Pop culture and taboos

I don’t see that many movies these days.  Whether it’s because movies have gotten dumber or my free time has gotten more scarce, I’m not sure.  But more than movies themselves, reactions to movies tell us a lot about the zeitgeist.  They can also highlight great gulfs between the chattering classes and, you know, normal people.

Greenberg, an indifferent movie starring Ben Stiller, isn’t particularly worthy of note. This essay on it, though, is fascinating, at least for those of us who don’t buy the party line that abortion is the gynecological equivalent of having an ingrown toenail excised.  The writer’s point seems to be that Greenberg is subversive because it shows a character having an abortion without much reflection or angst.  It’s subversive, he implies, because the Powers That Be don’t like depictions of abortion because they stir up controversy.

But there’s a much simpler explanation why protagonists in movies and TV don’t have abortions: most people, including many who self-identify as pro-choice, find abortion to be distasteful, immoral, and less than admirable.  It’s hard to care about fictional characters who can be described this way.  It’s also, despite attempts to portray it as something less, a life-changing experience – a character whose abortion is part of their story arc will be identified with that abortion rather than with other traits.

In short, movies and TV don’t refrain from portraying abortion because their advertising overlords tell them not to.  They avoid it for the same reason they don’t create protagonists who drive while drunk, or adult siblings involved in a romantic relationship.  It’s repugnant, on a visceral level, and people aren’t entertained, diverted or edified by things they find repugnant.  Given how liberal the coasts skew, the absence of abortion from mainstream entertainment isn’t the triumph of a clique of prudes over the masses; on the contrary, it’s a concession to the sensibilities of the great majority of the population on the part of those who hold radically different views.

Greenberg grossed $4 million.  Gigli grossed $6 million.  I’m not sure if it’s good or bad that people are more likely to watch Jennifer Lopez’s and Ben Affleck’s single biggest embarrassment than yet another self-indulgent movie about shiftless underachievers.

Please take ten minutes to watch this

A post-abortive woman describes her experience. I get a lot of stuff forwarded to me, but this leaves a big impact because the story is so very common, and yet so poignant.

“Sometimes all it takes is one person speaking truthfully to allow others to do the same.” –McKenzie Hahn

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Good ol’ days

Thanks to a link on BBC News, I spent last night watching vault footage of the famous television game show What’s My Line? A show that challenged its often blindfolded panelists to determine a contestant’s occupation. While watching, I couldn’t but help wonder why we rarely see classy dames like journalist Dorothy Kilgallen and actress Arlene Francis (two of the show’s long-standing panelists) on entertainment television anymore. This is one of my favorite episodes:

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But today in the car, while my thumb tangoed with the radio dial, I happened across this gem of a hit from the same time period. By the time Jack Jones was crooning the last verse, I had already resealed the time machine and returned it to a safe corner in the attic.

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Is this called Orwellian?

I think we all struggle to cope with failed relationships. And having a failed relationship doesn’t mean you are, as a person, a failure. But reading this  made me wonder whether the author wouldn’t just feel better if he called a failure a failure:

Since I’ve been divorced, I’ve had more than a few people imply this means that my 10-year relationship (and three-year marriage) was a failure, or even that I am a failure at relationships.

My ex-wife, Jane, hears this too, and says she has often felt ashamed to be divorced so young, barely into her 30s. Yet despite the stigma divorce carries, both of us feel that not only was the relationship a success for the decade it lasted, but the fact we ended it at the appropriate time is a sign we are, in fact, quite adept at love.

Keep telling yourself that, buddy. With this illogical idea that failed relationships are actually success, the author does people struggling with a failed relationship a great disservice, a harm. Because there they are, struggling, crying, trying to cope, learning from their mistakes, and along comes Joe Genius here and tells them: There’s no problem! You should feel good about this!

I didn’t intend to write about abortion here, but I will. It’s similar to telling a post-abortive woman that the abortion was a simple matter of choice, no worries, she shouldn’t feel bad. This must exacerbate the pain immensely. (“I’m not even supposed to feel bad!”)

So, Mr. Growing Up Jung, can it, grow up and learn to grapple with your failure and those of your family members. After all, the beauty of life is that we get up when we fall down. (We don’t instantaneously, upon getting up, try to claim we never fell in the first place.)

If she says it…

See the author’s note, below.

Lynn’s Notes:

There were times when I actually sat down and tried to figure out what I actually accomplished during the day. With so many demands on a Mom’s time, it was hard to account for the hours. I looked forward to evenings when the kids were in bed, so I could work. I looked forward to holidays and weekends, so I could work. Doing a daily comic strip took an amazing amount of time and I needed to be alone when I was writing. I could draw with life going on around me, but the kids soon learned to ask for cookies and ice cream. When I wasn’t able to concentrate. I usually said “yes”!

Isn’t it strange that we call an actual paying job “work” and don’t consider raising children hard work as well. I confess, being a good mom is one of the most challenging JOBS on the planet!!