Thursday, May 3, 2012

Another sitcom, another joke about adoption

Have you seen the sitcom Suburgatory?  You can see it for free on the ABC website.  I think it is pretty funny.  The characters are over the top, it's as though the entire show is written in hyperbole. For example, George, the male protagonist and single father of Tessa, finds out that the woman he is dating (played by Alicia Silverstone) is a surrogate, pregnant with whose baby?  George's best friend's baby.  That is the kind of stuff that happens on this show.

One character, teenage Lisa, is the best friend and neighbor of Tessa, the female protagonist of the show.  She feels disconnected at home with her family.  Her brother is a hot/jock/airhead and her parents are total whack-a-doodles.  Lisa, on the other hand, is a relatively down to earth character in a family of cartoon characters.

Lisa finds a booklet called "Homeland Adoption" in the garage and starts to wonder if she is adopted.  She tells her boyfriend that her, "real mother" must be out looking for her.  She imagines her to be a famous celebrity.  She finds all sorts of VCR tapes (remember those?) in the potting shed.  Low and behold, a tape entitled, "Homeland Vid" is found.  She watches the video where her parents, teary eyed, ask for someone to consider them as they want to "add another special life into their home."

Lisa's response?  She proclaims to her boyfriend, "Disgusting.  They tricked some poor acoustic songstress with natural curly hair into giving me up!  With lies. . ."

"If I am not biologically related to my family, there is still hope.  I can grow up to be anyone."

Lisa's internal process (portrayed by having her speak it out loud to her boyfriend) doesn't bother me.  She doesn't feel like she belongs.  She is being a teenager and wonders if there is an answer out there that would make her life make more sense.  She talked like a sitcom teenager.  I wouldn't expect the writers to write in PC language.

I myself don't expect the people around me to use adoption correct terminology.  When people ask me if I have my "own" kids I know they mean "biological."  When people ask about CD's "real mother" I know they mean her biological mother.  I don't jump on them or take offense.  I simply respond with the correct language, "I have two biological children.  The System removed CD from her biological mother because she was not able to properly care for her."

However, it is the tail end of the show, when Tessa narrates and sums up the take away "lesson" of the show that I felt the writers took a really wrong turn.

"The parent-child relationship is a strange one, you grow up thinking they are superheroes that can do no wrong.  Then, one day, the cape comes off and you see them for who they are and if you don't like what you see, tough luck, you are stuck together, why? because you're family. . .

(camera shot to Lisa taking a cotton swab to her sleeping mother's mouth and narration continues)

. . .unless of course, you're not."

Anyway, enough said.  Those of you who understand the implications of that last sentence do.  Those who don't, well, neither did the professional writers of a popular hit TV show. Or the writers knew exactly what they were writing, its implications, and felt it was an accurate reflection of how its audience defines "family."

I won't stop watching the show over it but hey, as a going to be adoptive mom, I thought I could spread a little awareness.

1 comment:

  1. Pretty crummy sentiment. I suppose the writers feel this adds "drama" or at least a plot line that can extend for a few episodes.

    As for other people, I think part of the difficulty lies in the paucity of the English language for dealing with modern family dynamics. For example, I was watching a show the other day (I forget which) and a female character said she was a girl's "surrogate mother". I was totally confused for a second wondering how this woman possibly was pregnant with this girl before I realized she meant surrogate in the sense of "substitute" since the girl's biological mother was never around. Which then brought me back to the fact that "substitute" is the actual English definition of surrogate and kind of reveals how ill equipped English is to deal with these situations.

    "Mother" has built into its definition the biological aspect which is probably why people get flummoxed as to what to call each person in the situation. It's interesting to see how our thoughts and opinions are shaped by our language. We see the same issue surrounding homosexual relationships and gay marriage - a paucity of language that often leads to awkwardness and apologies when no ill intention exists. It will be interesting to see how English evolves in the 21st century to conform with our new family dynamics.

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