Sunday, January 23, 2011

When did this become a blog entirely about babies?: A Lifetime Movie Review and Analysis

I'm sorry guys. This is getting ridiculous.

Apparently I'm horrified of babies, because I keep watching movies about them.

With that being said, I have a confession to make: I am currently watching a Lifetime movie called The Pregnancy Pact.

And with that being said, I'm actually really impressed.

During the summer, I regularly watch The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and it is ridiculous. I won't get into it right now, except to say that it's incredibly unrealistic, god-pushing, and badly done, right from the 2 million some-odd dollar houses in Southern California that middle class families live in, to the church that saves the day when the girl can't pay to take care of her kid, to the fact that somebody gets pregnant every season, to the bad product placement. Going into this movie, I was expecting sort of the same thing.
Use this product. Then do something with you're life, stupid lazy slut!

I am being pleasantly surprised. Mostly because the movie is 50% about teenage pregnancy and peer pressure, and 50% about how we can be affected by media, particularly how small towns can be affected by media, which is one of my pet...issues.

Considering it's Lifetime, a network I have very little respect for, they made some good artistic and plot choices. The emphasis in this movie is definitely is on the girls' delusion that it's a good thing to be pregnant, and that pregnancy as a teenager is, by default, a bad thing.

They made the choice to have the main character look like she's about ten years old, which is very, very significant. It makes it much more sad that she is going to have a baby, and it makes her naivety much more believable. Unfortunately, she acts about as well as I do, (she smiles constantly,) and her total lack of skill is pretty distracting.

Otherwise, though, they made mostly good decisions. The real main character is this crazy, wonderful journalist girl, who comes back from New York City to Gloucester (like down the road from me, and apparently just like my hometown but an island and more Catholic...) to find out whats going on with the bunches and bunches of teenaged girls who are getting pregnant. She is pro-choice, pro-contraceptives, and pro-truth, which is so refreshing in a program like this, especially since it's pretty clear that she is the good guy.

Which opinion is correct, though, is a little ambiguous--or, at the very least, there's wiggle room. Main pregnant girls' mom is head of the abstinence committee (three double letters in that word! woah!) in the town, and she is strongly opposed to the school nurse's idea to hand out contraceptives in school because of that whole, inviting-kids-to-have-sex or whatever argument, and she very much believes in abstinence before marriage. The nurse argues that the kids are having sex regardless, and nearly dozens of girls are getting pregnant. The (principal? vice principal? I forget,) argues that the girls want to get pregnant so contraceptives don't help.

And thats where the media, and the plot, comes in. The journalist is in town to find out what is going on, and it turns out (spoiler alert!) that the girls decided to make a pact to get pregnant on purpose after one of their friends did by accident. The motivation is the usual: "babies are cute! our babies can play together! babies are beautiful and certainly don't poop and throw up on everything! Gloucester (that's pronounced glow-ster for all the Russian and Canadian readers out there,) is utopia and we can just stay here and be moms and be happy forever!"

There are a few results of this--one, the media freaks out. In small towns, the media is a horrifying, horrifying thing. Because I live in one, one where a few newsworthy things have happened in the past few years, I have seen this firsthand--things get blown out of proportion. People are hurt because everybody knows everybody else, and even though that kid did something wrong, he's your librarian's son and the strangers on the news just can't talk about that. Rumors get spread. People get run out of town because of small crimes that didn't necessarily happen. It's rough stuff.

In this movie, once Time gets a hold of the story that there is a pact, every media team in Massachusetts goes to Gloucester to figure out what is going on and generally just be gossip-column story hungry. The battle between the townsfolk and the media gets more and more heated, to the point where the main pregnant girls father and boyfriend actually get into a physical fight with a news anchor and his crew. The entire town ends up in conflict over these girls, with the mayor blaming the principal, the abstinence committee turning against their president, the families of the fathers turning against the families of the mothers. The media becomes a grotesque monster (which they could have showed more artistically, but I get what they're going for,) with a voice from one mob attacking the pregnant girls yelling "can I at least get footage of her stomach?" and the girl in question following it by saying, "Now I know what it feels like to be Jamie Lynn Spears!"

Wooaahh. It's at that point, I think, that it really hits home that the movie is not only about how the media can feed off other people's misery, but how we feed off it in turn. Really, the whole reason that the girls are so eager to be pregnant is, besides peer pressure, the depiction of motherhood and babies in the media and in our cultural ideal. The conflict between the main girl and her boyfriend centers around the fact that he wants to marry her, but in California, after they go to college, and all she wants is to stay in Glowster and marry him now and have kids, and be a stay at home mom forever and be happy, which is a slightly hyperbolic but also true reflection of the sort of expectation that there is of what it means to be happy--not career, not adventure, but motherhood and love.

Not to mention the way teen pregnancy is normally depicted in the media--I'm looking at you 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, Secret Life of the American Teenager, and even Juno. And Twlight. Getting married at eighteen doesn't make getting pregnant at eighteen not subject to the normal issues of teen pregnancy. And Bristol Palin and Jamie Lynn Spears. A big issue presented in the film is that the girls don't know what is going to, realistically, happen to the once they have the babies--they don't know how much going through labor sucks, and are very surprised when the first girl to give birth does so to a premature baby the size of a newborn Panda and gets violently injured in the process, and then has implied post partum depression. The main girls' boyfriend leaves her because she's crazy and intentionally got pregnant and ruined his life. All the babies, in the off-screen future, probably have fetal alcohol syndrome because all the girls went to a crazy party and got extremely drunk. (So much more realistic than Secret Life! Yay Lifetime!)
 There is no "oo dressing up in matching outfits!"

They didn't do a terribly fantastic job wrapping up the movie, just like I'm not doing a terribly fantastic job wrapping up this nonsense blog post. The moral ends up being that teen pregnancy is complicated and personal and there's no one right way to deal with it, and all options are viable. (There are no abortions, but it's implied that they're acceptable early on.) Unfortunately, cool journalist from the city basically says, "I have learned that teen pregnancy is complicated and there's no one right way to deal with it," so even though I think the moral is a good one, they're still pushing it on us pretty hard and not veiling it in any way.

Even though I liked this movie, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to anyone, unless you're particularly interested in studying how the media deals with small-town scandals and teen pregnancy. Or you're really into Lifetime movies, in which case you've probably all ready seen this. It's a watchable film, and there's a lot more going on than I expected--a lot of latent content. But that doesn't mean you should run to onDemand right now and watch it.

Oh, and apparently today is the ...38th (?) anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Yay babies!

I promise soon I'll write a real review of a real movie. American Psycho or Black Swan. It'll be fun stuff. I promise.


No comments:

Post a Comment