Friday, December 4, 2009

Find My Family

Well, I've already blogged a bit about the TV show "Adoption Diaries" here, and I've Tivoed another show called "Adoption Story," (haven't watched it yet) and, oh, what's this? Yet another adoption-related television show? And this one is brought to us by one of the big networks? Yes, I speak of "Find my Family." (See photo, above.)

Have you seen this show? It presents almost-real-time searches and reunions, wherein adopted people get help from the show's "experts" to search for their biological parents, and birth parents get help to search for their long-lost offspring. It's another example of exploitative television, showing the anguish of the search and the bittersweet emotions of reunions after decades of separation. It tugs at our heartstrings, especially if we are people who have been intimately affected by adoption, and especially especially if we have conducted our own searches ourselves and are figuring out how to live in reunion.

The New York Times published this article about it on Monday. In the article, someone who works at an adoption advocacy website (and who mentions that she "supports efforts to allow adoptees and birth parents to exchange medical information," so I have to surmise that she is NOT in favor of full reunions) accurately observes that "anytime you film somebody in real time having an emotional breakdown, that is exploitative." I agree with her on that point.

However, others who were interviewed, including an advocate for birth mothers, see some potential benefits of airing the program; to wit, author Lorraine Dusky said "Maybe this will be heard by people who think it is unloyal somehow for a person to search out his or her roots, parents, family, when it is a most natural desire of consciousness." I see her point, but I still believe it's exploitative.

However, the most burning question for me about all this is WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? Never before in my life have I seen so much spotlighting on issues of adoption, especially on search and reunion. I totally agree that as homosapiens, we have a primal need to know our origins in order to feel completely human, and I also believe that we adoptees have a basic human right to the information that is ours. But why is all this suddenly coming into the limelight? We have lived in silence, anonymity, shame, and doubt ("Is this really the big deal it feels like? Why doesn't anyone else except my therapist think so?")

What has shifted in our culture that has begun to train the spotlight on all issues adoption? I don't think it's the mere fact that adoption is occurring more and more often in the United States, and I don't think that it's just because our society is now much more accepting of people being born in situations outside of marriage. It's something else.

What do you think it is? Please, I'd really love to know.


Rebecca said...


kimberly said...

I think it's just that this sort of reality programming is booming right now -- there are birth stories shows, wedding shows, coming out stories shows, etc. And it makes for natural drama and tear-jerking moments every episode. I think it does exploit, as do all of these other types of shows. What I don't get is why people agree to go on a show like this. It seems so personal. They also tend to gloss over all of the negatives.

Amy said...

I suspect that there is more openness about adoption than in the past. There are more kids being brought in from other countries who are visibly different looking than his/her parents. No more hiding, no more secrets. Therefore it is out there and a larger number of folks are talking about it.

What are the odds of this show going multinational, trying to find a Chinese, Russian, or Nicaraguan mother?

daisy said...

A good question. Difficult to get far enough outside of it to determine what cultural forces are in play.

I was thinking that perhaps the timing was connected to the age of the "children" now searching? It seems like open adoptions became the norm for domestic adoption by the late 80s? Are we seeing the tail end of the closed adoption era searchers?

Lela said...

I just hope this will help my cousin, adopted and having very strange health problems (and has no medical history info beyond herself), to get the state of Missouri to uncover her birth records. It is so very hard and seems so unfair that every year the judge says no.

Andrea said...

thanks for your comments, Rebecca, Kim, Amy, Daisy, and Lela: I know that if we keep putting our collective heads together about this we'll come up with a very good composite idea.

coruscate said...

I agree with what Amy said about the change in culture and perceived cultural relaxation or openness on the topic.

However for the TV, I agree that the timing is fadish and unsustainable exploitation.

"Unscripted" television is cheaper, so it is a logical permutation of the economics of reality television continuing to play out.

By the way during the next writers strike, vigorously support the writers. Just like the get rich schemes have left our country in economic collapse, so has it left our major media sources intellectually bankrupt trying to "flip" these stories.

What was once the domain of thoughtful documentaries is being subjugated to the whims of audiences raised on "Jerry Springer" style titillation and the parsimonious division of ratings no longer dominated by three channels into niche markets.

While some in these shows are offering help, these are not non-profits. They are banking on the marketability of melodrama extracted by editing and camera work. It is cynical exploitation, not just exploitation alone.

Thoughtful discussion of the issues will be left out and relegated to the blogosphere.

Unfortunately the facts and details that we may crave for those discussions are left out of those shows (unless it highlights a cliched story arc imposed on the situation) and we must often ruminate the roughage of display without enough minerals of content for healthy development of ideas.