Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Be my little baby

There are a handful of movies that I'll watch anytime they come on TV, no matter how many times I've seen them before or how far in the movie is. I'll drop everything for the following (in no particular order):

Any Brat Pack teen flick
Jurassic Park
Dirty Dancing

Especially that last one. Since I was first introduced to the magical coupling that is Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, I have been a faithful fan of this silly film. I like watching it again and again, because I always discover something new.

At age 12 I discovered that Johnny was checking Baby out in the rear view when she was changing in the backseat.
At age 17 I discovered that Boyz II Men did a delightful cover of "In the Still of the Night", which was playing in the background the morning after their epic lovemaking.
At age 21 I discovered that this movie is about abortion.

It took me so long to catch on not because I'm an idiot, but because I obsess over movies about dancing and I spent most of the time wishing I were one of the background dirty dancers. So I kind of bleeped out the subplots about lies and betrayal and CLANDESTINE ABORTION.

Penny gets pregnant after sleeping with some twerp who works at the resort. He wants nothing to do with it, prompting Baby to borrow the money from her father for some secret yet noble purpose. As I recall it's something like $500. This is 1960-something! That's a lot of scratch! Of course Penny gets a raging infection, almost dies, and Baby's disappointed father has to save her life with his black medical bag of tricks (that he carries around on vacation, apparently). Baby teaches her dad that even dance instructors deserve a fair shake in life, and he becomes so liberated that he allows her to canoodle on the dance floor with a man twice her age.

I think it's pretty easy to gloss over all the adult material there, because the movie ends so happily and is so seductive for nerdy, frizzy-haired girls like myself. But there's a lot of macabre stuff going on. Struggling runaway trying to start a new life. A shithead "man involved" who has tons of money but won't spare a cent for an abortion (legality aside). A traveling quack who nearly kills a young woman with a rusty spoon in her cervix. It ain't pretty. And in fact, Dirty Dancing only gives a PG-13 account. What if Penny had died? What if Baby didn't find the money? What if her father refused to treat Penny's infection? Things could get even yuckier, and I'm glad they didn't because I still want to be able to enjoy my guilty pleasure movies.

At the end of the day, I am grateful for the courage of the screenwriters and directors to portray abortion in a reasonably fair light. I understand why the issue wasn't more prominent (this is a love story!), but for 1987 I think they made some seriously progressive choices.

Yay abortion in movies! What are your favorite movies about abortion?

1 comment:

  1. OK, I always feel ridiculous that I have never seen Dirty Dancing in its entirety. Just pieces. Don't tell anyone!

    I noticed, in our recent siege by drive-by antis, we had one come through who tried to post a response claiming that Juno is the best movie when it comes to dealing with abortion. PLEASE. I actually really enjoyed Juno, but unlike that dude, I admit that it's because I'm a sucker for hipster shit, movies about girls, outcast teenagers, quirky dialog, Kimya Dawson songs, awkward first love, and Michael Cera. (Or at least, was a sucker for Michael Cera; eventually the perpetual awkward-boy gig got a little tired, and in the meantime Ellen Page herself rocked my world.) Face it. If your enjoyment of Juno has anything to do with the abortion bit, then you have bad taste, you have no literary sophistication, and you're out of touch with the real world in which (a) final decisions about abortion are typically made after considerable thought and information, (b) clinic workers aren't bored sarcastic teenagers who don't know the meaning of TMI thank you very much, and (c) embryos don't have fingernails! [For god's sake; that was an illustration of the protester's simplistic tactics and a plot setup for Juno changing her mind, her best friend's vagina-scratching joke, her stepmom's interest as a nail technician, but it wasn't a biological accuracy!]

    Just saying.


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