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Political pundits argue that John McCain must get the conservative Christian right if he wants to win the presidency. Hollywood producers might heed the same advice: they need the conservative Midwest and South to get a smash box office hit.

Some producers wonder how they might crack that nut. For one thing, they have to understand and respect conservative values.

We heard stories that the theaters in the South and Midwest couldn't get Juno soon enough or keep it long enough. "Why?" some producers might ask. "It features a smart mouth teenager -- and she's pregnant -- and it was written by a stripper!"

Yeah, well, sometimes bad things happen in life. Heck, read Genesis and you'll get an eyeful of infidelity, pregnancy, prostitution, murder. Making purely family films isn't necessarily what the Christian right craves. Think of the violence in the Passion.

If you want to know why the Christian right loved Juno, I'll give you four main reasons.

First, Juno showed consequence for premarital sex. Unlike TV shows that feature interns in hospitals sleeping with everyone without a negative result, for example, this film tells it like it is in the real world. If you act outside of certain moral laws, there may be a negative consequence. For example, you might catch a venereal disease, you might destroy a friendship, or you might get pregnant.

Second, Juno featured a girl taking responsibility for her actions. She admitted her mistake rather than lying and covering it up, and she found a good mother for her baby. Which leads us straight into number three: Juno preaches the pro-life message. Music to the ears of the anti-abortion right. "The fetus has fingernails," Juno's (Ellen Page) friend preaches. Indeed. Juno's decision to flee the abortion clinic and pursue the adoption option is refreshing from an industry that typically releases films with little respect for life (think of some of the other Academy Award nominated films, for example).

Lastly, Juno shows us a family that loves each other. Juno, her father, and her stepmother listen to and support each other even through a difficult time like a pregnancy. They may not always agree, but even their criticisms are delivered with good intentions. When Juno returns from visiting the adopting father, for instance, her stepmother reminds her that young girls can't really hang out at the homes of older married men especially when their wives aren't home. Although Juno resists this advice at the time, she comes to discover her stepmother was right.

For too long, democrats and Hollywood have demonized the right. But a careful inspection of the success of Juno in conservative sections of the country shows us that the Christian values are actually pretty respectable: consider consequence; take responsibility for your actions; respect life; love one another.

Rather than be shocked over the fact that Christians actually liked this film, perhaps we should be more shocked that these values aren't the principle ones in more films coming out of Hollywood. The fact that they are delivered to us by a stripper scribe may seem ironic to some, but for me it reveals a universality to this simple human story. After all, isn't that what everyone wants from art? A heartfelt story that tells the truth about the human condition?

Perhaps that's yet another reason why conservatives supported this film. It was honest; it told the truth. After all, if I remember correctly, "thou shalt not bear false witness" is one of the top ten.

March 2008

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