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Posted on May 15, 2017 at 4:43 PM

A friend and I recently watched the movie Table 19 because we were looking for a
fun comedy. Unfortunately, the movie was neither fun nor funny. Indeed, the
movie did not deliver on a number of fronts, which is why I do not recommend
it. I want to focus on a specific plot line that this movie employed—one that
is common in movies and books—and that I find problematic. In case you are
interested in watching this movie despite my warnings, there are spoilers

The basic plot is that Eloise McGarry, played by Anna
Kendrick, ends up sitting at the table of “rejects” at a wedding. She was
originally the maid of honor to the bride, but she and the bride’s brother,
Teddy, broke up after two years of dating and she was consequently demoted from
the bridesmaids’ table to the “loser” table, Table 19. As the movie progresses,
we find out that the reason Eloise and Teddy broke up is because of an argument
surrounding an unintended pregnancy. Eloise was upset with Teddy when she told
him she was pregnant because he did not immediately respond positively.
Instead, he asked her what she wanted to do about the pregnancy. His lack of
enthusiasm enraged her and she told him that they would be ridiculous parents,
which angered him, causing him to break up with her via text message. Because
this is a typical Hollywood movie, it has a happy ending with Eloise and Teddy
getting back together and happily welcoming their baby into the world.

Unintended pregnancies account for almost half of all
pregnancies in the United States so it is not surprising that they are used as
a plot twist in many movies and books. What is problematic is that many movies
and books expect both members of the heterosexual couple to respond joyfully to
the news of an unintended pregnancy and there is shock and discord if this is
not the response. This is precisely what happened in Table 19. While some unintended pregnancies are wanted pregnancies
(perhaps they are mistimed or the couple didn’t think they could conceive but
they always wanted to), many unintended pregnancies are not wanted pregnancies.
Just because a couple is now pregnant does not mean that they automatically
switch from not wanting to become pregnant to being thrilled that they are
pregnant. The dominant cultural narrative that all pregnancies are wonderful
and wanted is harmful to women, men, and couples.

Eloise and Teddy are a couple in their 20s who seem somewhat
irresponsible and lacking direction. They are trying to figure out what to do
with their lives individually and as a couple. Given their circumstances, it is
understandable that they may not be ready for a baby. Their inability to have a
mature and reasoned conversation about their unintended pregnancy further buttresses
that they might not be ready for a baby. But according to the dominant cultural
trope, they are supposed to be able to pull it all together in order to be an
intact heterosexual couple who are excited to have a baby. While this is how
the movie Table 19 ends, not all
stories have happy endings and it is important to recognize that there is a
diversity of responses to unintended pregnancies.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI’s online graduate programs, please visit our website.  


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