Friday, September 19, 2008

A letter to Diablo Cody

Yesterday, I read this article about Diablo Cody responding to her critics, and it got me thinking about Juno again. I've wanted to ask Cody a question or two about the film ever since I first saw it.

So, sparked by her new blog post, I did what anyone would do: created a MySpace account and asked Diablo Cody to be my one friend. In order to message Cody, you have to first be her MySpace friend. Seems reasonible. So right now I'm waiting for her to either confirm or ignore my friend request.

If she confirms, this is the email I will send her. If you haven't seen Juno, I'd avoid reading the rest of this post -- it contains spoilers and probably wouldn't make much sense anyway. I'd like to know how the rest of you feel about the film and the questions I've raised:

Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not a Juno hater. So please don't hit delete just yet. I did have mixed feelings about the movie, though, and most of my sentiments stemmed from a simple confusion: Your feelings toward Jason Bateman’s character.

I just want to ask you this: How do you, personally, view this character?

Here’s what I saw in the movie, and, please, tell me if I’m wrong: You seemed to have more contempt for this character than anyone else on screen. Bateman, the aging Gen-Xer, realizes halfway through the film that suburban life is not for him. He’s a city dweller, and it’s obvious. He writes commercial jingles to pay for his house, but it’s clear he hates himself for it, deep down. He’d much rather be—as Little Edie would say—in any rat hole in New York City, probably ripping off Sonic Youth with his new band, than where he is now.

So, Bateman is out of his element in the family-oriented suburbs, and it takes the idea (or threat) of a kid to make this hit him on a visceral level. Suddenly, with the notion of an adopted child, he realizes that he can’t fake it anymore; he can’t pretend to enjoy where he is and what he does. What’s more, he shouldn’t, for the sake of his soon-to-be child. So he makes a decision before they adopt the baby, to avoid the fiasco of divorce with children.

From my view, you clearly fault Bateman’s character for his actions—and laud Jennifer Garner’s. But this has continued to puzzle me ever since I saw the film months ago. Do you realize the implications of what you’re arguing?

The film defines what is socially acceptable and what is not; clearly wanting to pursue a career in the city and not having a child at Bateman’s age is unacceptable to you. Why else would you kick his character to the curb once he makes this decision, excluding him from the rest of the film? Why else would you give Garner a number of lines mocking his lifestyle (“your shirt is stupid”) and not afford Bateman the same? Why else would you show everyone—smiling and happy—toward the film’s end, except Bateman; does his happiness not count because it’s not within the confines of normal adult behavior you’ve constructed? Why else would you associate his desires with pedophilia, as if to imply that his unbridled selfishness will invariably lead down a path of big-city hedonism and immorality?

That last one’s the real kicker. Part of me doesn’t want to believe that, in the otherwise effective slow-dance scene between Bateman and Page, you were suggesting that Bateman was coming on to her. I remember seeing this for the first time and screaming (in my head) “She did NOT just go there.” But, again, why else would the scene begin with Bateman watching Page out of his window with a lecherous grin? Why else would he get defensive and ask her why she visits him so often? Because he has assumed that she's sexually attracted to him as well?

I’ve used this “why else?” construction because I know there are possible answers to these questions that I just haven’t thought of. Maybe you weren’t suggesting that Bateman was coming onto Page. Maybe you excluded Bateman from the film’s end because you thought the change in setting would be too jarring.

Maybe. But the pattern remains, and so does my question: Why were you so hostile to this character? Because he realized he didn’t want to adopt a child and have a proper family? Because his version of avoiding normalcy isn’t cute and innocent like Ellen Page and Michael Cera’s? Or, rather, that avoiding normalcy is all fine and well at their age, but a man Bateman’s age needs to settle down and begin acting like a proper man—a father?

Is that really what you're saying?

If I'm just way off base, please let me know. I'd love to hear what you intended with this character, and how you would respond to my questions. I mean no offense; I'm just curious.