Adoption Goes Hollywood

The number of hit TV shows over the years that have featured adoption plot lines is actually growing. Adoption, orphans, and foster care plot lines are no stranger to Hollywood. Combine these creative adoption stories with images of Hollywood stars showing off their real-life adopted children, and America gets a very strange idea of how adoption works and what it is.

Adoption has been worked into the scripts of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Judging Amy,” “Parenthood,” “Annie,” “Juno,” “Army Wives,” “The Truman Show,” Despicable Me,” “The Rescuers,” “Angles in the Outfield,” and even “Friends.” The list goes on and on. Actually, when I sat down to write about this topic, I was surprised at the number of movies and TV shows that discuss adoption, orphans, or foster care. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with shows featuring adoption plots. I was excited to learn that one of my favorite dramas, “Parenthood,” was tackling the subject this season. But unfortunately, it seems like all Hollywood writers are absolutely clueless about the topic. It really isn’t difficult to do a little bit of research on adoption.

Did you know that American orphanages were phased out in the 1940’s to the 1950’s in favor of smaller children’s homes and foster care homes? You won’t find the large institutionalized orphanages like the one featured in the musical “Annie” anymore. But many people don’t realize that. Modern movies such as “Despicable Me,” while cute and funny may leave people believing we still have orphanages. That children can just be picked out like puppies in a pet store. It’s a sad assumption and it’s untrue. In reality, children are shuffled from foster home to foster home, and many of them suffer from emotional and psychological issues. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Reactive Attachment Disorder are common in these unfortunate children. It’s a devastating problem, one that our government refuses to acknowledge or repair.

In 1998, “The Truman Show” {one of my favorites} created the idea that children can be adopted by entire corporations or companies, to be tinkered with as things. While I love the movie, the premise is a little disturbing. And it creates another skewed idea of adoption. Again, as Ed Harris’s character explains in the movie, we have a plot line that centers around someone {in this case an entire company} picking and choosing the “perfect” child for the purpose they have fit. It’s a little sickening, really. No wonder there is a stereotype that adoptive parents are all lined up waiting to pay top dollar for the prettiest baby with the bluest eyes and blondest hair. But many {if not most} of us are nothing like that.

We also have to fight against the Angelina Jolie’s and {gag} Madonna’s of the world. It seems as if after every foreign trip they take, they return home with a child as a souvenir. Insert a mandatory smiley People’s Magazine cover photo of them and their new addition, and you have created a new stereotype. The Jolie-Pitt clan has wracked up at least half a dozen babies, most of them through adoption, and have successfully created a new fad in adopting minority children. While the new interest in adopting foreign children or minority children is a positive change, I’m offended by the fact that it seems to be a growing fad in Hollywood and among star gazers. These parents shouldn’t be lifted high as some kind of savior for these children. I get sick of magazine covers that talk about how wonderful Jolie and others like her are for “saving” these children. I question their motives.

Enter Madonna. In 2007, after prompting from close friend Brad Pitt, the star visited Malawi to return home with a little boy, her newly adopted son. However, after further questioning and investigating, it turns out the little boy wasn’t exactly the desperate orphan she claimed him to be. He was a little boy in an impoverished home with a single father. His father agreed after government urgings to send his son to the local orphanage home where he would receive food, clothing, and an education that his father couldn’t provide. He wasn’t aware that his son would be available for adoption. And when the adoption with Madonna was finalized, his father had no clue it meant he would lose all rights to his son. It was a highly controversial event, but clearly had very little impact on the star. I believe she did later agree to let the father see his son again, but the little boy is currently being raised by his superstar American-turned-Brit material girl adoptive mother.

Former CBS show “Judging Amy” tackled the subject of multi-racial adoption when the baby Peter and his wife Jillian were adopting was born {unexpectedly?} black! The color of little Ned’s skin came as a shock to his adoptive parents and gave Peter room to pause over the decision to adopt him or not. Evidently the expectant mother was confused about the birth father. I actually know a couple who went into an adoption match under the assumption that the baby was full Caucasian. When she was born and was clearly biracial, they never thought twice about it and never questioned their decisions at all. However, the “Judging Amy” adoption controversy plot line continued to play out with highly dramatic gusto for several weeks. Again, we see the issue of white parents only wanting white babies rearing its ugly head.We also see the idea that minority babies are something to be devastated over, which is incredibly discouraging.

And lastly, I was disappointed last night while viewing “Parenthood” on NBC. We had it saved on the DVR, so we watched it a day after it debuted. In the series, career-focused mom Julia and her husband Joel have decided to adopt a baby after an infertility diagnosis last season. I was excited to see where this premise was going, since obviously we are also a waiting family. I had hoped the writers would pick up this season with them in the middle of the wait process right along with us. However, they sped up time by about 6 months, so the episode began with Julia and Joel making a ridiculous “dear birthmother” video {which, I don’t know of many -if any- agencies that have waiting families create a video profile} for potential expectant moms. Julia clearly has baby fever and talks about how they’ve been waiting for six months with absolutely no possible matches. Nothing is said regarding their level of openness, so I have no way of knowing if they’re open to minority children or special needs babies.

Julia discovers that the barista girl at her office is expecting a baby, and that she doesn’t want to raise the baby. She then poses the question to her sister, “How do I ask the coffee girl at work if I can buy her baby?” I chuckled, thinking she was being ridiculous because the situation is obviously a ridiculous one. Identified adoptions, adoptions in which the waiting family locates the expectant mother themselves and then locates the agency or lawyer to finalize and legalize plans, are fairly common. Diablo Cody’s movie “Juno” portrayed such an adoption. However, the phrase “buy her baby” grated on me. I assumed she was exaggerating or possibly being hyperbolic.

Later though, she uses those words again when speaking with her husband. Why is she using such language? Why in the world would an adoptive mother ever use the phrase “buy a baby”? It isn’t remotely funny. It’s incredibly offensive. It’s a common {hateful} stereotype that non-adoptive parents {even anti-adoption people} speak of. Some people equate adoption with buying a baby because the cost of adoption has skyrocketed. It’s true the system is absolutely out of control, and some agencies do handle things in such a way that makes it feel as if the available baby goes to the highest bidder. However, not all adoptive parents are willing to fork up $50k to become parents. Not all of us are willing to pay birthmother expenses that include rent, clothing, food, gas, etc. Not all of us buy into the ridiculous adoption system that has been established in this country. I for one, refuse to join in the chaos. And I do not take lightly the jokes about buying a human being.

I want to meet the writer who felt that this was acceptable to include in the script. What an ignorant jerk. Yes, Julia has been portrayed as a snob, but I can’t imagine a snobby aristocrat who would discussing buying a human being as a viable solution to their childless state. Is she actually going to write a check to this woman and illegally walk away with her child?? Or, as I suspect, is she saying such a thing to make light the awkward scenario of asking a vague acquaintance if she can adopt her unborn child? If the latter is the case- and Lord I hope it is- then they had better drop the “jokes” very fast, or they’ll lose a viewer. I don’t have high hopes, though, because next week’s episode is titled “Hey, If You’re not Using that Baby…” It pains me to even type it.

The talk of “using” babies makes me feel nauseated. The idea that adoptive parents are so desperate and absolutely insensitive that we would ever pose adoption in such a way makes me furious. I’m just tired of the stereotypes and fads related to adoption. I wish this was a topic Hollywood would just keep their hands off of. As often as they adopt in Lala Land, you’d think they would have a better grip on the subject. Needless to say, I never thought they’d take the story in such a direction or paint this character is such an ugly light.

And now the big news: I actually created a Twitter account {something I swore I’d never do} just to comment at NBC about the offensiveness and pure ignorance of this plot line in “Parenthood.” I also plan on writing them a letter via their website and urging them to take this in a different direction quickly. If nothing else, they absolutely need to know how offensive this language is. If anyone else finds talk of “buying babies” offensive- adoptive parents or not- I’d love for you to join me in my attempt to bring this to the attention of someone at the show.

Just remember, adoption, like many other things {pregnancy, birth, marriage, family, Christianity, etc.} is not accurately portrayed in Hollywood. I would love to answer any questions related to adoption, including the actual process, fees, expectations, etc. that anyone might have. Please, let adoptive families clarify the truth rather than relying on TV or movies to inform you of this grossly misrepresented topic.

Kat

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3 Comments

Filed under Adoption General, Personal Posts

3 responses to “Adoption Goes Hollywood

  1. I think I joined twitter too just to take the “parenthood” poll about how I liked the season premiere. Great minds think alike.

    Brothers & Sisters did a storyline with fost/adopt that went ok. Granted the family of the show Brothers & Sisters isn’t the most traditional one, but the storyline was ok

    • Thanks, Dannie, it seems like I read somewhere that Brothers and Sisters did an adoption story line, but I forgot about it. I don’t watch a lot of the shows I listed, but I heard about them on FP from others.

      What exactly was your opinion about the Parenthood season premiere?

  2. well I loved all the story lines except Julia’s…..it just seemed like she was feeding into what people think many couples that adopt sound like. She wanted to “Buy the latte girls’ baby”….tonight it was bad too! Didya watch?

    Anyways just saw your reply so sorry for the late response.

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