This film’s main theme is teen pregnancy. The title character, Juno, gets pregnant and must deal with it from the very beginning of the film. While the theme of teen pregnancy is usually dealt with moralistically and tragically, Juno portrays the experience straightforwardly; it is not uncomplicated, but it is also not damning or catastrophic, necessarily. Instead of glorifying or demonizing teen pregnancy, screenwriter Diablo Cody wrote a story about people who choose to endure through a difficult situation. While Juno approaches her plight rather glibly at the start, as the film progresses, her pregnancy makes her life more and more complicated, as she is socially ostracized and must navigate the personal problems of the adoptive parents.
When she first meets Mark and Vanessa, Juno wanders off with Mark into his den to examine his guitars, even though they are in the middle of a meeting with the lawyer who is handling the adoption. Then when Juno goes over to show Mark and Vanessa the ultrasound of their future child, Vanessa isn’t home, and Juno spends the afternoon listening to music and watching movies with Mark. Juno’s stepmom and Bleeker both comment on the odd intimacy of Juno's relationship with Mark. Bleeker saying that it was weird for her to go there and Juno’s stepmom tells her that there are boundaries that you don’t cross when you’re married. Juno doesn’t see it this way and continues to go to hang out with Mark, even calling him to check in. While they each find an intimacy and closeness that they are looking for, Juno and Mark transgress some boundaries in one another's lives that are better left uncrossed. This is because of their positions in one another's lives—adoptive father and birth mother—their age difference, and the fact that Mark is married and Juno is single. Thus, a major theme of the film is boundaries, and the lines that ought not to be crossed.
A major theme in this film is how adults and teenagers communicate with each other. From the start we see an adult store clerk call Juno “Fertile Myrtle” as he knows she’s pregnant, which sets us up for the fact that often, adults are just as much of a mess as the teenagers they purport to be smarter than. There are many times when Juno is far wiser than the adult(s) she is speaking to, and other times when she’s out of her league in understanding what’s going on (as in the case of her crossing boundaries with Mark). When the ultrasound technician offhandedly comments on the fact that Juno is not ready to be a mother, Bren runs to Juno's defense, urging the technician not to judge someone based solely on their age and experience when she knows nothing about Juno. This moment shows that adults and teenagers have different experience levels, but that age is not defining in terms of wisdom or ethics.
The film regularly flips between mature and immature modes of communication. When Juno tells Bleeker she loves him, they share a rather adult conversation, before Bleeker abruptly asks her if they can "make out now." This shows two teenagers being very mature one moment, before reverting back to being teenagers again.
As much as Juno de-stigmatizes teen pregnancy, presenting it as a straightforward event rather than a terrifying cause for alarm, it also de-stigmatizes the process of adoption. As we watch Juno vet whether Vanessa and Mark are suitable parents for her unborn child, we effectively learn more about the process of choosing to adopt or give up a child for adoption. Juno approaches the process very straightforwardly; she knows she is not up to the task of raising a child, and so wants to give the child a good home with people who can look after it. Vanessa is so eager to be a mother that Juno is confident in her choice to make her the adoptive mother. While Vanessa may be uptight and type-A, in contrast to Juno's more casual and snarky demeanor, she is surely going to be an excellent mother. The film shows that motherhood is not simply about biology but also about human behavior and the desire to mother. It shows that Vanessa qualifies to be the baby's mother precisely because she wants to be and because Juno is willing to give her that role. This serves to demystify adoption for viewers who do not have firsthand experience with the process.
After she leaves Vanessa and Mark's house in tears, Mark having told Vanessa that he doesn't want to be together anymore, Juno goes home to her father and asks him to tell her some comforting things about love's ability to endure. This also comes on the heels of the fact that Juno's true love, Paulie Bleeker, has asked another girl to the prom. A child of divorce, Juno has a precarious and strained notion of romantic longevity, and vulnerably asks her father to convince her that lifelong love is possible. He tells her, "Look, in my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person is still going to think the sun shines out your ass. That's the kind of person that's worth sticking with." The film defines love as the feelings shared between two people who have an unconditional admiration for one another, which makes Juno realize that she loves Paulie Bleeker. She sets to work to win him back, and they profess their love for one another on the track at school.
Being a Misfit
Even before she is pregnant and walking down the halls of her high school with a pregnant belly, Juno is a misfit at her school. In some ways, this makes her have a more straightforward and unbothered relationship to being the pregnant girl in her class, as she already knows what it's like to feel different. Her difference is a point of pride for Juno, and she embraces her incompatibility with the mainstream with the relish of a high school punk. She listens to the Stooges and watches horror movies, loves playing in a band, and uses a hamburger phone. Indeed, even when she is bullied at school, she recognizes that the reasons she is ostracized are also the reasons she is special. When a jock insults her looks, she thinks to herself, "The funny thing is that Steve Rendazo secretly wants me. Jocks like him always want freaky girls. Girls with horn-rimmed glasses and vegan footwear and goth makeup. Girls who play the cello and wear Converse All-Stars and want to be children's librarians when they grow up. Oh yeah, jocks eat that shit up." Juno is proud of her quirkiness and her status as an outsider, because she realizes that this is what makes her special.
Home and Family
Juno comes from a non-traditional family. Her dad has remarried a woman that she doesn't have much of a relationship with, her mother is on a reservation and never sees her, and she spends more time out of the house than in her room. When she meets Mark and Vanessa, she gets a glimpse of the ideal nuclear family, an attractive, affluent couple living in a large house with a lot of resources and a seemingly steady love life. Juno wants to give her child the stability that she didn't have. This all comes crashing down, however, when Mark reveals that he doesn't want a baby and that he's fallen out of love with Vanessa. Vanessa is certainly heartbroken by this revelation, but it is Juno who takes it the hardest. She yells at Mark, “I want things to be perfect. I don’t want things to be shitty and broken like everyone else’s family!” Ultimately, Mark and Vanessa prove to be less than ideal, but in this dissolution, Juno realizes that the image of the perfect family is a mirage, and that she can still hand her child over to Vanessa, even though she will be raising the baby on her own. Family is a complicated organism, Juno learns, and it can't just be cookie cutter perfect. A major part of Juno's journey is her realization that the imperfect family can be perfect in its own way and that, as she narrates upon returning home that night, “I never realize how much I like being home unless I’ve been somewhere really different for awhile.” A major theme of the film is embracing one's home and family, and finding ways not to take it for granted.
Juno Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Juno is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.