Juno: A Great Portrayal of ADHD, With Teen Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression

Intro by Maria

Juno is a 2007 film directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody. It appears on our Peculiar Picture Show grand movie list because it won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The movie is about a teenager named Juno who gets pregnant. But instead of showing the struggle of a teenager getting an abortion or having a baby and keeping it, the movie tells a different story: Juno decides to give her baby up for adoption. But—get this—that’s still not the central conflict here. The movie is less about pregnancy and having babies and more about navigating adult situations and just figuring life out.

The film is also chock full of music references, specifically regarding punk rock and Sonic Youth, one of my favorite bands. So you know I really take offense when Juno complains about Sonic Youth just being noise. Sonic Youth is not just noise, people! Give it a chance! Besides ranting about Sonic Youth, I also force Brandon to participate in a game called “Name That Junoism,” which is essentially just me making up random phrases that Juno might say and making Brandon try to guess what I was thinking and try to just read my mind. And since this is a podcast about movies and mental health, I talk about the lesser known, lesser believed struggles of postpartum depression, while Brandon explores Juno’s struggle with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

So now that I’ve constructed this beautiful map of how this episode is laid out, feel free to down that last orange Tic Tac, turn up the feedback, and enjoy this next episode of Peculiar Picture Show. 

Show Summary

Overall Thoughts: Refreshingly deep portrayals of ADHD and teen pregnancy

M: Both sides of the abortion debate praised this movie, but writer Diablo Cody didn’t want this to be perceived as anti-choice. Teen pregnancy carries a stigma, and both of us saw that in high school (and middle school) in Central Florida. 

B: Most teen pregnancy films are about the girl being responsible and learning to be responsible; here, Juno is sharp and learns to learn to make the best of a bad situation. This was intended to be a small indie film, and Jennifer Garner expected a small sum of money; the film was so successful, she brought in more than any of her previous films.

Name that Junoism!

A game where Maria makes up a phrase that sounds like something Juno would say and makes Brandon guess what it means.

Junoism #1: Juno says, “Dude, don’t overcrush those bubs.” What have you been doing?

  1. You’ve been crying, looking at pictures of Little Bubs, the internet cat sensation, because you’re still sad that he passed away.
  2. You’ve just poured a soft drink too fast and the bubbles start to overflow, so the only thing you can do to stop it from spilling over, is to stick your mouth on the glass and suck it all up. But when you do that, you’re so excited that you just start coughing.
  3. You’re discussing what you’re going to write in your next letter to your best friend, who happens to be your prison pen-pal named Bubba.

Correct answer (according to Maria): a

Junoism #2: Juno knocks on your door. The first thing she says when you let her in is, “Well, there’s nothing like springing my spokes.” What was Juno doing before she came to visit you?

  1. Washing her bicycle
  2. Fixing her bicycle
  3. Crashing her bicycle

Correct answer (according to Maria): a

Junoism #3: You haven’t seen Juno in a while. When you reconnect, she says, “I haven’t caught all the radar-detecting you’ve been doing.” What have you been doing?

  1. Training to become a police officer
  2. Playing with your short-wave radio
  3. Binge-watching the 70s-80s show MASH

Correct answer (according to Maria): c

Junoism #4: You and Juno are driving, when she points and shouts, “Balls to the mall!” What is she pointing at?

  1. Truck nuts
  2. A group of people playing basketball
  3. Skateboarders

Correct answer (according to Maria): a

Junoism #5: Juno’s last dying words are, “Smells like teen spirit.” What is she referencing?

  1. Nirvana’s song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
  2. Her deodorant (Teen Spirit brand)
  3. Nothing. Juno died from a severe brain injury over the span of 20 years causing her to spurt out nonsense phrases, and this is just another one of those nonsense phrases.

Correct answer (according to Maria): c, making for the worst sequel in Millennial history

Like: A quirky film with a lot to say

M: Loved the music; Sonic Youth is one of my favorite bands. The story is really beautiful, even if a bit cliche. Dialogue was great. Characterization and quirks were fun. Loved the character of Juno. Wasn’t a 3-hour Gandhi movie. I can relate to Mark’s eventual choice to wear jeans and a hoodie.

B: Quirkiness was fun, but there’s some depth to this film. Juno’s step-mom is the real MVP. There’s a huge gap between adults and kids in the film, and it’s about Gen X failing Millennials. Wardrobe choices tell a story. 

Dislike: Stereotypes and too much effort behind being quirky

M: Dissing on Sonic Youth. 😪 A few plot holes, like Leah not knowing for a full year that Juno likes Bleaker. The message about abortion is unclear, and the clinic is stereotypical and dirty.

B: The film tries too hard to be quirky. Some of the dialogue is over-the-top and atrocious. Tried too hard to make Juno cool, but based on the context of the plot, Juno was not supposed to be cool. Falls prey to the trope where the cool character is rejected by the popular kids for being uncool. 

Mental Health: A rare accurate portrayal of ADHD in film, and it deals with postpartum depression

M: Postpartum depression is a big deal, and under-discussed. Most cases are brief, but serious cases can go on for months. Many young mothers do most of the parenting of babies, which complicates things. We do see Juno deal briefly with postpartum depression.

B: Postpartum depression is absolutely real depression. Juno has ADHD, which is rare to see in film, but even rarer to see in female characters. ADHD is thought of as something for rowdy boys, but it actually goes underdiagnosed in women. Juno shows impulsivity, she’s dominant in conversations (often without even realizing it), and she portrays time blindness, and they all seem very realistic. Characters’ reactions to Juno, as a woman with ADHD, are pretty accurate. This is one of the best portrayals of ADHD in film.


B: “I’ve said before that a strong female character isn’t one that’s perfect, but one that’s strong but also allowed to make mistakes and have flaws. A lot of people think of Hermione in Harry Potter as a strong female character, but she’s not realistic because she has no flaws. Juno was a strong, independent woman, but she does have real flaws, she does make real mistakes. In that sense, Juno was a true strong female character.”

M: “Sonic Youth isn’t just a bunch of noise!”

M: “What they’re wearing tells a story. Vanessa looks at Mark and says, ‘Look at what you’re wearing. Grow up!’ Then I looked down at myself and realized I was wearing the same exact thing. I was like, do I have to grow up?”

M: “I can see how people would be confused about what this movie is saying about abortion. … The way the abortion clinic is portrayed—it’s portrayed as this dirty place, and there’s the receptionist who’s talking about having sex and it makes her boyfriend’s penis taste like candy. That’s not how abortion clinics are. That’s what people want you to believe they’re like when they’re anti-choice.”

B: “This film fell victim to a common movie trope, and that is that the coolest person in the film is rejected by the popular kids as an uncool person. Juno was clearly the coolest person in the movie—she had a smart comeback for everything, she had this encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture, and yet somehow she’s not supposed to be cool?”

M: “I feel like [postpartum depression] is not thought of as something that’s real, or that it’s only thought of by women. Men can get postpartum too, but it’s mostly women, and there’s a biological component to it.”

B: “ADHD has this reputation and it’s thought to be this thing for rowdy boys, and when people think of ADHD symptoms, they think of rowdy boys running around causing issues and not paying attention to things. Because of that, and I’ve found some studies that back this up, ADHD actually goes underdiagnosed in women. Girls and women will sometimes make it all the way through to adulthood or even their whole lives being undiagnosed.”

B: “Bleaker’s mom says Juno is ‘different.’ And it’s a negative thing—I don’t like her because she’s ‘different.’ The general consensus at school is that she’s ‘different,’ and other people don’t like that. ‘Different’ is a word that’s often used negatively to describe people with ADHD, because they don’t want to see the symptoms as symptoms, they just want to see it as this person is being difficult, this person is being lazy, this person is different, and that’s a bad thing. I think anyone with ADHD has heard, ‘You’re different,’ and has had to cringe at the negativity of that statement.”

Next Film

Our next film will be the 1987 epic biopic, The Last Emperor.

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