Archive for October, 2011

Adoption, Glee Style

I know I must have some dedicated Glee watchers among my readers. While I admit I haven’t followed the show, I happened to catch one episode while I was on the treadmill at the gym last week. And what an episode it was! While I was sweating away, a captive audience pointed at the TV for thirty minutes, I was completely horrified by the portrayal of adoption on the show.

For those who, like me, have not been in the loop, two of the main characters, Quinn and Puck, are teenage parents who decided to place their baby for adoption. To make things a bit complicated, the adoptive mother, Shelby, also happens to be the birth mother of another teen character, Rachael. Shelby placed Rachael for adoption when Rachael was a newborn. Shelby is trying to forge a relationship with Rachael, and is also parenting Quinn and Puck’s baby through adoption. Got that? Okay, let the games begin.

First of all, the reunion between Rachael and Shelby is super-simplified and glamorized to high heaven. While Rachael is initially skeptical about the sudden and uninvited reappearance of her birth mother in her life, this resistance quickly dissolves in a scene where Shelby advises Rachael to believe in herself and attempt to sing the difficult song “There’s a Place for Us.” The two then sing the song as a powerful duet, ending with them holding hands and gazing at each other, belting out “we’ll find a new way of living,/we’ll find a way of forgiving.” Powerful music, indeed. It also bugged me that Shelby used the phrase “gave you up” to refer to the decision to place her for adoption.

Quinn and Puck’s adoption dynamics is no less troubling. While the legalities are not explored for obvious reasons (we adoption lawyers don’t make for good television the way that criminal lawyers and trial lawyers do), it appears disturbingly as if Quinn and Puck have simply handed their baby over to Shelby with no formalities whatsoever. It’s also troubling that Shelby speaks very harshly and disrespectfully to Quinn, her baby’s birth mother. At the end of the episode, Quinn and Puck agree that they are going to “fight” Shelby for custody of the baby. Granted, since the show completely left out the legal aspects, we don’t know whether the adoption is final at this point or not. But the show did leave the strong impression that birth parents in finalized adoptions can fight adoptive parents for custody simply because they have changed their minds and cleaned up their acts. Not true in any state, except apparently the magical state of Glee.

I’ve talked to several adoptive parents who are annoyed at the unrealistic portrayal of adoption on Glee, although several have also told me that such shows make a good starting point for talking with their children about adoption. Simply asking “what do you think about how they showed adoption on this show?” or “do you think that could happen in the real world?” can start a great discussion with older children. If kids don’t want to talk about it, just letting them know you’re there for them and making their life book or other adoption books available for them to look at is another way to deal with questions the show may raise.

It’s fairly easy to explain to kids that there are laws to prevent their birth parents to simply come and take them away by “fighting” for them, as Quinn wants to do. To me, the portrayal of birth mother reunions raises the harder issues. It’s normal and natural for kids to fantasize about their birth parents, and reunions can be a wonderfully positive thing. However, no reunion is as glamorous or as simple as Rachael and Shelby’s.

What did you think of the portrayal of adoption on Glee? Did it raise hard questions or start good discussions in your house?

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

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