Tuesday, July 28, 2009

the ultimate Others: dare we love them?

I've been horrified by the promos for the new horror movie Orphan I've caught during commercial breaks in The Daily Show (but not for the reasons the movie makers would prefer). I've been thinking for a couple weeks now that I needed to blog about how awful it is that a storyline trading on the neurotic xenophobia that runs unchecked in our society already (in, for example, expressions of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment) is being once again proclaimed as justifiable through that marvelous engine of capitalism known as the Box Office, but as it turns out, I don't have to, because someone much more qualified and eloquent has done so.

from K's blog: "Dr. Aronson recounts the numerous phone calls and emails that she has received from families whose adopted children have merely seen the trailer for this movie. One child asked her parent, ‘Is this what I am? Is this what other people think about me?’ and that kid was 5 years old."

Check out the rest of K's thoughts here, and follow the link to the NPR story as well.

4 comments:

Meagneato said...

Oh ick! What an awful movie. I'm gonna throw out there that maybe the people that watch this movie and are affected negatively by it, maybe shouldn't be the ones adopting kids in the first place. I told a man I used to work for that we might considering adopting a child someday. He responded that it was pretty much crazy, because what if we adopted a child that turned out to be a murderer? I was appalled! Which then, I suppose, brings up the topic of nature versus nurture.

Karen Luttrell said...

I'm not a fan of horror movies, but I've often heard that their themes are commentaries on cultural phenomenons and our societal fears. There have been a lot of celebrity adoptions in the news lately, and I have a lot of friends who have adopted internationally. I think there is still a lingering thread in our collective psyche that thinks adopted children will turn out to be more difficult to raise, since they must cope with their personal anger and fear of abandonment. My two older sisters were adopted, and they had a much more difficult time than I, and consequently, acted out more. That's not to say all adopted children do that, and they're both wonderful people now. However, the nature vs. nurture comment is a valid one. My parent's were clueless, and our extended family was very much against my sisters's adoptions, largely for the reason I list above. This only added to their personal problems, and their anger was frequently directed at me for being the "real" child. Maybe the movie is raising the issue of the repercussions of bringing a child, especially an older child, into an established family and the sometimes volatile dynamics created by it. I wonder if the movie is commenting on the boom in adoptions from the perspective of the child. Most of the stories out there look at the perspective of the parents, not the adopted child. I'm certainly an advocate of adoption, but I also think its worth considering how biological and adopted children will cope with this new situation. Thanks for the post.

JTB said...

I think you're absolutely right: the stories we tell ourselves, even for escapism entertainment, reveal something about our common cultural assumptions and notions. This story shouldn't even compute--it shouldn't be coherent, the terms of the plot ought to be so outrageous that they become incomprehensible. But instead, we all understand it, even if we're morally outraged by it, because this movie is telling us a story about real fears that motivate us morally and socially and politically. You know, if there were some hint that the horror was ironic, or that the storyline was meant to function as critical social commentary on rampant xenophobia, I'd be fine with it--it would run the risk of being misunderstood, but hell, all intelligent social commentary operates with that risk. But I just don't see any of that--rather the message seems to be that fear of the unknown Other (cultural and biological other, the "unnatural" child) is justified...and unless there's just some huge well-hidden twist to the movie (like, the orphan turns out to be the normal one adopted into a suburban family of monsters) I don't see how it's even possible for there to be an angle in the storyline that comes close to the child's perspective.

Nature versus nurture, I think, is a major subtext here. "Nature" as, this orphan is evil and no amount of love and nurture can change that basic nature, and "unnatural," as this orphan is not a biological/natural child and therefore an unknown, requiring suspicion.

Certainly it is "unnatural" to adopt. It's unnatural when God does it and calls us all adopted children. And it's unnatural when people do it. Personally I think we need more people willing to be freaky unnatural in this way. "Natural"=Good is no longer a moral equation I think is at all godly to make. But that heads down another discursive path and I could chase that cyber-rabbit all day...

Stasi said...

But one thing you gotta do: look up the "big twist" in this movie. It's so ludicrous it will have you guffawing for hours. At least it did me. And I honestly believe what many critics said: reading about the twist was way better than watching the movie!