I'd like to send my whole youth group out right now to see the new film "Juno," but I wonder if it's one of those "slice of teenage life" movies that requires some distance from your adolescence years in order to really appreciate it. This hilarious and moving film follows the story of Juno MacGuff, a precocious 16-year-old high school girl who finds herself pregnant after a single sexual encounter with her best friend, Paulie Bleeker. Should she have an abortion? Should she keep the baby? What about giving it up for adoption? Now, this whole thing could play out like a bad "after-school special" with caricatures galore. It could have played like a sermon full of moral outrage complete with a quick wrap up at the end to make everything better.
Fortunately, "Juno" is none of these. The characters are almost all pitch-perfect real. I've met some Juno's in my years in youth ministry: acerbically smart and caring teenage girls who try their best to resist the sexual stereotypes that our culture forces on all adolescent females. I've met Paulie Bleeker's: sweet, shy, and mostly clueless teenage boys who think the most important things in life are running with their track buddies on cold autumn mornings and keeping a ready supply of orange tic-tacs on hand. I've met Juno's parents: working class folks trying to do what's best for the children, and loving them unconditionally despite the stupid things their kids do.
"Juno" allows these characters to inhabit a story that deals honestly with the realities of teen sex, pregnancy, the trivialities of high school, the desire for family, and the need to be needed. As Juno's father puts it when she asks if it's possible for two people to stay together forever:
In my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person will still think the sun shines out your ass. That's the kind of person that's worth sticking with.