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A Clueless Fantasy of Parenthood

Posted February. 10, 2005 22:48,   


The controversial can of worms “Jenny, Juno” has finally popped its lid: the second film by director Kim Ho-joon of the famed “My Little Bride,” “Jenny, Juno” was revealed for the first time at a press screening on February 1.

The movie, which depicts a 15-year-old middle school student’s pregnancy and delivery, initially received a rating of “18 years or over” by the Korean Media Rating Board, but the rating was lowered to “15 years or over” after an appeal for reconsideration, triggering a fierce debate on the ethics and freedom of movie-making. Over 970,000 people have already visited the film’s official website (www.jj2005.com) as of February 10, which opened to viewers less than a month ago on January 17. The website bulletin board is teeming with postings that support or denounce the film’s controversial subject matter.

To begin with the conclusion, “Jenny, Juno” belies the uproar surrounding it by being calm to the point of blandness. Confronting the risky issues of teenage pregnancy and childbirth in as “pretty” (a word used by the production company) a manner as possible, the movie does not contain a single scene that implies sexual intercourse between the two titular characters, let alone an actual depiction of it. Instead, it shows the two (fully-clothed) adolescents staring blankly up at the ceiling.

Such cautiousness is certainly not because the film aims at “communicating to teenagers the dangers of pregnancy,” as the production company argues. Rather, it’s because the filmmakers judged that “Jenny, Juno,” targeted explicitly at middle and high school students, could achieve its desired effect without relying on provocative scenes. What the movie taps into is the fantasy of parenthood harbored by teenagers.

“Jenny, Juno” rigorously aligns itself with the emotions and eyelevel of middle and high school students, telling the story as they would dream it. Juno happily applies himself to part-time work, saying he’s saving money for the baby’s milk. Jenny indulges in “prenatal care,” putting the telephone receiver to her stomach as Juno sings a lullaby on the other end.

When Jenny and Juno boldly face off with their flabbergasted parents, stating, “If you’re going to do as you like, then we’re going to do as we like, too; we’re not going to give up studying or having this baby,” the film abruptly superimposes the image of “Romeo and Juliet.” And by establishing that Jenny is a class representative who ranks fifth in her year and Juno is a successful “gamer,” it implies that teenage pregnancy is not an issue restricted to “delinquent” youths.

The reason why such acts can take place so “unabashedly” is because the movie foregrounds the “value of life.” Who’s going to say “no” to the healthy message that abortions should be avoided?

Jenny and Juno enjoy cutesy dates while “The Tadpole Song” plays in the background, and carry out “pretty” labor, like two kids playing “house.” The production company dubs this a “moving project to protect babies.” But who’s going to take the responsibility of protecting the clueless Jenny and Juno?

This film opens on February 18.

Seung-Jae Lee sjda@donga.com