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Discussion: ‘Jenny Juno’ and ‘Juno’

April 24, 2009

Jenny Juno
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I just saw Jenny Juno tonight–the 2004 K-movie that stars Kim Hyesung and Park Minji. For me, it definitely prompts some comparisons between it and the American movie that recently (well, 2007) gained popularity, Juno. First of all, the titles are enough to bring them both to mind, and then there is the clincher: they’re both about teen pregnancy. The plots are not incredibly similar, but I still can’t help but think about how they each took different approaches. Of course, both reflected their respective cultural mindsets about teen pregnancy, but the level of seriousness of each movie was different: different in such a way that surprised me. I kind of feel like talking about them a bit, so spoilers ahoy.

(I think I started writing an essay on this LOL; however, it’s missing a thesis so watch out for rambling and dead-end tangents).

I don’t think I have to say much about Juno, but I’ll give a brief summary of it. Basically, it’s about a 16-year-old girl, Juno, who one day impulsively has sex with a close friend, “Bleeker” and ends up pregnant. If I remember correctly, Bleeker is both quiet and shocked by the news. Despite the fact that this is such a huge deal between them, the two have a hard time communicating and being friends like they used to be. Juno’s parents find out about her pregnancy early on and begrudgingly accept the news, but Bleeker’s parents never seem to hear about it. A lot of stuff happens in the movie (that’s detrimental to the plot, but not particularly important to my discussion), but in the end Juno and Bleeker reconcile and Juno gives the baby up for adoption. The movie has a lot of humor, but it’s also pretty emotional at the same time. The moments that make you laugh seem to only be there to offset the true seriousness of the teen’s true situation.

Jenny Juno is similar to Juno some ways, but it definitely has a lot that’s different. To sum it up, Jae-In, “Jenny,” is fifteen-year-old student who gets pregnant after hooking up with her similarly aged boyfriend, Juno, for the first time. Even though Juno is shocked and unsettled upon learning of Jenny’s condition, the two of them quickly make a pact to go through it together for the sake of their mutual love for each other. They keep the pregnancy a secret for as long possible, until six months through they reveal the news to their respective parents. Unsurprisingly, both sets of parents are very upset by the news–Jenny’s parents threaten to send her to America, and Juno’s parents give him the cold shoulder. The two are separated, but Juno finds Jenny in the end just as her water breaks and they go to the hospital together. Jenny Juno finishes with indication that the two kept the baby. Even though Jenny and Juno experience some hardship, the general emotion of the movie is cheerful. Jenny is ridiculously proud of her pregnancy, and Juno is more than supportive–as a result, the two are happy as clams until their parents try to split them up.

I guess one thing I was taken aback by was the lighthearted way Jenny Juno dealt with the issue of teen pregnancy. Even though I think that it is probably less culturally acceptable to have pregnant teens in Korea (although, that isn’t to say that it’s socially condoned in the US), they still treated the situation as if it was simply a good plot for a movie. I definitely thought it was an entertaining movie, but I didn’t feel happy with the manner in which they portrayed Jenny and Juno’s predicament. Jenny was almost embarrassingly pleased that she was pregnant at fifteen, and while Juno showed concern for things like their age and income… it just didn’t appear that the two of them realized what the big deal was. The first half of the movie seemed like it was bent on showing how painfully cute and naive the couple were, but wait. She’s pregnant. I just think the pregnancy was a sneaky plot device to draw in viewers, basically. I KNOW, that’s what it was based on, but I just felt like it was pretty unrealistic. True, you don’t have to be all over the opposite sex to have sex, but it was just a little unbelievable to me when they looked sheepish about kissing each other of the cheek. What was hard for me to was that the parents were only a roadblock to their happiness, and apparently they did get happiness eventually–they had happy families with things the same as always, except with the addition of their child.

In that sense, I think Juno simply carried the idea with more seriousness and clarity. I know it’s stupid to make comparisons, but you know that it’s hard to avoid. I guess I just appreciated the fact that while it ended in an acceptable way, Juno’s pregnancy process was difficult and unglamorous. I guess what I’m getting at is that even I think the point of Jenny Juno was to show of the good relationship of the couple, the message it seemed to give was that even though you make mistakes, if you love enough you will get your happy ending. While it wasn’t a serious movie, the flippant way they dealt with huge issues that NEED significant attention was disappointing. The ending was good for the cheese-loving soul of mine, but I would have been so much more satisfied mentally if Jenny and Juno had some kind of consequence for their mistakes. There was feeling that they shouldn’t have done anything differently–it was fine that they had unprotected sex because their lives were happier after; it was fine that they hid the pregnancy from their parents because Jenny would have been taken away completely if they told them sooner; it was fine that they were parents as students because HEY, their parents actually liked being grandparents in their late thirties!

I don’t know why I’m going on and on about this, but I guess sometimes I have to pick at a point of a movie in which I feel dissatisfied. Like I said before, I really liked the entertainment value of Jenny Juno, but I just wanted it to be slightly weightier because they did choose such a topic for the plot.

If you feel like chatting about it, I’ll pretty much definitely chat back. I’m sure it seems like I’m taking it way too seriously, but I don’t care that much in truth. I just feel miffed when movies try to skip over important things, because you shouldn’t “go there” if you don’t want to devote a bit of time to the issue.

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