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Monday, February 7, 2005

Coach Carter is a major Hollywood move, in national distribution since mid-January. One of the characters, a high school girl played by Ashanti, is pregnant and has an abortion.

Here's a round-up of reactions to the abortion subplot.

The post Ashanti gets an abortion and that's good expresses a reaction to the abortion that seems to also be the perspective of the movie itself toward the abortion:

In the movie Coach Carter one of the star players on this innercity basketball team has gotten his girlfriend pregnant. Kira, saucily played by the singer Ashanti, is excited about baby booties and getting a place with Kenion, her man, so that they can be a family. Kenion, however, has a 3.8 GPA, is a powerhouse on the winning basketball team, and wants more out of life. As he tells Kira, "When I look around here, I see everything I never want to be."

As the movie progresses, he presses her to think how they will manage: is she going to graduate, will he have to get a job, how will they care for an infant? These questions convince Kira that Kenion isn't committed to her the way she wants him to be and she breaks up him, declaring she can have this baby all by herself. By the end of the film, Kenion has gotten a scholarship to college and comes to Kira and tells her he wants her and the baby to come with him. But, astonishingly in a mainstream movie, she tells him there's no more baby. She thought about it and realized it wasn't a good thing for her and her future.

This shocked the hell out of me in the theater. A Hollywood movie, a family movie that condones abortion!?! Things that sane and smart never happen when teens get pregnant in media America. I half expected Kira to be run over by a semi! And even more shocking is that Kenion loves her still, he still wants her to come with him to college. They have a happy ending as far as the film takes them.

Abortion is a legal right, although an increasingly hard to come by one, for young American women. And for many young, poor, African American women, having abortions rather than babies would improve their lots in life tremendously. When Kira says there is no baby, I, as the audience, was clear on the fact that this was a good thing, that she had expanded rather than telescoped her future. I was even left believing that, from now on, Kenion and Kira would--gasp--use birth control! I was thrilled my sons, 13 and 12, saw this and got the message that unwanted pregnancies are bad news and should be prevented. And, if something goes wrong, abortion might be the best choice they and their partners could make. What we want for teens is, really, no baby, one way or the other.
Kenion suggests abortion to Kira, who had previously been committed to the baby. I hope her sons didn't get the idea that it's cool to do that. Kira, by the way, has picked out a name for the baby and started buying items for it before the abortion. She's a prime candidate for profound negative emotional consequences. Although Kenion does love her still, the movie doesn't say what happens in their relationship after the abortion disclosure. If I remember correctly, she turns away from him with a sad look on her face after his expression of interest in a continued relationship, and the scene fades out. We don't see her again.

As the movie concludes, we're given a short summary of what happens in the future to each of the main characters. (Along the lines of "Squeaky was given a four-year scholarship to San Diego State University and now owns a car dealership") We're told what happens to Kenion but no screen time is devoted to telling us what happens to Kira. We already know what happened to the baby.

The movie is based on a true story, but Coach Carter is never shown as having any knowledge of or opinions about the pregnancy. I suppose that the real Kenion must have provided the screenwriter with the background biographical information about his high school girlfriend and the abortion. How hard would it have been to find her and tell us about the path that her life has taken since the events portrayed in the movie? In the eyes of the director, the abortion is supposed to be for her sake, as well as for his. So...how have things worked out for her?

Pansy at Two Sleepy Mommies had this reaction:

She decides because the future is unsure and she really wants her boyfriend to go off to college instead of remaining in a dead end life in the ghetto to have an abortion. After that all is well in the world. There is one point in the movie where Coach Carter stresses the importance of star athletes not getting special treatment and having to obey the rules like everyone else. But then the girlfriend has an abortion.
Kevin Miller has two different film reviews up. At Explore Faith, he writes:

Whatever your stance on the legal and moral implications of abortion, the choice is not one to be taken lightly. Abortion remains among the most loaded decisions a person can make, and the nonchalance with which it's treated in Coach Carter fails to give it the weight it deserves. It is more of a footnote to the story than a major turning point. This seems to directly contradict what Ken Carter says to his son at one point in the film-- something along the lines of, “Part of becoming an adult means making decisions—and living with the consequences.
You might enjoy comparing this to his review at Hollywood Jesus.

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