I wouldn’t have known about the new reality-TV show “Find My Family” if a friend hadn’t emailed me with an urgent “THIS MUST BE STOPPED!” message. It raised my eyebrow. I clicked on the link. I was like, “Errr… really?”
For one thing, I happen to LIKE a couple of reality shows. Top Chef and Biggest Loser are my favorites.
For the second thing, I do not feel equipped to condemn anything that I haven’t actually seen with my own eyeballs. So I decided to withhold judgment until watching it.
I emailed another (adopted) friend and invited her to smoke some adoptee crack with me. Adoptee crack is something that you KNOW is probably Wrong on some level, but that you are inherently and uncontrollably drawn to. In this case, people finding their birth families. I’m a sucker. I can’t help it.
I arrived at my friends M & M’s house at the appointed hour last night. For the record, M1 is an adoptee AND an adoptive parent. M2 is an adoptive parent and a stalwart ally of adoptees.
Folks over at Rainbow Kids seem to have their panties all in a twist because, according to them (presumably BEFORE having watched the show!) “producers completely discount any worth of the adoptive families who have loved and raised these children. Instead the show emphasizes the loss of a child’s Real family’ as the one-and-only central issue of all adopted children’s lives.” Ummm, projection much?? (also: “THESE CHILDREN?” The woman in question was in her 30s! WHEN will we stop being referred to as CHILDREN?!!?!?” Ughhhh.)
I was prepared to dismiss the show, but I was also very curious to see how this was all going to be portrayed. M1 remarked, in this vein, “I have to watch every single lesbian movie ever made, and even though some of them are really poor quality, it is still important to me to see.. a representation of myself.” AMEN. I feel the same way about adoption in media and literature. Gotta check it out.
OK. So to start out, the two hosts of the show are both adoptees themselves. I give them huge props for that. Because HOW many times are these things produced or created by other people, who just think it is a dramatic and/or romantic idea? Tim Green, the male host was clearly moved by what he was seeing. At one point, the female host, Lisa Joyner, said to the adoptee woman, “I know how you feel.” This annoyed M1 who said, “That’s bull! How presumptuous”!
I sat with that for a minute. I said, “But how many times have *I* said something, and YOU say, “I know how you feel,” and that makes me feel good because it makes me feel seen and understood?” She said, yeah, but we’re FRIENDS. Who knows, maybe LJ and the AW have bonded and become fast friends through this process. I don’t know. So that didn’t bug me the way it bugged her.
OK, back to the show! (I can tell this is gonna be a loooooong post!) The first episode features a couple who faced a pregnancy back in high school (she was 16 I think). Then they ended up marrying each other, having 3 other kids and staying together for 22 years. I’d say this is pretty rare. The birthmother has gone to a ton of agencies and investigators, and everyone has come up blank.
ABC to the rescue!! They put their team of 20 sleuths on the project, and within short order they have come up with the amended birth certificate of the daughter. They go find her. She is 8 miles “down the road.” Of course she is in shock. She says she wants to meet them. Then male host tells the parents that she’s been found, and he shares a picture (while wiping away a tear) of her and her son. They’re grandparents, wowee!
Lots of exclamations of “O my GOD!” Which is, of course, quite understandable. Tears. Of course.
Then comes the absolutely cheesiest thing I have EVER SEEN. They have to bring both parties to reunite at The Family Tree – which is an actual TREE up on a HILL, with a path leading up to it! It is a long path. So (we remarked) does this exclude people with disabilities or poor cardiovascular health?
And the funniest thing. These people all live 8 miles apart in WISCONSIN. So now they’re all going to have to fly across the country (presumably to California: this hill looks very much like the place that the Biggest Losers work out on) to reunite under The Family Tree? Ha ha ha ha. O-kayyyyyyyy, people.
We spent about 15 minutes mocking and laughing the Tree.
They have their tearful reunion, with more “O my GOD!” and hugging and carrying on. Thoughtfully, the producers have provided a nice wide bench, suitable for six family members to sit abreast and catch their breath while on One Tree Hill.
They’ve brought her a scrapbook with letters and pictures. Which is the part where my adoptee heart drops out of my chest. The dad reads his letter out loud. In my opinion, it is loving, humble, apologetic and open. He makes a BIG DEAL out of saying, maybe he doesn’t have the right to know ANYthing about this daughter because he gave up all rights. He gives BIG PROPS to her adoptive parents for loving and raising her (see that, Rainbow Kids people?????). He says he does not want to hurt her A-parents, he’s not looking to replace them, only to connect if it is what she wants. It is the picture of restraint.
I whimper and clutch at my heart a bit while hearing this part. I say, “What I wouldn’t give for a letter like that.” M1 says, “Hmm, when I hear that letter, I think, I’ve gotten letters like that and it makes me feel like I have to be grateful when I’m still really pissed off.” She has a point there.
Meanwhile M2 is getting misty eyed and unable to pull herself away, in spite of a big writing project that is calling her name. See, this stuff IS crack!
After the big meeting on the hill, everyone reconvenes for a picnic in Wisconsin, including the adoptee’s ADOPTIVE PARENTS. (ahem) They seem gracious and open, for the two seconds they are on screen. The birthparents thank them. Although everyone seems pretty much blown out of the water, they also seem to be behaving quite well. Adoptee’s son seems not quite clear who All These New People are, but he seems to be having a good time. End of show. Fade to sunset.
OKAY! Soooooo…my two cents (or my two hundred cents, right?) is that this show is not an evil Product of Satan. I do not think it is (at all) “anti-adoption.”
As I was watching the show I kept asking (out loud) the question, “Is this exploitive? Is it bad? WHO is being exploited here?”
I decided to look up the definition of that explosive word.
Exploitive: unfairly or cynically using another person or group for profit or advantage
Well, profit and advantage, definitely. They want their ratings. But is it UNFAIR? Is it CYNICAL? Hm. I don’t know about that.
I’ll tell you what’s UNFAIR. It’s UNFAIR that a show like this is even feasible in the FIRST place, because if ADULTS had access to their OWN birth records, it’s unlikely that these decade-long dramas would be playing out like this. It wouldn’t hold the enormous charge and people wouldn’t have to be paying agents and investigators for fruitless searches.
I asked my fellow watchers, “Is this show hurting anyone? Helping anyone? What’s the point?”
We devil’s advocated it back and forth. On ONE hand, it sucks that these people have their private stuff paraded around. It was like they had to sell their souls to the devil in order to get the information they so desperately wanted and needed. (aside: Would I?????? Answer: It Depends.) On the OTHER hand, it might serve to inform the public that no matter how “all-good” adoption seems to be for many parties involved, no matter how much an adoptive family is full of love and care, it is still perfectly NORMAL for adoptees and birth relatives to wonder about each other. Everyone has unanswered questions that follow them around for their lives. (OK, not EVERYone, but MANY people.)
This show is produced by the same folks who do the Home Makeover show, where people who live in horrible homes are given the chance to have their house remodeled in massive splendor. Are THEY being exploited? It seems to be pretty wide accepted that THAT show is a fairy-tale generosity feel good thing. Hey, maybe it would be great if some megarich TV station gave people a house and DIDN’T FILM IT, but that is not exactly what they’re about. They wouldn’t BE megarich and have the capacity to be giving away houses if they didn’t have a show that raked in ratings.
Same with this show. How lovely it would be if anybody who wanted to find birthfamily could just contact ABC and they’d put their dozens of sleuths on the trail, and people could discreetly and privately reunite without cameras bearing down on them. But, same thing. The two things sorta go hand in hand.
What would be ever NICER (and I’m just repeating myself, but I think it bears repeating) would be if all adopted adults had access to their own vital records and didn’t need a television station to do this for them.
So, that’s my two hundred cents. Will I watch it again? Probably. Do I KNOW that the show ends at the spot when everyone’s journey is just beginning, and that it will most likely be fraught with complexity and drama and some degree of suffering?? I know that, people. I was not born yesterday. (ha ha ha)
M1 said that of course they have to show those ultimate dramatic moments: The Letter. The revelation. The finding. The dramatic moment on the Hill.
But face it, those ARE the dramatic moments. I will never in my life forget what those moments were like for me. They were life-changing. Sure, there are a million other small moments that make up the journey of a Reunited Adoptee, but if you only have 30 minutes including commercials, that’s what you have to show.
(ha, speaking of commercials, this was the FIRST time I ever begged for commercials to interrupt because I had SO much to say and I needed a break in which to share and express!)
That’s it, I think. For now. But my opinion is that while the show is cheesy, melodramatic and emotionally manipulative, it also showed some real truths. It was hosted by real adoptees. The people seemed stable and reasonable, for the most part. And their journey is just beginning. Y’all can watch the whole thing here.
Oh, and one more thing, Mrs Rainbow-Kids-Mom-Who-Cant-Stand-Having it Not-Be-All-About YOU:For anybody who knows ANYthing about me, you’ll know that you’ll be hard pressed to find anybody more fiercely loyal, protective and loving of their adoptive family. AND guess what, I also want to know who and where I came from! Guess what, in this complex world of adoption, these two things CAN coexist. (duh)
Anyway, anybody want to watch with me on a Monday night, let me know. I’ll make popcorn.