Struggling With Juno

The movie Juno, which only this week was bumped from the number two spot in DVD rentals, has been at the top of the rental charts since its release on April 15th . Kids love it.

I, however, am a little torn.

If you work with youth or have kids, you’ve probably already heard about this film about a young girl that gets pregnant and decides to keep the child and put it up for adoption (I mentioned this film in a previous blog about the surprising number of secular films this year with pro-life themes). Kids love Juno and critics are raving about it. I’ve even heard the youth ministry community praising it. And I can see why youth workers enjoy the movie– it’s an authentic look at youth culture today. But I have to admit, I struggled with this film.

Here were my thoughts that I recently added to our ministry’s movie review page:

JUNO FILM REVIEW
This film had me torn from the beginning.

If you’re like me, you went into this film hearing all the hype about what a wonderful film this is, Oscar potential, blah, blah, blah. (Besides… do the words “Oscar potential” mean anything to you? Did you actually see There Will Be Blood? Zzzzzzzzzz) Everyone is recommending Juno. So I admit… I had high expectations going into it.

To summarize my thoughts I’ll have to resort to bullets for this one.

THE GOOD:

  • Ellen Page was really a likable character, warts and all. She reminded me of several of my Campus Life kids from back in the day.
  • Jennifer Garner was surprisingly good. She wasn’t the typical “Alias” eye candy… she did some real acting here.
  • Like so many films this year, the value of life was communicated… even if in an awkward way.
  • The characters were very real. Very 2007. Not just a bunch of “actor models” who got the roles… but real people. Very convincing.

THE BAD:

  • I had heard that this was a good film for teenagers. In one of the first scenes we see a shot of a girl’s legs as her panties are dropped to the floor. Then she climbs on top of a guy. Yes, they didn’t show nudity. Yes, I know that’s what the film was about (a girl getting pregnant). But guess what… I don’t want my kids seeing the action- even just the beginning of it.
  • Juno was a fun character, but she was really foul. I have loved plenty of kids like this in my ministry and still do. But in this film, she was almost a role model. Her bad decisions, her lack of tact, and her foul mouth were almost given a stamp of approval. I realize that this is a hard balance to find. I love kids like this. But it doesn’t mean that I want kids to grow up thinking that it is “okay” to grow up acting like that.
  • The film showed very little consequences of behavior. The film was fun and light, and I think those elements made the movie enjoyable. But the film didn’t seem to show any of the pain or consequences from the behaviors. Sure, Juno got pregnant. But it was treated like, “no big deal.”
  • Similar to the last two bullets, this film contained a lot of immitatable behavior. And being that this is currently the MOST popular rental of the year… wow!

SHOULD KIDS SEE IT?
I think that most kids shouldn’t see it. I might show my older teenagers this film when they are 16 or older (depending on their maturity) if we went to dinner and talked about the film afterwards. I would need to talk through the bullets highlighted above.

But there is no way I’d show this to junior higher or younger. Come on people– how fast do we want our kids to grow up? Yes, I’m a huge advocate of talking with our kids about real life. But we don’t need to shove it down their throats early. Let it come as it comes. And then be open for those conversations.

Thoughts?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
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5 Responses to Struggling With Juno

  1. Kristi says:

    I too watched this film. I was not impressed with how this girl was portrayed. The place where it showed the beginnigs of sexual action, I feel should have been left out. I have two daughters in middle school and I feel this is a topic that has already reared its head. There have been two girls at thier school this year that have had to deal with teen pregnancy. At least one girl a year, in thier school, has become pregnant. That is not to mention all the other girls who are sexually active, but not pregnant. In my experience as a mother of four children (two in middle school, one graduating high school, and one in college), we can’t wait until it is too late. Fortunately my children feel comfortalble enough to talk to me about what thier peers are doing so we can talk about it and this is how I know what kids are doing as early as sixth grade. It has become an epidemic in our community for the girls to become pregnant, drop out of school, either have a child or an abortion. I haven’t heard about any going for the third option of adoption. At least that message was strong in this movie. If this movie had been toned down on the sexual content, it would be a great way to communicate with our youths. Kids in public school already know the mechanics of how it is done. Again getting the doors open for real topics is important. I am not saying to shove it down thier throat, but try to really listen hard. I find that when I am at my busiest and distracted my children will hit me with a huge concern. There have been times when I have said, “Umhmm, yep, okay, sure.” Without having really heard a word they have said. I have my parent filter on. Your kids will see how you react to issues as they grow up and will put the teen filter on if you aren’t carefull.

  2. Jeremy says:

    I think this movie was over-hyped which left me a bit underwhelmed. I wish I had seen it without any idea of what it was about and without hearing the critical acclaim, but what ya gonna do? I had very similar thoughts as you did. One significant thing that I wish would have been done differently is her decision to keep the baby. I felt like her only basis for her decision was that she didn’t like the “feel” of the abortion clinic. No struggle. No debate. Which (for me) takes away from it being a pro-life movie. But I was entertained to say the least, and I do appreciate the depiction of the struggle that infertility brings (and I guess you could throw in divorce there, too).

    One quote from Juno I think you could use to create some good discussion: “I just need to know if it’s possible for two people to stay happy together forever, or at least for a few years.”

  3. Jared says:

    As a current Campus Life Director in Omaha (I didn’t know you used to be in CL Jonathan…Sweet!), I first heard about the movie from some of the students I work with. I figured I had better see it so I would know what they were talking about. I came away with somewhat mixed feelings about the movie…I could have done without the brief sexual content (I am sure they put it in to make the movie more “appealing” though); however, I appreciated how “real” the movie was. Granted, they didn’t show any highschoolers with STD’s, which many of them probably had, but they did show Juno struggling through pregnancy and living with the “consequence” of her action. Also, they threw in there the “reality” of marriages today. Like I said, I do still have mixed feelings about the movie, but in reality, this is what the students that I am working with are watching. Why not use it (with discretion) as a means to bring Biblical truth to a searching generation?

  4. Jared… shout out for Campus Life! Yeah!

    I totally agree with why you liked it. It all comes down to context. With my Campus Life kids I would have LOVED this movie. I would have taken a couple kids (either one or two for more intimate conversations- me taking a guy or two and my female volunteers taking a girl or two) and then sit with them over french fries afterwards and talk about it.

    But it’s funny… as a parent who does have control of what my kids watch, I’m not letting my kids (especially my 10 and 12 year old) see the film. My 14 year old is about to turn 15 (tomorrow actually)… and if he asked… I’d probably watch it with him, go to lunch and disect it with him.

    Hope that helps.

  5. Shelby says:

    I was disappointd in it too. I work with the youth in my church and all of them were “raving” about it….so I bought it. MMMM NO…another lesson learned for me. I do love how she ended up not getting the abortion and giving the baby up for adoption. However that was the only thing I liked about it.
    Coming from my 15 year old’s mouth, “basically this movie showed it’s ok to have sex as a teenager, have a baby and give it away like it wasn’t the most difficult decision ever, and then they end up being a happy little couple in the end.”

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