Gender Analysis of Juno

A movie about coming of age, sex, pregnancy, and relationships, Juno is rife with gender symbols and more specifically, adolescent gender messages. The witty and sarcastic dialogue and the lack of stereotypical extreme masculine and feminine characterizations poke fun at traditional gender roles. Yet, Juno doesn't manage to completely escape the confines of traditional gender norms.

-Paulie Bleeker's timid yet reproductively successful sexual encounter with Juno represents the male "adolescent fear and desire of female sexuality" (Inness 50)

Extreme masculinity and femininity combined with an overall obsession with appearance and sex = typical teen movies
-Upon first glance Juno appears to offer a more realistic portrayal of youth and gender as compared to many other popular films
-Teenagers in popular films are often shown to be "entirely preoccupied with romantic and sexual relationships" (Stern 31)
     -Although the characters in Juno don't necessarily engage in the typical "manipulative" or "embarrassing" sexual encounters we see in many films, their lives do still revolve around romance and sex, or at least the consequences of sex (Stern 30)

-Popular movies about teenagers or made for teenagers are extremely influential
     -71% of American adults use the words "lazy," "disrespectful," and "spoiled" to describe teenagers (Stern 23)
     -Disapproval of teenagers "sustain cultural stereotypes of a relatively disempowered social group" (Stern 24)
     -Popular movies often perpetuate these negative stereotypes and although Juno is level-headed, witty, and caring, the main focus is on her unplanned and irresponsible teenage pregnancy
-Many films suggest that "good girls" that engage in selfless behavior are not "normal teen behaviors" (Stern 30)
     -Can Juno's decision to give up the baby for adoption be viewed as "selfless"?

Adolescence is an important time when an individual's self-identity is really established and attitudes towards gender can significantly impact that identity. School, peers, and media all have a heavy affect on how a person learns about gender and in Juno we see all these aspects merge together to both create and reflect cultural ideas about gender. 

-Juno deals with adolescent sexuality and requires an analysis of gender encoded messages since a large part of its audience consists of teenage girls who "imitate fictional characters" (Hubler 88)
-Additionally, "adolescent girls encounter institutional resistance to the communication of their thoughts, feelings, and opinions" (Inness 246)
     -In my experience, teenage girls are expected to outwardly conform to traditionally masculine expectations of rigid emotions and self reliance
     -Such resistance to emotion is represented in Juno's dialogue which is often riddled with witty quips that disguise the intensity of the situation and her emotions

-Diablo's "depiction of a young girl's sexual agency offers insight into newly emerging formulations of girlhood and young female sexuality" (Willis 241)
-However, Juno does not completely depart from "past narrative characterizations of young female subjects" (Willis 241)
-Despite the fact that Juno as a character isn't "sexually objectified" or defined by an "interest in romance," the film is both "familiar and yet distinct from culturally stereotypical approaches to the rendering of girlhood and sexuality" (Willis 241)
-Juno challenges the idea that teenage girls are either "sexless" or promiscuous as Juno only has sex with one person one time in a situation she instigated (Willis 242)
-Additionally, as compared to the "teenage" girls in the movie posters above, Juno's appearance and attitude "connote an independent self-confidence" (Willis 242)

-Yet, Juno, her sexuality, and the consequential pregnancy are still "intricately tied to social ideas about purity, innocence, and vulnerability to sexual corruption" (Willis 242)
-Juno as a character is neither child nor adult, innocent or beyond "redemption" (Willis 242)
-Juno and Jennifer Garner's character, Vanessa, face devastating consequences as the result of sexual and romantic relationships gone wrong while the men remain relatively unscathed

-Overall, Juno is a complex amalgamation of new and old views of gender

Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7