‘Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and 50 cents for your soul.” So said Marilyn Monroe in the Fifties. Today’s Hollywood – exhausted from the whirligig of kissing, of pouring out billions of dollars – has turned its attention to the souls of the unborn.
Yes, as America’s abortion wars heat up, the great and the good of the silver screen are jumping on the bandwagon.
Planned Parenthood has long reigned as one of the most popular celebrity bandwagons. In 2012, the organisation’s #yesweplan campaign was endorsed by then-president Barack Obama (“women are not an interest group”), singer Mary J Blige and actress Julianne Moore (“we have control over our destinies”), among various others, all trotting out insipid faux- empowerment drivel.
Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal told Glamour magazine: “I’ve been a Planned Parenthood supporter my whole life – since my mom took me to a rally when I was in sixth grade,” and Scarlett Johansson declared in a video: “I stand with Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood stands up for me,” and on and on it goes. I am now in danger of over-echoing the claptrap on these pages.
Recent changes to the abortion law have added fuel to the fire. This September, the US Supreme Court refused to enjoin the Texas Heartbeat Act, which prohibits abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. (The BBC has called this a “near total ban” on terminations.)
Developments prompted the increasingly bossy Friends actress Jennifer Aniston (who has confessed to cutting off her unvaccinated friends and acquaintances, saying “if you have the variant, you are still able to give it to me”) to publish a post on Instagram that read “No uterus, no opinion”. Pregnant Jennifer Lawrence was joined by Amy Schumer on a rally for abortion rights in Washington DC last month, where the latter was seen with a sign reading “Abortion is essential”. Lawrence’s placard was emblazoned with the words “women can’t be free if they can’t control their bodies”. You get the idea. It’s virtue signalling on steroids.
The Church has always been very clear on abortion and I need not outline its views for your benefit here. Speaking last month to a group of medical professionals, Pope Francis reiterated the Church’s intransigent teachings: “[Abortion] is homicide and it is not licit to become complicit,” he said. “The ultimate responsibility” of every person, he said, is to protect the life and rights of all human beings, before he urged his audience to remain strong and denounce “injustices that harm innocent and defenseless life”.
Interestingly, it was not uncommon for illuminated manuscripts in the 14th century to portray souls as babies, though the symbolism dates back much further. There is a beautiful example of such a scene in the current exhibition at the V&A, where King David is pictured presenting his soul (a baby) to God the Father.
Back to the murky and soulless swamp of Hollywood, where some celebrities are putting their pro-life heads above the parapet. Kelsey Grammer appeared at the National Right to Life Convention in New Orleans this year. He was also recently seen wearing a T-shirt made by pro-life organisation Abort73.com with the slogan, “would it bother you more if they used guns?” – a poignant message acknowledging the US’s conflicting attitudes towards violence on the streets and violence in the womb.
Teenage heartthrob Justin Bieber (whose mother has spoken publicly about the pressure she felt, aged 17, to terminate her pregnancy), has said: “I don’t really believe in abortion, it’s like killing a baby”.
Singer Celine Dion was saved from abortion after her pregnant mother visited a priest; she was pregnant with her 14th child and frightened. “He told her that she had no right to go against nature,” Dion has explained. “So I have to admit that in a way, I owe my life to that priest.” And there are others who beat the drum for the unborn: Mel Gibson, Nicole Scherzinger and Jack Nicholson, to name but three.
Whereas the views of those listed above are largely perceived as stuffy, the Jennifer Anistons and Amy Schumers are seen as progressive. It’s a pity, then, that the progressives have been associated with so little progress. The belief in putting yourself first and rights without responsibilities prove that today self-indulgence trumps discipline.
Pro-life cries are drowned out by louder cries from the opposition, as “stars” elbow each other out of the way in their relentless quest to become Patron Saints of women’s rights. Because fighting for the lives of the unborn simply isn’t fashionable. #MeToo, wellness, calorie-free diets, and inclusivity is. Perhaps, 70 years after Marilyn Monroe’s declaration, 50 cents for a soul is in fact too high a price to pay in La La Land.
Constance Watson is Assistant Editor of the Catholic Herald
This article first appeared in the November 2021 issue of the Catholic Herald. Subscribe today.
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