I love fairy tales. Always have. My favorite books as a small child were filled with them. Snow White and Rose Red, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel – those topped my list, but I enjoyed them all and never outgrew them. I liked the old versions. Eyes gorged out, villains dying, lazy pigs eaten, romantic happy endings.
So, last year, when I heard about ABC’s Once Upon a Time, I knew I wanted to see it. We don’t have tv reception of any sort, so I had to wait. We began watching it last week, and are ten episodes into it. We (my daughter and I) are both enjoying it.
However, I’m bothered by it, too. Adoption is a big issue in Once Upon a Time, part of the larger “Who Am I, Really?” theme, and I am disturbed by how it is being presented.
It’s a fairy tale. In fairy tales, stepmothers are evil. I get that. However, adoptive moms are not stepmothers. Adoptive moms choose to adopt; the children don’t come as a package deal with their spouse. (I’m not suggesting that stepmothers are evil, either, just pointing out that they are two different things.)
In Once Upon A Time, the main conflict (at least in Storybrooke) is set into motion when a little boy finds his biological mother, his real mom, who will save all of the fairy tale world. I’m not at the saving the fairy tale world part yet. I’m watching the episodes where there is great drama in the tension over who is Henry’s Real Mom, the evil witch who adopted him or the lost princess who gave him birth? Obviously, everyone is rooting for Emma, the lost princess and savior. Who would want poor Henry doomed to life with an evil witch? Not me, I’m opposed to evil witches.
If that were the only depiction of adoption, I would not be writing this, but it’s not.
Last night we watched the episode about Hansel and Gretel, who are threatened with the horrors of foster care, which people do for the money, not for the kids. Before that there was Cinderella, a sweet 19 year old being coerced into giving up her baby for adoption, even though she is working and going to school to make a better life for herself and her baby. In the fairy tale world, Prince Charming’s twin was sold for money, then, after his untimely death, Charming was coerced into the role of king’s son – a ruthless, unloving king, whose only concern is the economic viability of his kingdom. Rumplestiltskin is an evil baby broker of some sort in both worlds.
It seems at every turn, we are presented with another example of adoption as a cold, heartless transaction. I’m only on episode ten of twenty-two. I’m wondering how many more horrible adoptive or foster families there can be.
Adoptive families are not perfect. They have as many faults as biologically intact families. They aren’t unilaterally evil, though.
Fostercare is not populated by money grubbing people who do not care about the children. Are there people who might want the money? I am sure there are. Just like there are people who have babies for all the wrong reasons.
I am biased. I was adopted as an infant. I adopted my daughter when she was six. Before that, I’d been a foster mom.
My mom, the one who adopted me, raised me, put up with my nonsense for my entire life, she is my real mom. She is not perfect. Did I ever doubt that she loved me? No. Not once. Not even when I was not sure how much I loved her. I always knew how much she loved me.
I am my daughter’s real mom. She remembers her biological mother. Yes, she was a real person, but as she says, “She never wanted to be my mom.” I do, and she knows it, even when I annoy her, which I do, because I am her mom. Moms are bothersome when you are fourteen, no matter how they came to be your mom.
I did not make money on foster care. The allowance paid for the formula and pampers and usually covered the cost of clothes and shoes. There was no profit, and I didn’t stay up nights rocking sick and sad children hoping to make one.
I’m not blaming ABC or the writers of Once Upon a Time for creating this myth, but I am sad that it is still being promoted.
I feel like the show would not have been weakened by leaving out Emma’s tirade against the evils of fostercare.
I don’t think the show would be less dramatic if there was one positive representation of an adoptive family. I’m only ten episodes in, so I keep hoping.
We can at least see Gepetto and Pinnochio as a loving adoptive family, right? Please? Gepetto was a caring dad; it was not his fault his boy went bad and got eaten by a whale. Please let Gepetto be a good adoptive dad. He’s not an adoptive mom, so maybe he can sneak by unnoticed.
What about Aurora? Those fairies were darned good fostermoms! To love a child like that, for that long, knowing they will never truly belong to you, let me tell you, it hurts. That girl had two loving families, each as real and as loving as the next.