Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Dame called Diablo

I went to see Juno a few weeks ago, I meant to blog about it but I didn't. Juno is getting some criticism from feminist quarters for being anti-abortion, but to me it seemed pro-choice in the true sense of the word. Juno, 16 and accidently pregnant to her best friend, doesn't feel right terminating for entirely personal reasons, so she goes ahead with the pregnancy, adopting her baby out to someone ultimately as outwardly dysfunctional but open-hearted and loving as she is. To have witten the screenplay any other way, with an agenda in mind, would have belied these particular characters who dwelled within the world of the film.

Anyway, in my opinion it's a lovely movie with a quietly hilarious screenplay and a great team of characters, all of whom resonate off the screen, but especially Juno and her hapless boyf.

Part of the reason it's got a lot of press, in fact a lot of the reason there's a lot of jaws yapping is that the writer (yes, people are actually interested in the writer) is an ex-stripper. Diablo Cody says (of studying writing before she became a stripper):

"I never intended to get my writing out there. I always thought of published writers as honor roll students -- the real overachiever types. I never intended my work as a springboard to anything else. I write because I'm addicted to it. It's my confessional." (Wired Magazine)

Popular Myths
1. Writing is something good girls do.
2. You know, those overachiever girls who aren't interested in sex, smoking, drugs, but whose only real appetite is for reading.
3. Writing is an asexual activity.
4. The intellect is not an erogenous zone.
5. Raw imagination is less powerful than sexuality.
6. Exposing your body is the most vulnerable way of exposing yourself.
7. Strippers are not intellectual, strippers are sexual automatons, strippers are their bodies.
8. Writing is not a physical, inhabited, bodily activity.
9. Sensual writing is somehow cut off from the body. Writing is not a sensual act.

It's part of the bigger myth really, that being sexual, that being interested in sex and pleasure is antithetical to being nice or good. I'm glad that someone like Diablo Cody can get strong press because she is a writer who has had an unconventional path, and shows young people that going to uni isn't the way to become a writer. But it's a shame that the first thing anyone has to say about her is that she's an ex-stripper. Watching Juno, I am sure she is far more fascinating and complex than being simply an ex-anything. It's another label, another box to put her in, another way of parceling female sexuality so that it is at once permissive and punitive, simultaneously available and withheld.


  1. Anonymous2:33 PM

    Yes. There was a discussion on another blog I subscribe to about how a woman expressing her sexuality is still automatically labeled a whore. And I don't necessarily mean 'expressing' it all that publicly either. Simply admitting to having any interest in sex beyond simply accommodating one's (male of course) partner is enough.

  2. Anonymous9:29 AM

    Nice post, Penni. I loved Juno, and I agree that it was extremely pro-choice. (spoiler alert) I thought Juno herself was a bit of a smart-arse, and was maybe the most self-conscious of all the characters. For me, the strongest character was the step-mother, played impeccably (as ever) by Alison Janney. And how strong was the simmering tension in the artificial world of the young couple, with the desperate image-consciousness and aching maternalism of the wife and the thinly veiled midlife crisis of the husband (did he really think Juno was falling for him in that way? Did he really think they could find a life together in the future? Apparently so...). Lovely film. I wish I'd written it...

  3. Oh, yes, me too.

    Alison Janney is fabulous. And yeah, I was amazed by Jason Bateman and especially Jennifer Garner, how understated and authetic their portrayals were. I thought considering the cast, there was no sense of shiny star power, they were all very real and credible as ordinary people.

  4. Anonymous3:26 PM

    I love that by the age of 24 Diablo Cody is an ex-stripper.
    There was a great interview with her in Frankie mag recently.

    looking forward to seeing juno when i get the opportunity.

  5. She is a gorgeous woman, saw her today in Oscar photos, what a brilliant name!