Friday, February 22, 2008

GUEST POST: Juno, the Fairy Tale

GUEST POST: Ok, so in this case, my intro is going to be longer than the actual post. But I wanted to introduce you all to this amazing guest poster with a full on bio because she's amazing. Joie Jager-Hyman (pictured left) is a writer, consultant and doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Administration, Planning and Social Policy with a concentration in Higher Education. Before coming to Harvard in the fall of 2002, Joie worked as an Assistant Director of Admissions for Dartmouth College, her alma mater. Her current doctoral work focuses on policies pertaining to access and persistence in higher education for low-income students. In addition to her doctoral research, Joie recently completed her first book. Fat Envelope Frenzy: One Year, Five Promising Students and the Pursuit of the Ivy League Prize (Harper Perennial, March 2008) chronicles the experiences of five very different students as they navigate the world of selective college admissions. Joie has been featured in the Washington Post, 02138 magazine and the Boston Globe, written opinion pieces for the Huffington Post, Women's eNews and Metro, the world's most highly circulated newspaper, and has lectured at Columbia University on making the transition between academic and popular writing. Here's Joie!

Juno: I Don't See What Anyone Can See in Anyone Else, But...

Entertainment Weekly has an interesting piece about why Juno is hitting an unexpected chord with audiences, who are apparently aching for movies about independent, unique, and strong female characters. It’s true–most “chick flicks” are formulaic fantasies that include weddings, make-overs, unlikely romances that work themselves out just before the credits, and a wardrobe designed by Patricia Fields.

I have to say: I loved Juno. I loved it so much that I saw it twice (though once was on a pirated copy at my friend’s house).

I also have to say: I work with 16-year-olds, and Juno is almost as much of a fantasy for teenage girls as Enchanted was for their little sisters.

Do real-life, knocked-up girls really have the “choice” that so many Americans have been fighting for for decades?

Do they really have the maturity to handle teen pregnancy in stride PLUS the support of their parents, friends, and nerd-stud boyfriends?

I’ve worked with girls who have had babies and known girls who terminated pregnancies. Many did have some support from their families, friends and boyfriends, but most did not have their shizz together, as Juno might say.

To be fair, Juno’s message is not that teen pregnancy is easy for the girl. Throughout the movie, Juno is faced with a host of obstacles, from good ol’ teen angst to problematic adoptive yuppie parents. Everyone stares at her enormous belly when she walks down the hallway at school, and she jokes that her classmates call her the “cautionary wale.”

However, in the end, Juno is able to persevere because of her inner-strength and amazingly strong support system. The movie’s supporting cast is stellar, especially her dad, step-mom and cheerleader best friend who is “into teachers” (props to whoever came up with that detail cause there’s always ONE like that at every school).

Watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think back to my own high school and wonder how Juno would have fit in. When I was 16, I had heard of a couple of pregnancies (and I’m sure there were many more than the ones I knew about), but no one ever walked around with a bump. I wonder if these girls really felt like they had a “choice,” or if teen pregnancy was so socially unacceptable in our upper-middle class suburb that abortions became foregone conclusions.

On the flip side, I’ve worked with girls in low and lower-middle income schools who decided to carry their pregnancies to term. And they always kept their babies. None of them were like Juno–mature enough to realize that they weren’t ready for motherhood AND strong enough to go through with an adoption.

These 15- and 16-year-old girls knew that having a baby was going to make it hard to stay in school, get a good job etc., but as far as I knew, none of them considered giving their babies up. I think it just seemed like an emotionally impossible decision for a teenage girl who loves and wants to be loved.

Juno is a heroine, but like most heroines, she’s not quite real.

(Cross-posted on Crucial Minutiae)

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