Is "Knocked Up" Anti-Choice?

This post, written by Bernie Heidkamp, originally appeared on Pop Politics

The new comedy "Knocked Up" -- directed Judd Apatow, who would be in the PopPolitics Hall of Fame (if we had one) as the creator of "Freak and Geeks" -- has received almost universal praise for its honest portrayal of the complications of pregnancy and parenting. But the biggest cultural controversy it has spawned involves its avoidance of even a discussion of abortion -- which is only jokingly considered once as the option that "rhymes with shmashmortion."

Dana Stevens in Slate provides an insightful analysis of the film's abortion politics -- in which she laments the film's presumed lack of moral conviction:
Apatow's reticence on the subject seems to spring less from personal conviction than from the fear of offending his audience's sensibilities. This kind of Trojan horse moralism is maddeningly common in pop-culture representations of abortion, which seem muzzled, invisibly policed, by either the pro-life lobby or the fear of it.
As if to confirm Stevens suspicions, Michael Medved, among other conservative critics, admires what he sees as the film's "potent pro-life message."

Other more liberal critics, such as Tracy Clark-Flory of Salon, come to Apatow's defense:
The whole thing seems pretty simple to me: The story line revolves around Katherine Heigl's character getting pregnant and having a baby -- if she were to have an abortion there wouldn't be a movie. That she decides to have the baby doesn't strike me as offensive or an overt, anti-choice statement.
A.O. Scott of the New York Times goes so far as to see the passing reference to "shmashmortion" as an intentional satire of our cultural reluctance to use the real word.

From a more objective perspective, J. Peder Zane of the News and Observer provides a nicely researched overview of pop culture's abortion taboo.

Whatever the final verdict on the absent presence of abortion in "Knocked Up," Zane's piece makes it clear that, when it comes to honest portrayals of reproductive options, Hollywood has a long way to go.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.