I take back everything I said in my last post. A movie based on the book needs to be true to the book. It pissed me off that Peter Jackson made it so Boromir was so influenced by the ring, that Faramir took Frodo and Sam to Osgiliath, and that the ending of the movie The Two Towers sucked. It pissed me off that Viktor Krum wore gloves at the Quidditch World Cup and that Neville was made to be a clumsy idiot.
In the past 24 hours, I’ve gone from not having heard of the adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, to wanting to see it, to incredibly pissed off without having seen it. Here’s why, and I’m going to spoil both the movie and the book.
In the past, I asked my friends to help me compile a list of movies and tv shows where characters have had abortions, on or off screen, versus a list of where they decided to have the baby. The list was heavily skewed to the “baby as a plot device” side. Part of me wondered, to give the benefit of the doubt to movie makers, is this because having an abortion is boring? The woman goes to the doctor, she has a quick procedure, she comes out and moves on with her life. That’s boring, right? Who would want to watch a movie about that? Well, Dirty Dancing was a pretty good movie, but part of the drama was Penny’s health.
Something that I noticed about the list were the dates of the abortion films/shows. Though granted I had a ridiculously small sample size, about 30% of the abortions were from media from the 1980s or earlier. In The Big Chill (1983) Meg had an abortion while in college, Dirty Dancing (1987) took place in the 1960s, and Maude aired from 1972-78. Others occurred in the past or were shows that take place in the past, such as Mad Men or in Sex and the City where it is mentioned that Carrie had an abortion in the late 1980s and Samantha had two at some other time.
To me, this demonstrates a trend that Hollywood does not want to play the message that abortions are ok.The abortion in All My Children captures this trend best: in the 1970s, it was ok for women to get abortions. Now it’s not so the writers had to bring the baby back.
I thought the book The Perks of Being a Wildflower handled abortion nicely. The sister was dating a guy that hit her (once that we know of). Her parents forbid her to see him, and that worked as well as everyone should have imagined. She got pregnant, and when she told him, he accused her of cheating on him. So Charlie took her to the clinic, and they bonded. The sister told her boyfriend it was a false alarm but wouldn’t take him back. So while the event may have been bland, it served to bring her closer to her brother and let her know what a piece of trash her boyfriend was. Because she wasn’t clued in when he beat her.
In the movie, apparently it’s not even there. One reviewer asks “As in the novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower film tackles heavy topics such as suicide, child molestation, closeted homosexuality, and teen drug use. Do we really need to add abortion, rape, and physical abuse to this list? Chbosky was wise to let these story lines fall by the wayside.”
Yes. Yes we do.
At the outset, the reviewer’s premise was flawed. As presented in the book, it wasn’t such a heavy topic. It wasn’t exactly light, but it didn’t compare to the other dramas Charlie faced. And without it, the viewer might wonder why Charlie and his sister are getting along better.
What frustrates me is that it wreaks of “I don’t want to go there.” Like Chbosky decided the issue was too toxic so he sold out (part of) his plot. Like it would be inconceivable to today’s audience that a student can get an abortion, not be an emotional mess, not regret it, and go on to graduate second in her class and get a scholarship to Sarah Lawrence. That abortions are not for smart, successful students.
In the face of media trying to tell us that abortions are a big deal and politicians trying to make our doctors lie to us, I was excited that there would be a movie that would treat abortion as a non-issue. But Chbosky let me down by “Right washing” his screen play, and I think he let women down too.
I’ve included my list of shows that deal with unwanted/unexpected pregnancy versus abortion. The list is limited to American shows/movies. Please help me expand it.
Shows/movies that feature (or mention) an unwanted/unexpected pregnancy where the woman decide to have the baby (I know some of these were books first or even based on true stories)
Look Who’s Talking
Riding in Cars with Boys
Sex and the City
Law and Order: SVU
Malcolm in the Middle
Beverly Hills: 90210
Girls (she did not go to the appointment. That she miscarried is irrelevant.)
The Secret Life of the American Teenager
Fools Rush In
Boys on the Side
How to Deal
Kindred: the Embraced (Aaron Spelling, you break my heart.)
Once Upon a Time (multiple times)
Where the Heart Is
Twilight: Breaking Dawn
Orange is the New Black
Shows/movies that have a character that had an abortion
Friday Night Light
Six Feet Under (they talked about Meg’s in the past)
The Big Chill
Sex and the City (I put this on both lists)
All My Children (though what the fuck?)
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
The Cider House Rules
Orange is the New Black (again, this has to go on both lists)
The Good Wife (Becca was the bad guy)
Honorable mention to Greek where a character took the morning after pill.