All Juno And No Zeus

"There's a general assumption now that every man in a position of power is or will soon be corrupt and oppressive. Yet the Greeks understood and praised a positive male energy that has accepted authority. They called it Zeus energy, which encompasses intelligence, robust health, compassionate decisiveness, good will, generous leadership. Zeus energy is male authority accepted for the sake of the community...Zeus energy has been steadily disintegrating decade after decade in the United States. Popular culture has been determined to destory respect for it..."
- Robert Bly, Iron John

I finally watched the film Juno last night. I know, I know, the movie was last year’s splash. However, sometimes, in the middle of wanted pregnancies who grow up to be 11, 9, and 6, you have to say, “I’ll have to wait until it comes out on dvd.” I had heard nothing but raves about it, with folks at the office sprinkling words like solid in their conversation. So, I approached it with anticipation, feeling certain it would raise my level of cool.

I didn’t like Juno. There, I said it. Now, I’ll tell you why. The film was all Juno and no Zeus. There was not one strong male character in the whole cast. Here are the male actors and my synopsis of them:

Juno’s dad, Mac, played by J.K. Simmons – He reacts to Juno’s announcement of her pregnancy with the stoic, controlled manner of a checked-out father. True, he drives Juno to meet the potentially adoptive couple, but he’s not prepared his daughter in the least for what she’s to expect. In that moment, he's a chauffer, not a father. His doofus factor is raised to a power of 10 in one scene when he’s reduced to asking, “what do you make with a Pilates machine?” There are a couple of dear-old-dad wisdom moments (very brief), but they come across with a focused concern for Juno while being totally unconcerned for the child she’s carrying. This character is just a few steps away from Homer Simpson. Mac clearly states that he is not ready to be a "Pop-Pop." He is consumed with HVAC products.

Paulie Bleeker, the father of the unwanted pregnancy, played by Michael Cera – A passive little boy who was able to get the sperm out but is never able to get the words out. True, Juno usually reduces him to blathering as she weaves words and phrases in tapestries of wit, but Bleeker almost never speaks up and when he does, it’s with the volume of a mouse. Interestingly enough, the only parent we ever see in Bleeker’s household is his mother, never a father. Bleeker is not ready to be a dad; he can’t even grow a mustache. He is consumed with Tic-Tacs and running.

Mark Loring, husband in the potentially adoptive couple, played by Jason Bateman – I really wanted to like this guy and hope for the best, but something in me told me it was a short-lived hope. I was right. He has one room in their large suburban castle where his “stuff” is kept; evidently, that’s the only room that Jennifer Garner’s character will allow (a.k.a, he's trapped). He begins flirting with Juno at their first meeting and continues to do so throughout the film. Mark is not ready for a baby and he knows it. His wife knows it. Their lawyer probably knows it. He wants to go back and pursue his dream of being a rock musician. In a scene where he actually ends up slow dancing w/Juno in his basement (after Bleeker doesn’t ask Juno to the prom), Mark reveals to her that he’s going to leave his wife and take a loft in the city. He doesn't know what he wants. He is consumed with himself.

And that's it. With the exception of a goofy convenience store clerk who commands a few seconds in the story's beginning with phrases like home skillet, that is the sum total of male presence in the movie. It's all weak, passive, selfish, numbed out and dumbed down. In the end, the message was clear: you really don't need a father, much less a man.

Would it have been too much to ask to have had one strong man who exhibited Zeus energy? Just one male who sacrificed (we live by sacrifice) or stepped up to the plate or followed-through-for-better-or-worse? Just one man who knew that Zeus energy is not necessarily about being the hero of the scene, but is usually more about taking out the trash, going to band concerts, helping with homework or laundry, paying the bills, and saying Goodnight, John-boy while still getting to play his guitar, watch gore movies, run track, work on stuff, or write blog posts?

The movie ends with Juno, post-birth, riding her bike to meet Bleeker and together they sing a guitared-duet on the steps of his house while a baby grows up across town in a large suburban house full of Juno and no Zeus, happily ever after. But John, please, please...Juno kept the baby, she didn't abort, she followed through on her commitment to the adoptive process, she endured the shame and discomfort of that nine month ordeal, not the mention the actual birth, she, she, she...and that's just reality, bucko. Careful there, I'll hurl a thunderbolt at you. I'm not dismissing Juno's reality. But a Zeus, just one, could've helped her redeem that reality. And I believe she would have welcomed his strength with tears of gratitude. It is not good for Juno to be alone.


  1. the John-Zeus-man to the south, here!

    ...I toast the blog with a slog of good stuff!!

    ...and waiting beside me on the floor of my office is a bag I trash I need to take out

    ...a challenge: so write a script of a modern day Zeus that men, and women can realte to. The world IS waiting for such!!!

  2. I certainly felt the pain of the absence of strong men as I watched. Juno made all the strong choices. I hate that that is what the rhetoric of the day is, that it's about the woman's choice. Men are not allowed to enter or have a voice. Thanks for this critque. I enojoyed the movie, but couldn't love it through and through for that reason. It just felt to lonely in the end.

  3. Okay - send the thunderbolts my way. I loved Juno and I loved two of the men in Juno. I'll agree Jason Bateman's character was extremely disappointing. There was a huge missed opportunity there to give Juno a look at a solid Zeus man who would love her baby in a true fatherly way. That would have been great to see. But I'll defend Juno's dad. You left out consideration of the back story. Mac raises Juno solo after her mother abandons her. That is Zeus energy to me. I loved the scene when he drives Juno to the adoptive family's home. Of course he doesn't prepare Juno because he isn't equiped to prepare himself. That doesn't mean he is a weak dad, it's just real. Life throws much at us that we aren't prepared for. But he went with her - that was wonderful. Maybe my standards are low, but I thought he was a beautiful dad.
    As for Paulie, he has great potential. He just isn't a man yet, but he loves Juno. When he gets in the hospital bed and holds her while she cries! Come on John that was an amazing scene! Paulie has Zeus potential - it's just that he is still a kid.
    I agree with Wes that you should write a good Zeus character. Because many men in America don't rub elbows with one everyday. Think of what Paulie and Wes could have learned from watching your movie. :)