Saturday, January 30, 2010

"A Family Is a Family Is a Family"

On Sunday evening, Rosie O'Donnell hosts an HBO special on famlies. I'm not a huge Rosie fan, not since she said she tells her adopted kids that they grew in the wrong tummies. I do appreciate what she has done to promote gay adoption, especially for this family. The New York Daily News gave the show a pretty good review:
Most of the special, which HBO is showing early enough so young children can watch, isn't about gay marriage, and the hot-button phrase itself is never heard. Families of same-sex couples, including O'Donnell's, get maybe five minutes, tucked in the middle of discussions and songs about the importance of families in general. But for many viewers, gay marriage will be the takeaway.

Ironically, no one will disagree with the initial premise: Children very early understand the value of feeling that they are part of a loving family.

Family, they sense, is their place in the world, the place where they are safe, the foundation on which they build other relationships and the rest of their lives. Not all families are warm and loving, of course. But this special doesn't get into that, focusing instead on families that work.

The disagreement begins only when people start defining family, like by saying it
does or doesn't have to include a mommy and daddy.

"A Family Is a Family" argues that constricting definitions are irrelevant, a family is whatever it is and if it works for the children, it's doing what a family needs to do. To reinforce that point, it strongly suggests children don't care about the talking points. They just need to feel wanted, loved and protected.
The New York Times review slams the show for its "cloying sweetness" and lack of complexity: "the image captured is adorable, but, unlike any given episode of 'Sesame Street,' it reveals almost nothing about day-to-day realities and challenges." It points to one moment of honest that is VERY interesting:

It has one moment of honesty as well: a girl named Maya who was adopted from China describes how that country’s one-child policy and its cultural preference for boys led her parents to abandon her.

“My birth parents didn’t want me, but still they loved me,” she says. Then she pauses briefly before continuing, as if filing away that incongruous statement for further consideration later, when the camera that wants to capture only the sunny side of things is off.
We'll be watching it; even bad television -- maybe ESPECIALLY bad television -- can have its teachable moments!

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