Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Did you know "Despicable Me" has adoption themes?

From the trailers, I had no idea "Despicable Me" had anything about adoption in it.  But a head's up from a friend sent me looking for more information.  One website I found crowed:

It is a movie about adoption. It is, in fact, a powerful and positive movie about adoption. The content is appropriate for all ages and we strongly recommend it for the entire family.
Oh, goody!  We need more good adoption movies!  But the Family Film Guide had this to say:

Of more concern to families with adopted children (and I say this because it was specifically pointed out to me by a adoptive mother after the screening) is the way adoption and orphanages are portrayed. Gru adopts three orphaned girls for a selfish reason and later returns them to their uncaring orphanage, but no worries, in the end everyone winds up happy.
No worries, everyone winds up happy?!  Gee, I want my kids seeing a disrupted adoption and an uncaring orphanage.  No worries, indeed!  And how uncaring is this orphanage?  Well, how about this review from an adoptive mom who loved the movie but wouldn't want her adopted daughter to see it:

Warning: Because the plot deals with orphans and adoption, sometimes in an irresponsible manner, I didn't take Rosie. I think she is too young to understand that it was done with a sense of humor and true adoption is nothing like it is portrayed in the movie. If your children have any issues about adoption, make sure you talk about it before you go see the movie.
Specifically how is the orphanage bad? Another adoptive mom advises:

The story line includes a single man adopting three orphaned girls so he can use them to fulfill his evil plans. The orphanage caretaker is a surly, demanding woman that punishes the children by putting them in "the shame box" During the climatic point of the movie, the evil character-turned good guy sends the girls back to the orphanage (against his wishes, but it's still a disruption). The orphanage caretaker makes the girls sit in the shame box because they're returned! The end is happy and endearing, heart warming, tear jerking, etc. Really, despite the premise, it's super cute. However, it could definitely be a trigger for traumatized children so be careful! I would NOT recommend it for families that have newly adopted children, have severe attachment issues or that have little girls that were abused by a male figure.
Anyone wonder how supervillian Gru manages to adopt three girls?  This reviewer does, describing the movie as set in a world where "a single bald man with questionable background could easily get approval for the adoption of three little girls, even after saying such creepy lines like: 'My heart is like a tooth, and it has a cavity that can be filled only with children.'" Great image of screening of adoptive parents, huh?

And after a positive review of the movie as "family friendly" at Christianity Today, an adoptive mom commented:

I would have given this film zero stars if I could. I am shocked that the reviewer does not speak at all about the terrible portrayal of adoption in this film. As an adoptive parent, I was appauled that my daughter saw the three girls put into cardboard boxes labeled Box of Shame when the villan returned them to the orphanage. Clearly the other reviewer knows nothing about adoption, because this movie does not give it nice treatment. Adoption advocates are horrified by this movie, and Christians who are compassionate towards orphans should boycott it.
So now you know.  Do with the information what you will.  But recognize that even if you and your kids don't see it, it's highly likely that your kids' friends will have seen it.  Be prepared for some nasty orphanage comments and send-you-back-if-you're-bad comments in the upcoming school year.  Sigh.

13 comments:

Von said...

Got it now, it's a comedy about adoption, a bad orphange, a guy with strange intentions and adoptees who get returned and shamed.Hilarious!

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Noella said...

Thank your the heads up about this movie.

Anonymous said...

Despicable Me movie is a very entertaining and adventures movie.I love This Movie

Dee said...

I am glad you warned me about this movie. My kids have enough to deal with, without seeing a twisted adoption plot like this. I will avoid this one, like I did Coraline - just the previews for that one ticked me off.

Anonymous said...

I saw this movie yesterday, after reading the reviews posted here. While I agree that parents should be aware that the adoption themes might be triggering for some children, I think these scenes are handled in a way that most older kids will perceive as unrealistic and ridiculous. (For instance, the cavity comment is the result of Gru's posing as a dentist in order to appear respectable to the orphanage director.) I also wouldn't expect much schoolyard teasing about being returned to the orphanage - these scenes are very brief, and it is clear that the girls weren't returned because they did anything wrong.

I was more concerned by the implication that a person who opposes an adoption can arrange a disruption against the wishes of the adoptive parent and adoptees. There is also a shot of the girls' self portraits being removed from beneath Gru's family tree, as their artwork is being scrubbed from the walls - as if they are being erased from his family. I actually thought that scene was more likely to be upsetting than the Box of Shame scene, which is only a few seconds long.

Ultimately, I think the movie handles adoption themes in a way that is so cartoonish and over the top (in keeping with the rest of the movie) that the majority of kids over age 8 or so wouldn't confuse what they saw onscreen with anything that could actually happen.

Mary Ellen said...

Sorry to chime in so late on this. DH and I took bio son HA to this movie while adopted son HE was at a sleep-over. So glad we didn't take HE to this movie then--we so had no idea about the adoption theme. He's 11 (not a young kid) but has strong feelings of abandonment right now (HE came to us at 6 months old) and a lot of grief and some anger about being adopted. We talked about this movie with him, to see if he was still interested in seeing it (he had been wild to see it before) and he said "no, I don't think so" While discussing the movie right after seeing it with HA, I asked him what he thought his brother would think and he said "seeing the sisters go to the Box of Shame would make him sad". Even an 8 year old knows that is inappropriate and not funny.

Anonymous said...

It is not just a matter of what our adopted children will think, it is what non-adopted children will take to heart and take as fact. We can talk to our adopted children, BUT we have to prepare them for their non-adopted peers who know NOTHING of real vs cartoonish orphanages. That is the reason to avoid the movie and ask your friends to do the same.

Anonymous said...

I loved this movie. It is upsetting to see the bad things happen to the children, but as another commenter posted, it is portrayed in a unrealistic way. I see that it could be bad for adoptees to see, but it was a very sweet movie.

Anonymous said...

We saw the movie and my kids (ages 13-10) enjoyed it. And we talked about adoption and the kids know it doesn't work that way. And my youngest WANTED to be put in the box of shame!

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Anonymous said...

hi,
I love this movie, and have adopted nieces. While "some" kids and parents who are struggling with abandonment issues might not like this, I relate this movie very closely to "Annie". It's the cartoon version, where Daddy Warbucks keeps Annie on for his personal image/gain, this cartoon is similar, and then also very similar how the man's heart opens to these kids he didn't expect to love.
It's "Annie" meets "Meet the Robinsons".