The question came from my ten year-old, in my lap as usual. She put her lips to my ear, so not to disturb the other movie patrons, “Would you ever do that, Mama? Give me back?”
I felt my heart plummet through the floor and I hugged her really tight, whispering back in her ear, “Never!”
I was squirming in my seat prior to the question. My husband and I had already exchanged countless looks between us…
We were watching Despicable Me. The main character, super-criminal Gru, had just returned the three girls he “adopted.” The movie began slowly and then the shock set in, because we were unprepared. Gru “adopted” three adorable little girls, to use as pawns in his grand scheme to steal the moon. Universal Studios lost me with the antiquated orphanage, slimy orphanage director (reminiscent of Dolores Umbridge, the Ministry of Magic’s appointment in Harry Potter), and the questionable adoption process. What alarmed me further was the message, the premise that children are commodities to be bought and sold, or given back, as in this story, if they don’t “work out.” Gru was gradually overcome with affection and decided to parent the girls. I will admit there were some funny scenes and a tender moment at the end of the movie. But the damage was already done.
Weeks later, the film’s story line about adoption continues to bother me a great deal. Not only am I irritated by what is often put out there about adoption by writers, production houses, and media. I am also upset with myself. I dropped the “advocacy” ball and in doing so I subjected my kids to a movie with a negative adoption message. I didn’t read the reviews (upon reading a number of them after seeing the movie, they refer to the adoption of the girls, but not the commodity aspect-missed that completely) and heard through word of mouth from parents, who are not sensitive to adoption and its issues, that the movie was great. The movie wasn’t for me and my family, not even close.
Whether you are a waiting adoptive parent or an adoptive parent, I encourage you to check out movies and the subplots/messages, preferably before you see them with your child. You are then prepared for what is coming and how to handle any questions and comments with your child. These movies can be wonderful springboards for age-appropriate discussions.