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Females have been stereotyped, from the prefect wife to the maid.. Whatever the role, television, film and popular magazines are full of images of women and girls who are typically white, desperately thin, with flawless skin. However, female stereotypes continue to thrive in the media we consume every day. In 2007, director Jason Reitman, brought fourth into the world “A comedy about growing up… And the bumps along the way.” It started as an independent film phenomenon but soon grew into a motion picture that captured the hearts and minds of millions of people. The movie was entitled Juno. Juno reflects the changing gender issues and social attitudes regarding teenage pregnancy. Since the movie was release, there have been quite a few television shows with teen pregnancy as the main theme, namely ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” in 2008 and MTV’s “Sixteen and Pregnant” in 2008 and “Teen Mom” in 2010. Twenty years ago, movies and TV shows showing teenage pregnancy in such a positive light would have been seen as some kind of dislike and probably never have aired. If the issues of teenage pregnancy were to have come up at all, it would have been seen with very negative connotations. Juno opens the doors for TV shows such as the one mention above and changes the dominant ideology reflecting the change in social attitudes regarding teenage pregnancy and gender roles.
Juno tells the story of teenager, Juno McGruff who becomes pregnant after a sexual encounter with her friend Paulie Bleeker. Upon making her mind either keep the baby, have the baby and give it up for adoption, or to have an abortion, Juno decides to have the baby and to give it up for adoption. The rest of the movie goes on to telling the story of Juno’s pregnancy, including telling her parents that she is pregnant, the process of selecting a family in which to give her child to, her changing relationship with Paulie, and her daily life and struggles as a pregnant high school student. In the end, the parents in which Juno decided to give her baby to, Mark and Vanessa, end up getting a divorce. Yet, Juno still decided to give her baby to Vanessa in the end. This is one of the biggest ways that I think Juno represents the changing gender roles. Aside from one minor meltdown toward the end of the movie, Juno seems to deal with her unplanned pregnancy in a somewhat cheerful, sarcastic manor. This shows that an unplanned pregnancy, something that would have been seen as almost unforgivable and an act that would ruin any young woman’s reputation, nowadays is seen as an almost “normal” event, even though it may not be the most common. This also shows the evolution of gender roles and values in modern cinema. Finally is the issue of how casual sex is depicted in the film. Juno and Paulie were not in any kind of formal relationship, at least, not at the beginning of the movie, when they had sex and Juno got pregnant. While Juno and Paulie do engage in casual sex, Juno is never called an offensive name, nor does it ever mention that she has been with any other partners in the movie. This depiction of a casual encounter is yet another example of changing gender roles and values within the depiction of teenage women in the media.
As most of us know by now, when a girl enters adolescence, she faces a series of loss and changes, the loss of self confidence and not to mention the body changes. As psychologist have pointed out in recent years, “adolescent girls in American are afflicted with a range of problem, including low self- esteem, eating disorders, binge drinking, date rape and other dating violence, teen pregnancyâ€¦(Gilligan).” Jessica L. speaks of the specific issues with the film in her paper, “Sexual Subjectivity: A Semiotic Analysis of Girlhood, Sex and Sexuality in the Film Juno”. “While situating sexual desire, biological possibilities, and social responses to girls’ engagement in sexual intercourse at the center of its plot, Juno depicts the transgressive sexual agency of a young girl without substantially disrupting longstanding discourses of femininity. Though an analysis of the semiotics of girlhood within the film, [she] argue[s] that the girl figure in this representation signifies an [combination] of two traditionally [categorized] concepts of “femininity.” Juno serves as a particularly intriguing example of the ways in which adolescent female sexuality is conceptualized within western culture during the early part of the 21st century (Willis).” In her paper, she goes on to commend Diablo Cody, writer of Juno for her representation of Juno, “in a visual era lacking widespread representations of strong youth female characters not sexually objectified or singularly defined by their interest in romance (Willis).” The way Juno is portrayed as a female character that is not overtly sexualized starts with her basic appearance. “Rather than a stereotypical depiction of the female body as a sexual object, sexual desire is visibly expressed and acted upon by the girl character (Willis).”
The fact that Juno was the one to initiate the sexual contact with Paulie challenges the traditional beliefs of gender roles in the area of teenage sexuality. In the movie Juno, teenage pregnancy is also being displayed in the almost positive way. In other media, pregnancy is displayed showing some kind of negative effect. The way media shows any kind of issue is usually a direct reflection of social values. Angela McRobbie addresses this issue in her book “Feminism and Youth Culture”. “The diversification of forms of media and the sophisticated [shake-up] of various categories of audience require that, while a consensual social morality might still be a political objective, the chances of it being delivered directly through the channels of the media are much less certain (McRobbie).” But the question still remains, is media influencing the way we think regard teenage pregnancy, or is it a correct reflection of our changing attitudes? I believe that the media influences the way we think of any issue in this case teen pregnancy. The authors of the article “Suddenly Teen Pregnancy is Cool?” suggest perhaps a little of both. While they do point out all the instances of teenage pregnancy in recent years of popular culture, “Movies like Knocked Up and Waitress, and celebrity moms including Nicole Richie and Jessica Alba, are part of a trend that’s sweeping teen culture along with it: American Idol star Fantasia Barrino became a mom at 17, and the last season of Degressi: The Next Generation ended with Emma realizing that she might be pregnant. “The media is awash in it”, says David Landry, senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute in New York, a non-profit organization focused on sexual and reproductive health (Gulli).”
In Conclusion, Juno decides to avoid traditional family roles and still gives her child to Vanessa, even though she and Mark are divorcing. It is not unusual to see a single working mother nowadays, especially more so now than thirty years ago. Even single working mothers are shown more frequently in the media such as in Gilmore Girls and the new show Parenthood. Through the examples of traditional family roles being challenged by Juno still giving Vanessa her baby, a positive representation of unwanted teenage pregnancy, and showing casual sex between teenagers, it is clear that the release of Juno opens the doors for TV shows such as the one mention above and changes the dominant ideology reflecting the change in social attitudes regarding teenage pregnancy and gender roles. We just need to remember like Margaret Mead once said, “today our children are not brought up by parents, they are brought up by the mass media (mead).”
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