Remember a few weeks ago when I announced that after roughly a year of ignoring last-chance renewal notices, my Newsweek had finally stopped coming?  It would appear that reports of my subscription expiration were premature.   I am still getting Newsweek, and moreover, I am still getting last-chance renewal notices.  I don’t know whether or not to believe them.  They said I would no longer get my chock-full-o’-news-that-matters Newsweek if I didn’t renew immediately twelve months ago, and that didn’t really pan out as I’d anticipated.  (Nor as they anticipated, I’m sure.) 

According to my mailing label, my subscription is good through March 2008.  You know, it’s funny.  I could swear that twelve months ago I looked for the expiration code on my mailing label and it was nowhere to be found.  If I didn’t know better–and I’m not sure that I do, but just for the sake of argument–I would suspect that they’re playing games with me.  It did seem for a while there that I was buying two years of Newsweek every eight months or so, and for all I know I could in fact be subscribed through 2016.  There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to ignore the latest renewal notice they sent me.  Though I don’t know–they’re bringing out the big guns this time, pre-stamped envelope and all.  I reject them at my peril. 

Speaking of the new issue of Newsweek, there’s a big article on diet and fertility inside, which means there’s a big picture of a naked pregnant woman on the outside.  You know, I’m not such a prude that I get uncomfortable whenever I see the human form in a state of undress–I mean, I’m an adult, I’ve seen it all before (most of it anyway, excepting the parts I covered my eyes for)–but that’s sort of my point.  I’m a little bored of seeing naked pregnant ladies every time someone does an article about pregnancy.  Centuries from now people will study our civilization and conclude that nudity was a big taboo in our culture, except when a woman was pregnant, in which case she would be forced to surrender her clothing at the first indication of an enlarged belly.  Because clothes on a pregnant woman are an abomination.  I dunno, kids, I appreciate that it’s difficult to find flattering apparel when one is pregnant–having been pregnant and wishing to remain clothed for the duration of the pregnancy four times–but seriously.  Seriously.  There’s more to being pregnant than hanging out on magazines naked.  I owned a flattering maternity outfit once, but I recently gave it to charity.  I should have donated it to the Pregnant Models of America.  It’s December, momma.  You should really bundle up.

On a mostly-unrelated side note, I’ve also wondered why there are so many topless ladies on pantyhose boxes.  What’s the subliminal message there?  “Our pantyhose: so flattering you won’t need other clothes.”  I’m not getting it.  But I guess that’s why I’m not in advertising.

Back to Newsweek, which not only has a big article on diet and fertility, but also a small article on the Hollywood portrayal of pregnancy in recent films.  I’ve noticed on the conservative blogs that pro-lifeys (that sounds less threatening than “pro-lifers,” doesn’t it?) have been fawning over movies like Knocked Up and Waitress because they have characters who are Pregnant Under Undesirable Circumstances who nevertheless do not get abortions but live happily ever after bringing their babies to term.  So you can bet that if conservatives are falling all over themselves to praise movies about single parents, liberals–“liberals,” why do I feel like Wally George whenever I use this term?–are bound to be het up that more film characters are not getting safe, legal abortions.  And no offense to anyone’s deeply-held convictions, but am I the only one who sees this as a bunch of nonsense?

Let’s take Knocked Up, which I haven’t seen and probably never will, if only because life is too short to watch any more crap than I already shovel into my eyeballs.  Wow, that was an unattractive image that didn’t entirely make sense.  But I’ll move on.  I have no interest in seeing Knocked Up, despite the fact that it is probably just as funny and sweet as all its fans claim, blah blah, because frankly, I’m put off by the premise.  Attractive and successful woman gets impregnated by immature loser–because she was drunk, I’m assuming?  I’m hoping?  But she wants to involve him in the pregnancy and his child’s life because that’s the right thing to do, and yes, that’s all good, but it’s also depressing.  Ladies, don’t get drunk and have unprotected sex with losers.  If you must get drunk and have unprotected sex, please do it with someone who has a job.  Or something. 

Yes, I know I haven’t seen the movie and trust me, I’m not judging the quality of the film or even its moral message.  She didn’t have an abortion, and the immature loser learns he has to grow the hell up; my Inner Puritan is turning cartwheels, I assure you.  I’m just saying that generally, I don’t enjoy these stories.  I’m thinking Knocked Up is probably far less offensive than that season of Will & Grace when Grace was intentionally having a baby with her gay best friend because, hey, babies are the new handbags.  But I’d still rather see something cheerier, thanks.

That’s just a personal note.  On to the mockery of this writer in Newsweek, who posits various theories about why Hollywood, for all its ballyhooed liberalism, is so reticent to portray abortion in its filmmaking.  She has several ideas, all of which are basically the same:  Hollywood cares most about money and doesn’t want to risk their bottom line by offending squeamish movie-goers with abortion stories.  She laments that on those rare occasions that women in movies do have abortions, they end up getting “punished” with life-threatening complications (which couldn’t possibly be due to the fact that most of these movie abortions take place during an era when abortion was illegal and women were at the mercy of back-alley butchers and the infamous coat hangers–no, it’s all about punishing women who dare to embrace their sexuality).  In fact, we haven’t had a good, consequence-free abortion movie since Fast Times at Ridgemont High–a movie I (regrettably) have seen, back when I was younger and life seemed interminably long. 

I admit that my memory of Fast Times is somewhat hazy; despite the fact that this was a film that supposedly defined my generation, it didn’t really make much of an impression on me.  I remember the abortion; I remember it being kind of superfluous.  Because she got pregnant and had an abortion and…so what?  Judge Reinhold took her out for ice cream, I think.  They probably could have worked that ice cream in some other way, but hey, that’s a creative choice and I respect Cameron Crowe’s artistic autonomy.  Or whatever.  My point is not that the abortion part of the movie was offensive, which it certainly was to some (though after an hour and a half of watching randy teenagers trying to get laid, I’m not sure which sensibility you have left to be offended, but maybe that’s just me).  Anyway, my point is that the abortion really didn’t move the plot, such as it was, forward.  Because number one, it was pretty close to the end anyway, and number two, after the abortion it was all over for that character except for the ice cream.  I mean…I don’t know, kids, it was Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  Do I really need to explain the relevance or irrelevance of any of its segments?

On a side note, has anyone else ever wondered who the heck Tangerine Dream was and how they got to score so many movies in the ’80s?  I guess John Williams was busy. 

But back to cinemus abortionus.  The thing about abortion as a plot device is that unless you’re going to show some medical complication or psychological fallout–which would surely please abortion-rights advocates no end–there isn’t much you can do with it.  (Especially in a romantic comedy, but I won’t go there.)  A story needs a conflict, or there’s no story.  Pregnancy is a condition brimming with possibility for conflict.  There’s so many different directions you can take it.  If your pregnant character gets an abortion and proceeds to go about her business, perfectly-well-adjusted-as-we-know-most-women-who-get-abortions-are, what was the point of her being pregnant in the first place?  Unless there’s regret or some similar pesky consequence, you have hit a narrative dead end and wasted your audience’s time and sympathy.  Okay, let’s envision a Knocked Up where the leading lady gets an abortion.  What’s that short guy with the bad hair going to do for the next ninety minutes?  You see what I mean?  That’s why women in movies who get abortions are “punished” for it–because punishment is more interesting than nothing.  If you’re going to make a movie where people start living happily ever after at minute five, you’d better have some adorable cartoon sidekicks and a damn fine Alan Mencken song.  Or, alternatively, some naked ladies.  Just not pregnant naked ladies because then Newsweek will be on your a** about pandering to the pro-lifeys. 

I didn’t really mean to go on for so long about that crowd-pleasing subject.  You’re going to think I did it just for the ratings, but I didn’t.  It was an artistic choice.  Respect it or not.  I just wanted to mention that my favorite part of that Newsweek article was the last bit, where the writer noted that if we must have movies about women carrying their babies to term, at least those babies are being raised in non-traditional families.  Is it just me, or does the much-ballyhooed liberalism seem to be drifting into self-parody?  This Newsweek piece is only a few Swiftian lines short of a satire in National Review. 

Now, if I really wanted some closure on this post, I’d bring it all back to naked pregnant ladies or disingenuous renewal notices.  Instead I’m going to insert a non sequitir about Newsweek’s Periscope editors being unable to resist a line about Linda Tripp’s “mouth-blown” glass Christmas ornaments.  Like that pre-stamped envelope, a classy touch.  Verrrry classy.