Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Intergenerational Disconnet

As mention in my previous post about the movie Juno, it is about impermanence of relationships...and yet it is more than that.

I wondered over and over why the young character in the movie went ahead with her plan to allow the first couple she interviewed adopt her son, even after learning that the husband decided he wasn't ready to be a father - or even a husband. She allows a newly divorcing mother to parent her child alone. Why, I wondered. Because she was obviously richer? Would this woman be able to maintain that lifestyle without her husband? Was a nice house all that mattered?

My daughter enlightened me by stating her belief that she did it because she herself - Juno - had been raised in a "broken" or single parent home, being abandoned by her mother. My daughter guessed that the character felt it had been OK for her, so why not.

That got me thinking about the intergenerational familial disconnect represented in the film - and in particular the lack of mother daughter bond.

The 19987 book "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant is a fiction based on biblical times told in the voice of Jacob's daughter Dinah (who only received a glimpse of recognition in the Book of Genesis). The red tent is the place where women gathered during their cycles of birthing, menses, and even illness. It has been described as "a biblical sorority of mothers and wives." Dinah's mother and Jacob's three other wives initiate her into the religious and sexual practices of the tribe.

How far we have come from a sisterhood of women offering compassion and support, wiping one another's brow during labor and birth, and passing on womanly and maternal secrets and advise. Not only have many of us in middle and upper-class white society lost relationships with grandparents who are sent off to nursing homes, but even mother-daughter bonds are virtually non-existent as portrayed in this film. At best, we learn childbirth in classes and "the womanly art of breastfeeding" from totally non-related women in lactation classes or at a La Leche League meeting.

In the film, a sixteen year old - who is considered unquestionably by those around her and her one internalized messages to be "ill-equipped" and unable to be a parent, is however, equpipped and able to make life and death decisions for and about herself and her child with no input from any parental figure. Instead she announces to them what she has decided and they simply go along for the ride, after she alone ruled out terminating the pregnancy and decided on adoption. There is not one discussion or thought about the loss of a grandchild by either set of parents (though it is unclear whether the paternal grandfather exists in any way in the life of the baby's father or not).

There is utter and total disconnect. A teenager is allowed to make a life-changing decision with zero input from anyone. She decide son adoption, chooses the new parent s (who turn out to be a parent), decides against an open adoption...all without one word explained to her about her rights or options what to expect in the future. The baby's father is non-committal throughout. Her one confidant - a friend her age - likewise offers nothing but agreement to idea of abortion or adoption. Neither is discussed by anyone at anytime in terms of aftermath. She chooses a closed adoption - believing incorrectly it was how Moses' adoption was carried out -- and choses not to see the baby at birth. All of this because she is under the impression thta it help her "put it behind her and go on with her life." And though thse words are never stated aloud, it is the clear implication of the film.

Juno, the movie, may not be a Greek or Roman myth but it it is classic Adoption Mythology 101, and act one in a life-long tragedy.

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