I saw Unplanned, the pro-life movie beloved of Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. It painfully aborted two hours of my life

'Abortion is what pays your salary, Abby'

Molly Jong-Fast
New York
Friday 05 April 2019 10:29 BST
Unplanned - trailer

It’s a rare movie that receives glowing accolades from the vice-president, the president's large adult son and Senator Ted Cruz, but Unplanned was the recipient of a trifecta of Twitter praise this weekend. You may wonder why all three MAGA celebrities chose to support the same anti-choice movie, which is based on a memoir by a woman who went from working at Planned Parenthood to praying outside of it. And indeed, Unplanned is in many ways the MAGAworld’s first true foray into culture wars.

I decided I had to see Unplanned after I subjected myself to the MAGAworld’s trade-show CPAC. At CPAC I was treated to a seemingly endless loop of Unplanned movie trailers, followed by a baffling speech delivered by the guy who invested $1m in the film, My Pillow founder and proud moustache-wearer Mike Lindell.

It’s hard to think of a more quintessentially MAGA movie than one which is funded by MAGA donors, supported by the MAGA community and pushing a MAGA message. To make matters even more MAGA, the Unplanned Twitter account sent out a tweet that featured a Qanon buzzword (Qanon is MAGAworld’s favorite conspiracy theory) before quickly deleting it. The slogan, WWG1WGA, is one often used to refer to the theory that a global paedophile ring working to gain influence and depose Donald Trump (yeah, me neither.)

The only way Unplanned could get more MAGA is if one of the Trump kids was starring in it.

I was pretty sure that Unplanned would be much like CPAC — a Mobius strip of propaganda occasionally punctuated by the truly frightening or unintentionally hilarious — but the trailers had had an extremely high production value and that made me hope I might be entertained during the brain-washing. Sadly, I was sorely mistaken.

Owen Gleiberman wrote in Variety this week that “the film, which is told in the flat didactic style of an ideological Sunday-school lesson, isn’t interested in the actual lives of the girls and women who want to end their pregnancies.” That’s pretty much accurate. There was a lot of gory stuff, a lot of blood, a lot of people crying and a lot of people praying. They prayed over things, they prayed over each other and they even prayed together.

The story itself was deeply didactic and alarmingly cliched. It played to all of MAGAworld’s deep-seated fears and resentments. Planned Parenthood employees were portrayed as unapologetically bad, as corporate female robots who didn’t know their place in the world but were also weirdly “deep state-ish”. At one point, protagonist Abby’s boss says to her, “Abortion is what pays your salary.” It’s extremely hard for me to imagine a world were a woman would say this to another woman, let alone a health professional to another health professional.

But perhaps the most MAGA moment of all in Unplanned is when Abby’s boss tells her flatly, “Soros, Buffett, Gates: that’s who we have on our side.” Few things are more MAGA than blaming billionaire insiders for “moral decay”. The irony, of course, is that MAGAworld is extremely invested in the idea that their president is a billionaire insider himself.

Unplanned reminded me a lot of the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC (founded by the CEO of the very Christian Hobby Lobby chain): clearly very well-funded but so profoundly committed to an ideology that it comes across as soulless and corporate. In other words, I couldn’t help but feel Unplanned came off like a very gory infomercial with a lot of praying and crying. I felt myself vaguely disappointed that no one tried to sell me a juicer or some beets at the end of the movie, though there was a number to call if we were thinking about having an abortion that flashed on the screen at the end.

It’s hard to imagine many hearts and minds being changed by this movie — but MAGAworld isn’t as much about conversion as it is about energising the base. This movie certainly has all the elements the base will love, including country music, the mild fanning of conspiracy theories (Soros) and the My Pillow guy Mike Lindell playing a dump-truck driver.

It’s very unlikely that MAGAworld’s baby steps into the cultural sphere will win any Oscars — but then again, it’s equally unlikely that “art" was ever the point.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in