Friday, May 7, 2010

Adoptees Get TV Ad Removed

Recently the company "Four Eyes" aired a commercial with an adoption theme.  A couple (parodying Brad and Angelina), followed by gaggle of children of various races, parades into the eyeglass shop.  They are so excited about the deals at the store, they offer to adopt the clerk and give her a "better life."  By making her a part of their family, they were hoping to get preferential treatment at the eye glass shop in order to get a better deal.  Commercial ends when the clerk assures them that they don't need to be a part of the family to get a great deal.

Many in the adoption community contacted the company and asked for the commercial to be removed.  One adult adoptee received this in response from the company:
"While we certainly did not mean to offend anyone with our commercial, we of course understand what a sensitive, and sometimes painful, issue adoption can be. We have decided to... stop running the "Adoption" commercial because if we've offended one customer that's too many.
When word reached social media sites that the commercial had been removed, some commenters accused adoptees of being "too sensitive."  In reality, this portrayal of adoption was offensive and needed to be removed.  It was a stereotype, and not worth laughing about.  Children being rescued, images of wealth, and a couple on a shopping spree.  This is not the story of adoption, a stereotype, that needs to be told over and over again.


Triona Guidry said...

Yeah, I bet people who complained about the use of "blackface" in TV and movies were told they were making a big deal out of nothing, too. Prejudice of any kind should not be tolerated. I'm glad For Eyes removed the commercial (I didn't see it or I would have been livid). Unfortunately the media has a long way to go when it comes to showing positive, non-stereotyped adoptee role models.

I am curious as to what you would consider a positive adoptee role model that doesn't go careening off into the happy-fluffy adoption-is-perfect model. (thinking of a story I'm writing) Personally I would like to see acknowledgment of the adoption loss but also finding strength as adoptees and individuals, able to synthesize our birth and adoptive selves.

Amanda Woolston said...

That's a really good question Triona.

I think there is a recognizeable push in the anti-stereotype aspect of adoption in the media. The first is the stance you and I take. The second is the stance that wants postive-only views of adoption in the media largely fueled by those who like adoption, have adopted, or the kool-aid crowd. The second group of people are still pushing for oppressive stereotypes--just different ones. I encountered this movement of people when the movie "Orphan" came out. On a Facebook group I saw, they didn't seem to care that it defamed adoptees but rather that it made adoption look bad.

This is hard to ponder as I have only ever seen adoption in the media as a way to promote adoption, jerk a few tears for ratings based on parts of adoption, scare people to bits in movies with stigmas of foster children and joke about adoption (the e.g. the "suprise! you're adopted" birthday cards). I can't think of a reason that anyone has ever mentioned adoption in the media other than to make fun of it--it has certainly never been to show adoptees as an integrated, normal part of society.

For me, I won't stand for the stereotypes without saying something e.g. abortion, "better life," "grateful," so on and so forth. I'm with you, acknowledge the loss but stop portraying me and other adoptees as a total losers.

Triona Guidry said...

As a writer I see stereotypes of adoption all over children's literature. If you go to Sarah Park's web site at, she's written about this. When I was growing up there weren't really adoptees in kid's books, except for the obligatory "orphan saved by loving family" motif. Today I almost think it's worse because you have these stereotyped, one-dimensional adoptees who apparently never grieve or think about their losses.

To be honest I'm not sure adoptees are an integrated, normal part of society. The losses we suffer are so enormous and incomprehensible to those who have not experienced them, so people either can't wrap their heads around our POV, or they dismiss us as angry, ungrateful etc. The same could be said of first mothers. Speaking for myself, I've always felt like that stereotypical total loser because that is the message I received from society: that adoptees are second best, never good enough.

In the novel I'm working on now, I'm trying to portray my protagonist as a girl struggling to understand herself and her heritage in the face of the dual stigmas of adoption and race. I think young adoptees need to see themselves reflected in the literature around them, to know that it's okay to have these questions, and that there are things they will still be exploring about themselves even after they become adults.

Von said...

Nothing will change until the adoption industry wants it to change and people learn to understand that which is outside their own experience, it looks less likely every day.

Barbara Thavis said...

I never saw the ad. Do you think the creater was actually trying to poke fun at Brad and Angalina as insufferable Americans pushing our value of a "better life" on these children?
Probably not, but that's how I viewed the ad. I'm glad it was taken off.

Unsigned Masterpiece said...

I have just come across this post. I suspect I was still recovering from the adoption conference I attended on May 7 2010.

Part of me wants to say better to be portrayed as angry and aggressive than slutty and stupid.

My son went to a very exclusive private school with Matthew Perry, Chandler of Friends. When Monica and Chandler were looking to adopt the portrayal of the mother was so offensive that I almost wrote Matthew Perry a letter and said I am the birth mother of someone you know, stop this.

To bring it up to present day, I am starting to find Mithchell and Cameron's little quips aboout buying local this time, etc. on Modern Family a little offensive. Now that Lilly is finally talking I hope she finds some very interesting things to say.