Saturday, November 03, 2007

Changing the civic discourse

First, an aside: Iowa State? They can't beat Iowa-frickin'-State?!

Okay, I'm better now. What I really want to talk about is the great success of the pro-life movement.

We recently watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It was in our Netflix queue because it's one of those iconic movies--like E.T.--that I never managed to catch when I was a pre-teen. Twenty-five years later, it's actually a pretty tame movie. You see more teenage angst and sexuality on basic cable these days than at an R-rated movie in 1982. What's most shocking--other than the fact that L.A. tore down a mall (the Sherman Oaks Galleria, where the interior shots of the Ridgemont Mall were shot, has been replaced with an office park according to the DVD extras)--is the casualness with which a 15-year-old getting an abortion is handled.

Now I don't know how it actually is in high schools these days. Justin Timberlake albums notwithstanding, it's been many years since I could relate much to 15-year-old girls, particularly on a subject as sensitive as unintended pregnancy. It is entirely possible that there are high schools out there today at which going to the free clinic to "take care of it" would be no bigger deal than it was in fictional Ridgemont. I don't know.

What I DO know is that these days no major-studio movie script--even one by a pro-choice writer/director--would deal with abortion in such a cavalier way. There'd be a huge drama surrounding the "choice" and maybe some moralizing about how difficult it is to tell one's parents (required under notification laws) or find a clinic that performs abortions at all. There wouldn't be a casual acceptance like that portrayed in Fast Times, where the biggest tragedy was that the father of the fetus didn't come through with half the cash and some wheels.

That, it seems to me (even more than the parental-notification laws or the dearth of abortion clinics) is a major victory for the pro-life movement. Roe v. Wade hasn't been overturned, but the civic discourse has shifted radically. I'm not making a judgment about whether that's a good thing; my personal views on the morality of abortion have gone through more mutations than Mitt Romney's. I'm just saying that this was the one thing that stuck out to me as proof positive that we are living in a different age. Sure, Sean Penn and Forest Whitaker have aged and turned into "serious" actors. Fashion sense has changed. Chain stores (and even the malls that house them) have gone out of business and been replaced by others. But the biggest difference between now and 1982--at least as portrayed in the movies--is, IMHO, the civic discourse on this topic.

Anyway, speaking of movies, we are going to Sundance. (The film festival, not the ski resort; we've been there.) Or at least we have plane tickets to Salt Lake City and a hotel, on dates that coincide with the opening weekend of the festival. It remains to be seen whether we'll actually get into any of the movies, but I have plans to register for the ticket lottery. (I never could have convinced The Husband to go to Utah in January without the festival as an excuse. If we don't get tickets, I can always go skiing.)


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