I asked for suggestions about movies to use in the course I'm teaching this fall--an ethics course on procreation and parenthood. I got a ton of good suggestions and I've watched quite a few of these movies over the summer. And the winners (so far) are ...
Never Let Me Go - based on the incredibly good book by Kazuo Ishiguro, and an excellent movie in itself, it connects well with "the paradox of future individuals" (Kavka). As much as it seems obviously wrong to create a class of clones to use as organ donors, how could it really be wrong, if the clones have lives worth living? Plus, the movie should set the stage for distinguishing between different moral theories on why it's wrong to use people as organ banks for the good of others.
Juno - charming movie about a girl in high school who decides against abortion. It's interesting this is presented as admirable, though abortion is not presented as wrong. Meshes nicely with Judith Jarvis Thomson's discussion of good Samaritans at the end of her famous article on abortion.
Gattaca - both terrific just as a movie, and ideal for generating debate, this movie presents a world where genetic screening is used to eliminate people with diseases and disabilities. People who slip through the cracks are second class citizens. Genetic screening is presented as bad, but is it really bad? Why, why not? Discuss.
Mildred Pierce - college students wouldn't want to watch a "film noir" movie from the 1940s? Nonsense (I hope)! This is a terrific movie about a mother who will do anything for her daughter, and a daughter who's nothing but abusive in return. Raises the question whether children have obligations to their parents because there are special filial duties, or just because we all have obligations to other human beings. Connects well with Jane English's well-known article on the obligations of grown-up children to their parents. Also nicely raises issues about gender roles and class.
Throw Momma from a Train - also about filial duty, but not enough interesting content to generate philosophical discussion, and not a good enough movie to impose on students. Some pretty funny bits, though.
The Kids are All Right - Raises some interesting questions about sperm donation, lesbian and gay parents, etc., but I was hoping it would connect with questions about the rights of children to know who their parents are. It doesn't get into that enough to justify making students see it.
The Island - could serve the same purpose as Never Let Me Go, but not as good a movie.
28 Days Later and The Road - useful for raising the question whether anyone could ever have an obligation to have children, but that's not the main theme of either movie, so better to recommend rather than require. Then again, 28 Days Later does raise some other interesting ethical questions.
STILL NEED TO SEE:
Life is Beautiful - connects with topic of lying to children
A Day in the Life of Joe Egg - about having a child with severe disabilities - probably too hard to get hold of for students, even if worth showing.