Friday, December 21, 2007

Why JUNO Matters

The pro-life crowd is giving Juno rave reviews, since the teen at the center of the story opts for adoption over abortion. I'm not going to link to any of their reviews because I don't want to give them the hits, but they are singing the praises of this movie. In the way we have come to expect, they all praise and all criticize the same aspects of the movie, using almost the same language each time. Perhaps someone blast faxed movie critic talking points to each site owner/blogger. At any rate, the reviews are at once unsurprisingly and remarkably similar.

The movie is reviewed over and over as a fast moving and hip comedy with very appealing characters. Everyone falls in love with the sympathetic pregnant teen who makes an "heroic" sacrifice. BTW, the newest industry meme being hyped in AdoptionLand to sell adoption to teen moms is that it is an "heroic" act, but that's a post for another day. Still, I found it interesting that one of the most conservative prolifer bloggers around (Jill Stanek, blogging on World Net Daily) chose the word "heroic" to describe Juno's act of giving up a child for adoption. It's just not a word that has been used much to describe adoption relinquishment until very recently. More blast faxes?

Why JUNO matters is that teens will see it, most probably fall in love with the characters, and their outlook on adoption may be influenced by this movie. One adoption activist emailed the producer about the movie. She wrote that his response was that he had a "younger sister who was adopted and he hoped I would be as touched by the movie as he was."

I haven't seen the movie, but it's hard to imagine that it addresses the long concealed underbelly of adoption loss. And that matters.

What am I talking about?

Routinely, portrayals of adoption in books, press and other media simply gloss over the sequelae of relinquishment. Adoption is almost always presented as win-win-win, but in reality, in adoption one party experiences an overwhelming loss - the loss of her child. For adoption to survive, the first mother's loss must be either denied, minimized or reframed. (AdoptionLand is busily working to recast adoption as a heroic act, but, again, that's the subject for another diary.)


As we have seen amply demonstrated in other arenas of political life, reframing or recasting an event does nothing to change the hard cold facts that eventually surface. The marketing strategies used to sell a war or sell adoption don't change the realities of dead bodies, or of grief that never ends.

And in adoption, it has been shown over and over that there is great potential for grief that never ends. The research shows (over and over) that such a loss places a woman at high risk for unresolvable grief and its concomitants.

So, when you go out to this movie or meet people who speak of it in glowing terms, I hope you take a moment to remember some of this information about adoption loss. After a period of denial, women who follow in Juno's footsteps can expect the following:

"Existing evidence suggests that the experience of relinquishment renders a woman at high risk of psychological (and possibly physical) disability. Moreover very recent research indicates that actual disability or vulnerability may not diminish even decades after the event.
....Taken overall, the evidence suggests that over half of these women are suffering from severe and disabling grief reactions which are not resolved over the passage of time and which manifest predominantly as depression and psychosomatic illness. "
-- PSYCHOLOGICAL DISABILITY IN WOMEN WHO RELINQUISH A BABY FOR ADOPTION, Dr. John T. Condon (Medical Journal of Australia) Vol. 144 Feb 3, 1986 (Department of Psychiatry, Flinders Medical Centre, Bedford Park, SA 5042, Consultant Psychiatrist)

" A grief reaction unique to the relinquishing mother was identified. Although this reaction consists of features characteristic of the normal grief reaction, these features persist and often lead to chronic, unresolved grief. Conclusions: The relinquishing mother is at risk for long-term physical, psychological, and social repercussions.
Although interventions have been proposed, little is known about their effectiveness in preventing or alleviating these repercussions."
-- “Postadoptive Reactions of the Relinquishing Mother: A Review.” By Holli Ann Askren, MSN, CNM, Kathleen C. Bloom, PhD, CNM. In the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological and Neonatal Nursing, 1999 Jul-Aug; 28(4):395-400

"Relinquishing mothers have more grief symptoms than women who have lost a child to death, including more denial; despair, atypical responses; and disturbances in sleep, appetite, and vigor." Askren, H., & Bloom, K. (1999) Post-adoptive reactions of the relinquishing mother: A review. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological and Neonatal Nursing, 1999 Jul-Aug; 28(4):395-400

"Results shown in Table 3 demonstrate that mothers relinquishing a child for adoption tend towards more grief symptoms than bereaved parents ... ." ... "Table 3, comparing natural mothers in both open and closed adoptions with bereaved parents, shows that natural mothers suffer more denial, atypical responses, despair, anger, depersonalization, sleep disturbance, somaticizing, physical symptoms, dependency, vigor." Blanton, T.L., & Deschner, J. (1990). Biological mother's grief: The postadoptive experience in open versus confidential adoption. Child Welfare Journal, 69(6), pp. 525-535.

It very much matters that young women and their families fully understand what can happen in adoption. While JUNO may be hip and comedic and endearing, it matters more for its ommissions regarding adoption than anything else.

Barb, for BSERI


Anonymous said...

I am a birthmother and I must say some of us do have an experience that is not marked by overwhelming sense of grief and depression. Of course I cried and felt sadnesses but two years later, I feel blessed to have had the experience, really I do. I smile at thinking of her and where she is. I know I was not meant to be her mother and yes, I feel like we all won. The only thing that people talk about these days is the loss and the grief. But for me, while that was part of my experience, much more so was the joy and the peace in partaking in God's plan for us all.

....for BSERI said...

Hi Anonymous

Well you are certainly lucky then, because the research says that 90- 95% of women experience grief like that of a psychological amputation after adoption loss. Research also shows that the pain does not diminish after adoption loss, and in fact may worsen with time. That was certainly my experience.

So, in any group of ten natural mothers, you are going to be the only one who is going to feel blessed.

The rest of us are going to be suffering the torments of adoption hell.

From Appendix B:
The adoption experience for most birthmothers leaves a large emotional scar. According to the authors of "The Adoption Triangle: The Effects of Sealed Records on Adoptees, Birthparents and Adoptive Parents," most birthmothers expressed feelings of loss, pain and mourning that remained undimmed with time (Sorosky). A University of California, at Los Angeles, psychiatrist and author, Arthur Sorosky, M.D., likened the emotional scarring from surrendering a child to a psychological amputation (Sorosky).

The pain of the experience was hard to bear. As time went by the pain did not diminish, it increased. Robin Winkler, Ph.D. of the Institute for Family Studies, Melbourne, Victoria, reports that ninety percent of birthmothers surveyed felt deeply harmed by the adoption and the pain increased with time (BIRCO-Winkler). Drs. Harriet Ganson and Judith Cook found, "Birthmothers expressed deep anguish over adoption" (BIRCO-Ganson). Phyllis Silverman, Ph.D., who has studied birthmothers for twenty years, on behalf of Mary Beth Whitehead testified that ninety-five percent of the women she has studied found their loss shattering and worse than they imagined (Chesler).


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this! I've posted a link in the "Must Reads" on my blog. It makes me crazy when film and TV use adoption as a comedic topic. It's not freakin' funny! In this case, as you said, a sales job.

I haven't seen Juno and won't. But from what I've heard, it reminds me of Pretty Woman, where prostitution was prettied up, if not glorified.

Shadow said...

""it reminds me of Pretty Woman, where prostitution was prettied up, if not glorified.""

Denise...the author of the 'Juno' script was a former 'stripper' Here is one of many stories on the 'stripper' turned script-writer with 'comedy' about teen pregnancy, pro-life stance and pro-adoption stance.

....for BSERI said...

Shadow, from your link:

"And like Juno, Ms. Cody has an ability to capture the human transaction between genders and generations. In Ms. Cody’s case, she understands the nature of the compact between the demanding lout with a dollar in his hand and his objectified temporary fantasy.

I am terribly sorry New York Times, but in my opinion, Ms. Cody does not understand the nature of that compact at all. Either that, or she has no understanding of the nature of adoption.

IF she did understand, she never, ever would have written a movie glorifying adoption, which is all about dollars in hand and, sadly ...fantasies.


Anonymous said...

The N.Y.Times was probably talking about how the two transactions..

Money from the
lout to the dancer to pretend for one minute he might
fulfill his dreams.

To the adopter who pays for an agency in hopes of acquiring a baby for the chance to fulfill the need to be a substitute caretaker in lieu of the mother.

Striping and adoption have a lot of commonalities.

Striping and adoption are done without much thought to the use of women.

Striping away ones clothing to make money,using one's body to seduce and make money.

or in adoption striping away ones baby for fulfillment of someone's need to caretake or take a baby.

The bar owner and the agency the middle men collecting both money and profits from the objectified woman!

Anonymous said...

The first comment
the "birthmother"
is really sad and pathetic.

If you can honestly say you think of your child lost to adoption and cried and did not go on to grieve for the child you lost. I guess you are right you were not ready to be a mom. BUT if you had been nurtured by those that loved you and supported you probably would have been a wonderful mom. I am sad for women who feel they were part of god's plan explains a lot its called living in denial because its easier than living with the truth that you and your child were used for someone else's happiness.

wake up...people mothers who know the truth of what happened to them are know waking up I just wished the older women could face the truth and come out of the closet trust me its better than living in denial. Did you ever think your child may need you or want to know you....not you right, the mother. Sadly,
live like you have in your own little world to proud to understand and deal with the truth..."god bless" you for giving another woman your baby bet your child doesn't feel the same way.

....for BSERI said...

Great point about the objectification and exploitation.

It is wholly true.

The point I was making overlaps yours, like a Venn diagram. What I was trying to say is that she either doesn't understand the exploitative nature of stripping (doubtful) or she doesn't understand the exploitative nature of adoption (likely.)

If she understood the exploitative nature of adoption, she would not have written a movie glorifying it.

Anonymous said...

She would if she made money off of it.

Just like stripping she makes a living.

making a movie and exploiting is pretty much what this woman knows as a way of life.

She exploits herself and then turns around and exploits a young woman all for MONEY!!!

maybe she can retire and she won't exploit any more young women. I doubt it she probably works for an the body wears out eventually and then one has to turn to other ways to earn money.

Shadow said...

Actually I found another article/interview about this Diablo Cody... She had been having an affair with a married man..who...just happened to be ....a person who was Adopted when an infant!! Her lover while in this affair with her, would search for his natural mother at the behest of Ms. Cody. Ms. Cody then went on to write this Juno script using 'characters' from her own life and give them new life in her script. Ms. Cody also said if she had become pg..she never could have gone thru with an abortion! Personal choice, absolutely...but I also smell Pro-lifer.

Anyways...I posted this entire article at the new Romper Room! Should one want to read it in it's entirety.

....for BSERI said...

Why am I NOT surprised, Chris?

It is a puzzlement.


jackesugai said...

I thought the movie SUCKED and the worst part was the ending, when the no longer pregnant teen hops on her bike and rides over to her boyfriend's (the father)house like everything is fine and nothing even happened.

What message does that send? I think it perpetuates the fictitious lie that is the adoption industry- nobody gives up their baby and goes on with life as before!!

Anonymous said...

I was so glad to read your criticism of the movie Juno. The first realistic criticism I have read anywhere. I am a relinquishing mother. I gave away my little girl 35 years ago and yes, I find that with each passing year I feel less and less happy about what I did. This feeling persists despite the fact that I have had much counselling and am in a happy marriage and have two lovely daughters by that marriage.
I made contact with my relinquished daughter over ten years ago. However, we have had a misunderstanding and now she has told me never to contact her again.
As you can imagine, this has caused me much pain. But, I guess it was what was always 'planned' by the authorities. How can a birthmother ever make up for those lost years?
How can you be a mother and yet not a mother? Thanks for all the comments. It helps to know that others also experience such pain and loss and that the research vindicates our experiences.

Different Anonymous said...

While I think that the movie does gloss over what many mothers feel when they give up their babies for adoption, it is not as if Juno ignores it completely. Toward the end of the movie, after the baby has been born, Jennifer Garner's character invites Juno and her boyfriend to come and say hi to the baby, but Juno says that "it never really felt like the baby was mine, it was hers all along".
So I guess they were trying to make it clear that the movie could have a happy ending because Juno had never really connected with the child...

I also think you are all being too harsh on the screenwriter. So what if her previous career was stripping? It doesn't mean her opinions and insights are without merit.