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Obvious Child (2014); and Discussions on Abortion

November 6, 2014

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Upon first watching Obvious Child, I couldn’t help by feel that Gillian Robespierre’s debut film was something plucked from my own brain. Accompanied by Jenny Slate’s brash, unconventional sense of humor that matches my own, Robespierre’s tale of an unlikely romance spawning from an unlikely situation is a treat for those wanting something with more flesh and substance in their movies. Accentuated by a warm color palette and lush set design Obvious Child felt as though the stars aligned in perfect formation to create a film made for and by girls like me. Robespierre mixes brilliant wit and intelligence with sweet romanticism to tell an enchantingly powerful story about one woman’s mental anguish after a one night stand leads to her to confront the option of abortion.

Donna (Jenny Slate), a stand-up comedian, gets told by her boyfriend that he has cheated and wants to break up. The distraught, heart-broken Donna falls into a downwards spiral. However, while in it she meets Max (Jake Lacy), a kind straight laced admirer, with whom she has one night stand with. Donna later realizes that her drunken night with Max is the reason her period is late and her breasts are swollen. With the help of her best friends Nellie (Gaby Hoffman) and Joey (Gabe Leidman), Donna decides to get an abortion, but must deal with the struggles of telling Max her decision.

Obvious Child is a hilarious comedy that will tickle the fancies of those who enjoy toilet humor, sarcasm, and drunken banter. It also blends in some  sweet, uplifting romanticism. But, Obvious Child’s significance lies in its brash trajectory into the subject of abortion. Cinema doesn’t fair too well in the favor of abortion for women. Most films that focus on the topic (Caberet, Dirty Dancing) do so gravely taking great pains to showcase a woman’s despair, shame, and regret. These types of portrayals only act as a form of social control, reminding women of the grave circumstances that lay before them if they find themselves in these predicaments. “Abortion is nothing to take likely,” these film imply. “You are killing something, you should feel guilt.” Films like Juno and Knocked Up prompts these same discussions just with a twist. Instead, by having their characters give up their long, weighted debates on abortion, they instead feel elated and confident enough to actually go through with their pregnancies. “You don’t have to feel so terrible if you just go through with it. Put on a happy smile, have your baby, love it, or even put it up for adoption. There’s plenty of parents looking for children.”

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That’s all true to an extent. But, these happy go lucky stories conveniently fail to mention that in America well over 400,000 children are in foster care and the numbers have tripled in recent years. Of that number only 30% get adopted into homes while 65% grow up in the system and emancipate themselves once of age. Another shocking fact, just cause: 51% go on to be unemployed. While adoption numbers are on the rise there’s no guarantee of a fulfilling, nurturing life for those brought up in parentless situations. This is not to say that some will not grow to find prosperity, love, and confidence while leading productive lives. But some don’t. Abortion, with all its negative connotations isn’t a problem solver in situations likes these. It’s just another option for parents who are certain that they aren’t capable of raising a child due to mental, physical and financial reasons.

I was never confronted with the reality of abortion until early into my current relationship. While out partying one night, my brain was under the right amount of influences to send me down an unexpected thought process of a very real possibility: pregnancy. While growing up I rarely even had a second thought about the word itself. In those days, I was a God fearing, abstinent teenager who imagined losing my virginity to my future husband. We’d have kids, and they’d have kids, then we’d smile contently at our lives before passing on into the great white light of heaven where we’d sing and dance forever in God’s glory. But then, I grew up. I developed a much more complex idea of God and my morals became more lenient. Life became brighter, more colorful and a lot more introspective. But with life comes responsibilities and the debate over if I was ready to bear a child, if an accident happened mind you, haunted me for a few brooding hours.

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Marriage still seems ages away despite the fact that I’m in my late 20s. I want to explore the world, cultivate movements, teach and aid others, and get a car before a child comes into the picture. I’m a millennial who doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the generations before me. I want to cultivate myself before raising another being. That night while I was all liquored up at a music festival, I realized the severity of a situation if I found myself with child in my current state of life causing me to confront the idea of possibly aborting a fetus. Could I do it? Would I go to hell? Would my mother be devastated? Would I? A mountain of other questions rattled through my head as I attempted to keep my cool and hide my fears from my significant other.  There was no objective literature that I had read on the subject, no film to teach me, nor any talks with my mother growing up. Ultimately, simply communicating with my partner set my mind at slight ease, but thousands of other girls and women are still left in the dark with these questions leading to depression, guilt, and uncertainty in our sex-negative society.

Obvious Child takes these questions and puts them under a microscope for all the world to watch. Robespierre’s story excels simply because it does what no film that I’ve seen in the past do. It lays out the process of an abortion making it easier to understand and deal with the mental anguish surrounding it. Slate’s bold performance humanizes the situation even more presenting women with an all-encompassing range of emotions that a decision of the sort conjures. Not everyone will be lucky enough to have the support Donna has but that’s not the point of the film. Slate and Robespierre attempt to show us all that abortion doesn’t have to that big of deal. The topic is only major because we make it so by placing pressure and guilt on those who do it.

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Obvious Child’s point is to remind women that they don’t have to punish themselves in times of hardship. Not everyone who finds themselves pregnant is ready to be a mother. Financial situations, career checkpoints, mental stability or just plain not being ready are all factors that will ultimately affect a child once born. I firmly believe no woman should be forced out of guilt or social shaming to raise a child when they are not ready. I’ve seen what bringing children into this world when you’re not prepared or fit to be a mother can do to a child. It can create an unhappy childhood filled with regret, shame, abuse, or neglect. We live in an age where we have safe means to control our bodies and we should take advantage of it. As a society we must remember to care more for the children already living and breathing in the world. Having an abortion should definitely be a thought out, contemplated decision just as having unprotected sex should, but it shouldn’t have to be a “difficult decision”because everyone else tells you it should.

SEE IT. And make your own decisions in life endeavors.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Toya permalink
    November 13, 2014 10:22 PM

    Brilliant and “share” worthy. Thanks for shedding such a much needed light on a real subject matter of abortion. I have always believed in and honored a woman’s right to decide when to grow a life inside of her and when not to. Never in a million years did I think that at a mature 30 something I would be making the decision to not grow the product of conception in my womb. It was never for one moment a tough decision for me. My beautify amazing relationship had ended weeks prior and my current situation wasn’t right for welcoming a new life. I lit candles, played beautiful music, and invited a wonderful friend over to support me and be with me while I privately and lovingly released my pregnancy. My heart only ached because more women didn’t have access to the resources to terminate pregnancy in a powerful and dignified manor. Thank you for this article. I will be seeing this film.

    • November 14, 2014 8:47 AM

      Thank you so much for your insightful story. I congratulate your acceptance and definitely agree it’s only disheartening that more women aren’t aware of their options or supported for their decisions. I hope you receive the same message I did from Obvious Child and that you laugh many times while doing so!

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