|Stephen Tompkinson as DCI Banks|
Within five minutes of when I tuned in--ten minutes after it began--I learn that someone is not who she seems to be. Uh, oh, I tell myself, we are heading into the story line that will revolve around adoption. In true good story-telling fashion, the truth emerges slowly when a grieving mother (for her dead raised daughter) blurts out to DCI Banks about another young woman: "I gave her up for adoption. I was seventeen. I told her I didn't want a relationship....She's been stalking me. She was trying to destroy my family. She's vicious and manipulative--she's capable of anything."
So, the bad adopted daughter probably killed the raised daughter, right?
Wrong. The BAD mother tried to sicken (or kill) the bad, stalking adoptee...and so when the opportunity presents itself, bad mother doctors the adoptee's cocaine (!) with rat poison--containing strychnine. The raised daughter will steal the adoptee's makeup bag containing the coke, and thus...the raised daughter dies of strychnine poisoning.
"Talk about justice," said the adoptee who did not kill her half sister. "You set out to kill the daughter you rejected and you end up killing the daughter you raised. You pay for your sins, eh?"
I mean, is there drama/comedy on the tube without adoption? Or questionable parentage? On Revenge, we had an adoptee return who soon enough disposes of his natural father by, er, accidentally killing him because his mother told the returning son she got pregnant with him when his father raped her, an innocent young woman on her own. May or may not be true, because Mama Victoria is the evil bitch of Revenge.
On The Blacklist (which I have only watched all the way through once, too violent for me) we ended up in a baby-making factory where attractive, bright college girls were kept sedated while impregnated to produce children for adoption, and didn't I hear that the main character, played by James Spader, might be another regular character's "birth father"?
On Crisis, about a bus load of kids abducted, we learn that the together and attractive FBI agent on the case is really the biological mother of one of the kids, who has been raised by her very wealthy and older sister of the mother. On Nashville, Maddie, one of the daughter's discovers that her biological father is actually the incredibly cool guitar player, Deacon Clayborne, not the barely likable father she's been raised by.
|Charles Easton as Daddy Deacon|
Modern Family brings us the amusing gay couple and their adopted Chinese daughter, and god help me, it is a funny. One of the best episodes I saw was when the gay couple were trying to get another child, this time from a pregnant teenager who was considering adoption. One of them sang a song--that made the teen cry--presumably thinking about her baby, not a lost love--and she ran out the door, surely having changed her mind. Last season we had The New Normal, about a gay couple who hired a surrogate mother whose own mother was homophobic, racist, summarily in stark opposition to all the politics of the gay couple. Perhaps The New Normal was too outrageous, since it was not renewed for a second season. I found it so absurdly funny I was recording it.
And I didn't even get to the specialty shows such as I'm Having Their Baby and its assorted cousins.
|Mother Lorraine an Daughter Jane in their own story|
But it's not as if the new drama and comedy of our age has discovered convoluted parentage and adoption are meaty themes: Oedipus is the ultimate adoptee; or is that Moses? I know I am missing a ton of them in here, but Henry Fielding's Tom Jones next leaps to mind, followed by the twins in Dickens' Bleak House, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Jane Austen's Fanny Price in Mansfield Park, and one of my favorites, Edith Wharton's novelette, The Old Maid.* We could go on. And on.
But after a day of spent dealing with adoption correspondence, writing a blog, trying to get op-eds about sealed birth certificates in print, the adoption news on Facebook, working on my memoir, et cetera, I admit I long for tune-out time with the tube or a novel that has not a single adoption trigger. So a couple of weeks ago I innocently picked up Barbara Kingsolver's novel, Pigs in Heaven at a local thrift shop. I loved her Poisonwood Bible. Whadda ya know--Pigs in Heaven is the story of a Cherokee adoption with a blameless non-Cherokee mother (until she is found to have a smidgen of Cherokee blood through her mother) and the Indian Child Welfare Act that we dealt with not so long ago in the case of Veronica Brown. So it goes. Adoption, and who's my daddy? is here to stay in fiction and fable.
Despite how adoption has been treated by our culture--with some adoptive parents trying to pretend it is not so very different from "as born to"--man has always known differently and understands that the story of whom we are connected to by blood is deep, primal, and forever fascinating.--lorraine
PLEASE EVERYBODY, ADD WHATEVER STORIES, DRAMAS COME TO MIND AND COMMENT ON THEM. WHETHER YOU THINK THEY WERE DONE RIGHT, OR WRONG.
I first came upon The Old Maid in the library when I was pregnant. I had no idea what it was about. The title character is not who she appears to be. It's a wonderful story. I reread it a few years ago, and it held up.
For a literary dissertation on adoption, see Reading Adoption: Family and Difference in Fiction and Drama By Marianne Novy
Novy is an adoptee and a professor of English and Women's Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Her book looks at the works of literature and shows how fiction has contributed to our perceptions of adoptive parents, adoptees and first parents. A few years ago Novy organized a weekend conference on kinship and adoption, and invited me to be a speaker. It was a fabulous conference, and while adoptees and first parents were totally outnumbered by adoptive mothers who are academics, I learned a lot and was able to spend an afternoon at the nearby Carnegie Museum of Art. Take a close look at the cover of her book, it's a clever, spare drawing of a tree with two roots being grafted.