I love drive-in movies. Fresh night air, relaxing in fold-up lounge chairs under the open stars, cheap popcorn, happy children, and playing Frisbee during intermission. This summer I promised my youngest son, Aaron, that we’d go every available weekend, provided he got chores done. I fear I am becoming lax in my old age - I began allowing him to view PG-13s at the tender age of 12 years, 6 months, whereas I made my three older children wait to age 13 (not a day before). Aaron and I share a special bond because we are both the Youngest Child of four siblings. As youngest children, we are destined to be at once annoying and adorable. We notice everything. We feel privileged because we get away with stuff our older sibs didn’t. We know how to stay out of the way (a survival skill if you have big brother), yet we will be stubborn if pushed too hard. We desperately want to be noticed, yet we refuse to overachieve. We don’t like heavy expectations placed upon us. Family members don’t appreciate how capable we are until we reach age 30, when our older siblings first notice that we’ve “grown up.” Had I not been adopted I would have been the oldest child instead of youngest. My lot would have been to be responsible, intense, type A. I don’t know if I would have liked that. I just don’t know. So I’ll just like who I’ve become instead. But I digress…
Back to the movies…
Of the “family” movies that Aaron and I watched this summer, three films -- Thor, Kung Fu Panda 2, and Planet of the Apes –center on adoption. But all eight movies illuminated an adoption light bulb for me. Orphan stories will also trigger feelings for me, because the quest to know one’s bio parentage is a familiar yearning.
Films I watched: Thor, Pirates 4, X-Men, Kung Fu Panda 2, Captain
Here’s my quantitative analysis of how adoption was portrayed:
Positive view of adoption -1 movie (Kung Fu Panda 2)
Adoptees don’t fit in with a-family -5 movies (Thor, X-Men, Panda, Harry Potter, Apes)
Evil/chaotic/disturbed adoptee -4 movies (Thor, Pirates, X-Men, Apes)
Evil orphan that never got adopted -1 movie (Harry Potter – Lord Voldemort)
Hero adoptee/orphan -4 movies (Panda, Harry Potter, Captain America, Cowboy)
Good bio parents -4 movies (X-Men, Harry Potter, Apes)
Bad bio parents -3 movies (Thor, Pirates, Harry Potter – Tom Riddle, Sr.)
Good adoptive parents -3 movies (Thor, Panda, Apes)
Silly adoptive parents -1 movies (Harry Potter)
Bad adoptive parents -1 movies (X-Men – Prof Schmidt)
All of the good bio parents met with a violent death, with the exception of Panda's father. Two adoptive parents obtained their children through unethical means (Thor and Apes), yet we still see them as “good parents.” None of the films portrayed courageous bio parents who made a loving choice to place their child with another family; perhaps that’s because these types of adoptions produce regular people with low internal conflict – not exactly the material for a movie hero. Does
Kung Fu Panda 2 –
Thor – Thor’s younger brother, Loki, is the classic evil adopted sibling. Odin, Thor’s father, steals Loki from the Frost Giants. Odin and Thor have kept Loki’s identity a secret, but he eventually figures it out. Loki is treacherous, betraying both his bio and adoptive families.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – From all of the previous HP books and films, we knows Harry is orphaned and then raised by his silly Aunt and Uncle. Harry is an adopted misfit, a square peg living amongst the round hole of the Dursley family. Harry’s arch nemesis is Lord Voldemort, whose non-adopted status turns him into a bitter child who turns to evil.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes – My favorite film of the summer. Caesar the Chimpanzee is adopted by scientist Will Rodman. Caesar eventually decides he is more comfortable with his own kind. He rejects his human upbringing to become leader of a new race of super-smart apes.
X-Men: First Class – The evil Dr. Schmidt murders Magneto’s mother and becomes a surrogate father of sorts. Meanwhile, the child Mystique moves in with the child Professor Xavier, taking on the role of an adopted sister. Magneto and Mystique, the Adopted Ones, turn to evil-- a reaction to their unstable childhoods and struggle for acceptance.
Pirates of the
Cowboys and Aliens – No adoption theme. Some adoptees might identify with the unnamed hero of the film who doesn’t know his past. This was my least favorite film of the summer.
A few more adoption-themed movies you might want to check out:
The Blind Side (2009) – Based on the true story of Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy who take in a homeless teenage African-American, Michael Oher. Great football action, and an inspiration for prospective parents to consider adopting from foster care.
The Spy Next Door (2010) – Teen girl is upset about not being biologically related to anyone she lives with. Jackie Chan, an orphan, reassures her that everybody can be family as long as there is love.
The Country Bears (2002) -- Beary Barrington, a young adopted bear raised by a human family in a world where humans and talking bears coexist, attempts to trace his roots and reconciles with his adoptive family.
Meet the Robinsons (2007) – My personal favorite, through and through. The most poignant part of the film for me is when Lewis travels back in time and witnesses his own relinquishment at the doorstep of an orphanage. He could try to stop his birthmom, or at least talk to her, but he doesn’t. That scene is packed with adoptee triggers.
What films remind you of adoption??? Please leave a comment