Al was impressed by the movie Bella, but troubled too. He presents an excellent summary of all the different tactics pro-lifers have used over the years, then concludes:
And while I intend no disrespect to the movie, its producers, or ardent supporters like Mr. Pacheco, I’m left with a nagging question. Because if this movie did indeed change some women’s minds about whether to have an abortion, that’s great. But it must be said that anyone who decides to keep a baby only because of this movie is basing that decision on emotion rather than any deliberate thought process. And I fear that doesn’t bode well for the long-term future of a rational, ethical, moral, or normative representation of the pro-life cause.
Actually, I think it bodes extremely well for the pro-life cause — just not the “rational, ethical, moral or normative” tactics they’ve been relying upon, with lousy results.
Here’s what I wrote him this morning (with added post-coffee comments):
Hi Al, I haven’t seen the movie and frankly don’t intend to. It doesn’t have any tacky monsters or chicks with guns or a neat soundtrack. Bella just isn’t my “thing”. But your review points to something important, even if unintentionally.
The “audience” for pro-life messages are female, obviously. Yet, as a female, for most of my life I found the pro-life establishment’s messages unappealing. In fact, I found that most of those messages had me thinking, ‘Well heh, I’ll get an abortion JUST to annoy [that adulterous scumbag] Randall Terry and those awful old men outside the Mortgentaler clinic, with their mis-spelled protest signs and plastic fetus dolls.’
Is that rational or logical?
No, but neither are most women, esp. when they are pregnant 🙂
Women don’t decide to abort based on logical arguments or bible quotes or what (God help us!) Randall Terry does or says. Heck, I’m pretty bright, and a writer to boot, and I don’t know what you meant by “normative”.
They do it based on personal, individualistic, emotional appeals and feelings (“I’ll break up with you if you don’t abort”, “You are throwing your life away”).
They see their lives as a story/movie/narrative like Moonstruck or Enchanted or Briget Jones, and an unwanted pregnancy is not part of the script.
So an emotional movie about particular people doing particular things, presented in a visually attractive fashion (with a man many women, although not me, find very handsome) is going to help change minds.
(Don’t underestimate the power of great lighting and the other technical positives you mentioned. I’m convinced that at least 50% of Oprah’s enduring appeal is the perfectly calibrated lighting and colour palettes on her set. Women tune in to immerse themselves in the atmosphere…)
I am not part of the official “pro life movement” because I find most of the people I’ve met in it quite simply unappealing: closed minded, unsophisticated, un-funny, not too bright. And frankly, folks with no stake in the game: either they’re men or celibate clergy or menopausal women.
If we are to “choose life” then I for one don’t care to spend my life with people I can’t stand. Life is too short.
They cling to old, obviously failed strategies and theories. “So how’s that been working for you for the last 30 years?” as Dr. Phil might well ask them.
What I call the “driver’s ed film” approach to pro-life is frankly a turn off, and may even be counterproductive.
Never mind Bella. I sincerely believe that a pair of foul mouthed, raunchy films by Judd Apatow — The 40 Year Old Virgin, and Knocked Up — will turn out to have influenced young people’s morality in a positive way more than any “Christian” film ever. I’d add Juno to that list, too.
They make morality “cool.” Cool is not a Christian virtue, I know, but we are dealing with post-Christians and have to start somewhere.
It must gall pro-lifers to see their message ignored while things like Hollywood films and science (the two ‘enemies’) make more headway. But God works in mysterious ways, no?
Who cares why it works as long as it does? What pro-lifers have been doing all this time has, after all, been more or less a failure. I’d have more respect for them if they acknowledged this, but I’ve learned that the first rule of the pro-life movement is never to criticise the pro-life movement. And that is not a recipe for a healthy or successful cause.
I sometimes suspect pro-lifers are (unconsciously) hoping to just keep on failing because martyrdom is more appealing to them psychologically than success.
They talk a lot about the millions of fetuses aborted since the 1970s, but how many of them could have been saved if pro-lifers had been humble enough to accept criticism of their strategies by “unacceptable” almost- sympathizers: young, worldly, sexually active women?
In other words, their target audience.