Thank you all so much for spending part of your Halloween week with me and one of my favorite psychopaths, Patrick Bateman. I’m definitely appreciating the positive reception over here, so fist-pounds to all. I’m committed to keeping you interested, intrigued, and maybe even a little bit confused (remember my whole idea about a little mystery keeping things exciting?), so along that vein, I am taking us out of the realm of films I actually enjoy, and moving us to a film I strongly dislike for a number of reasons: Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007). Stop that collective groaning and hear me out…
After reading Quigs’ post about Diablo Cody and her being slated to write the screenplay for the hot mess known as the new remake of the Evil Dead, I got to reflecting about how much I hate the film that made her famous: Juno. All of this thinking led me to want to put my feelings about Juno in the public realm so just maybe its rein over the masses as an unconventional gem of filmmaking could somehow end. Big ambitions for a little person with a bad attitude, I know, but my mom told me I can do whatever I put my mind to and right now I’m putting my mind to this mission.
Don’t get me wrong; I have a graduate degree in english. I’m a huge fan of wit and twisty rhetorical magic (Oscar Wilde is my hero), but what I am not a fan of is pseudo intellectual hipster bullshit that comes in the form of stupid pop culture references from the 80s and horrible indie soundtracks used to mask a conventional and boring teen romantic comedy plot posing as something better (add pregnancy, instant fun!): nerdy boy and precocious girl are BFFFs, one day have sex, and end up pregnant even though its only the first time for both of them. She decides to give up the baby to a boring suburban couple (even though Cody tries to make the husband, Mark, seem cool), all the while realizing through overly wordy and annoying dialogue that she loves the nerdy boy.
Obviously, this is a recipe for success and healthy young adult relationships all around. I’m not an “art house cinema only” type of bitch – my allegiances are always to mainstream cinema – so for something to bother me this much it has to be pretty fucking horrible: something like Juno (or Garden State, or 500 Days of Summer).
Since this is a column about sex and film – not just films I happen to love or hate – it makes sense that I’m going to tell you that some of my biggest problems with the film lie in its depictions of teenage sex and sexuality. Yes, I know that when you are showing or implying ‘minors’ on screen fucking you can’t exactly turn it into Last Tango in Paris or Wild Things (wait a second, weren’t those bitches supposed to be in high school? Shit…), but I think for the sake of the assumed teenage audience there should be some sort of commitment to authenticity or at least respect for their intelligence. For example, one of my least favorite things about the film is that while Ellen Page’s Juno is enshrined as a counterculture sexual icon, the treatment of Olivia Thirlby as her more sexually experienced and more conventionally attractive best friend Leah is harsh. Leah’s flirtatious behavior is framed as problematic. She is the dumb blonde to Juno’s introspective brunette, while Juno’s own unprotected (and dare I say, kind of dumb) sexual exploits with Paulie are treated as a simple mistake in judgment, one that anyone could make. YES, I know shit happens and people get pregnant: that’s my fucking point. Cody, in her desperate attempt to make Juno the coldest bitch on the block, creates rules for what she thinks is an ideal type of teenage girl sexuality and that’s just as bad as all the films boys have been writing since the beginning of time. Sex is awesome and fun to have if you’re too smart for your small midwestern town and like listening to Kimya Dawson (ew), but if you’re just the average cheerleader who likes wearing make up and looking cute, being interested in sex makes you basic and even kind of slutty (perfect message, right?).
That’s what makes me think this film sucks. There are double standards everywhere – and yes, I know writing an angry piece on hating double standards in a film makes me sound like a dick, but I’m just really passionate about this. “Exploring sex in high school isn’t for everyone; it’s only allowed if you’re hipster enough to fuck in glowy, dim lighting during The Blair Witch Project in an oversized armchair!” Shit, I haven’t fucked to The Blair Witch Project and I’m kind of an adult, so I guess I’d better pack up my street cred and call it a life, right?
I am so not down with that. I’ve got more girls to roll with before I give up on things. Teens have such a shitty time on any given day and I feel like Cody wasted an amazing opportunity to create a story that could have made everyone feel cool. Instead, she just made different and hauntingly tight standards for cool. I know I’m not the first one to say things like this. When they talk about the whole ‘manic pixie/Zooey Deschanel’ obsession people have (talk about goddamn annoying), they are talking about something like what I’m giving you here: that is, ‘counterculture’ standards being just has harsh as mainstream ones.
But, whatever, fuck it; they aren’t talking about ratchet suburban teen sexuality as it appears on screen. Plus, I think I’m not alone in my belief that if I have to see Micheal Cera play the same character in yet another film, I’m going to pull an Oedipus and poke my eyes out.
It also goes without saying there are no queer characters in the film and you know how much that pisses me off. Straight desire isn’t the only kind of teenage sexuality that teens need to see on screen in an honest way (but, hey, Cody couldn’t even handle basic hetero shit, so maybe I don’t want her to fuck up teen queerness too). What about our little queer brothers and sisters? We can’t just leave them with Glee; that’s just whack.
So, Dear Readers, did I offend any of you Juno lovers out there? Am I just a hateful bastard? Or do you want to join me in a ceremonial DVD burning ceremony? Let me into your heads, I let you into mine.