".
Mac and Bren
The depiction of parents in this movie is, I find, what shocks actual parents the most. It's impossible to get a word in edgewise without being cut off- "And they're just OKAY with her being pregnant?!?" Actually, they're not all that okay with it. But they do all they can to help out their stubbornly independent daughter. Yeah, sometimes I wish my parents were as cool as that.
Bren and Mac do parenting right, they follow all the medical procedures, they reassure Juno that she isn't alone, and they give her painful advice about the social protocol of being a teen mom. Like Juno, they share a taste for the unconventional, and focus on efficiency. So it looks like the family with the remarried father and the pregnant daughter may just be the most functional family the big screen has seen in a while... go figure.
Bleaker, other than being the father and love interest, plays a much more minor role than you would originally anticipate. Yeah it's pretty friggin' sweet that he cares for Juno and can... magically sense when she's having her baby? But other than that the focus is refreshingly off the teen father and on the teen mother, who, you know, actually has to deliver the baby and watch herself become so large that she practically has gravitational pull. Feminism at it's finest.
So overall (and this is speaking from a teenage girl's point of view) "Juno" shaped my teenage years in ways that my mother can't even imagine. Besides being insanely quotable and having a rad soundtrack, it's characters inspired me to choose whom you care for wisely. If Juno had a bunch of shitty friends and hadn't taken the time to build a relationship with her father and step-mother, the entire tone of the movie would be thrown for a loop. No matter how dire the situation, you can always look to "Juno" for examples of how to be a rockin' friend, be a better boyfriend, be a more supportive human being in general. Girls, even if indie films aren't your thing or some sad phenomenon occurred in your lifetime that made you opposed to watching movies while searching the meaning, check out "Juno". And for the generation of people above me shaking their fist at the sky and grumbling about the supposed "inappropriateness of this movie for young girls", I say,
Silencio, old man.