And the Punchline Is…You’re Adopted (Adoption in Media)
Yesterday, as I was cleaning the kitchen, the nearby TV was tuned to sports having been left on by one of the males in my family. (Apparently, they are incapable of making a sandwich without watching some game.) I was mindlessly listening, when I heard a gravelly voice say “You’re adopted”. I hadn’t been following the commercial, but could tell a punchline when I heard one. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach, and I instinctively looked to see if my adopted daughter had heard.
The commercial is by Sony advertising a new golf video game. The mom of the family is playing the game and kicking butt. Her family is trying to distract her, so she will make a mistake. They try various tactics, including running the blender, rattling keys, and blowing vuvuzelas. At last the grandfather, presumably her father, says “You’re adopted.”
Punch in the Gut
My gut reaction surprises me on some level. I’m the one who preaches that over sensitivity to words results in less talking about a subject, which is usually a bad thing. For example, some of you may recall my blog on The Debate over Adopt-a- Programs where I took the controversial position that it wasn’t inherently an insult to adopted persons to use that slogan. I also caution adoptive parents to not take offense with every comment they receive about their child’s adoption. Life’s short, and I prefer the “assume good intent unless proven otherwise” approach. But all my platitudes to the contrary, my first reaction to the Sony commercial was as if I had been kicked.
It seems from a quick perusal of adoptive parent forums that I’m not alone in my reaction, but most seem to assume that the phrase “you’re adopted” was said as an insult. My take on the commercial when re-watching it is a little different. Maybe I’m making too fine a distinction, but the point of the grandfather saying “You’re adopted” was to distract, not to insult. I assume, and I realize that I am spending way too much time analyzing this commercial, that this was suppose to be new information to the mother. No doubt being told you’re adopted for the first time when you are 40+ would be a shock and a distraction. I understand that it was meant to be funny—see how far the grandfather would go to try to win at this game. LOL [laughing out loud]! However, the subtle subtext is that being adopted is an inferior state—something worth being shocked and distracted by.
Similar to a Racial Slur?
Many adoptive parent commenters say that using “you’re adopted” in that context is no different than making a derogatory statement about a person’s race or sexual orientation. Our society would not put up with an outright racist statement made as part of a national commercial. (Although I well know that subtler forms of racism are still prevalent.) Homosexual slurs are still pretty common, although becoming much less acceptable with the great Public Service Announcement campaigns focusing on making people think before they use the phrase “That’s so gay”. (If you are unfamiliar with these PSAs, they are worth watching. I particularly liked the one, obviously produced by an amateur and starring high school students, which begins with two girls complaining about a hard test. One of the girls says “That test was so Asian.” Another scene is a boy saying to a kid that biked to school, “I can’t believe you rode your bike. That’s so Mormon.” Another one worth watching stars a very funny Wanda Sykes.)
Since I think that the line “You’re adopted” was not intended to insult the woman, but to shock her, the racial and sexual orientation analogies are not directly on point–no one would be shocked or surprises by their race or homosexuality. I couldn’t come up with a good analogy of something that is intrinsic to a person that they wouldn’t know and the knowledge of which would shock them. (That says volumes about the need to tell children about adoption and egg, sperm and embryo donation from the very beginning.)
Are We Being Overly Sensitive
I also wondered what others outside of the adoption community might have seen in this commercial. Was I hyper-focusing on the adoption theme and perhaps overreacting just a bit? I went searching for comments made on non adoption forums. Nope, it wasn’t just me; the adoption gag line garnered the most comments by far. Here’s a sampling of what I found.
Tyler over at Hotbloodedgaming said: That commercial had just about everything. By the way, you’re adopted! LOL
supa_badman at Gamespot shared: ‘BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZT’ ‘YOU’RE ADOPTED.’.Best two [words] ever heard in a commercial.
Comments made on the video of the commercial on YouTube:
- ‘YOUR ADOPTED!’ that line should go down in history! ~T3rM1n8TOr
- I have three words to say to you. YOU…ARE…ADOPTED. ~pm41224
- LOLOL [really laughing out loud] you’re adopted ~fusedpower
At this point I was on a roll, so I checked some of my favorite blogs by adopted persons to see what they were saying. Most weren’t saying anything, and those that did comment did not always agree. In a blog about another adoption themed commercial, Amanda over at The Declassified Adoptee said: “Until becoming a mother and paying more attention to the influences that are around my son, I never realized that no matter where I go or look, I am hardly able to find any outlet that provides a positive view of the “adopted” part of my identity. …There is scarcely anything in the media that does not exploit or make fun of that part of who I am.” However, in the comments to the video on YouTube, LegendaryHasha responded to an adoptive parent’s negative comment: “I think you’re taking it too seriously. It’s meant to be funny and as an adoptee I don’t find it insulting, merely entertaining.”
An interesting side note: In a Sony commercial for the same product aired early this year, a character said, in a veiled response to an internet rumor of a big price reduction in the video platform, “You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet; otherwise, I’d be a Nigerian millionaire by now.” This prompted Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Communication to demand an apology from Sony, calling the commercial an “unwarranted attack on the reputation and image of the country.” In response, Sony issued an apology to the Nigerian government and immediately pulled the commercial from the air. Now, in truth, I thought the line was pretty funny and thought the Nigerian official and Sony had overreacted. I guess the line between reaction and overreaction and sensitive and hyper-sensitive is in the eye or ear of the beholder.
I don’t want to walk through life looking for insults. I certainly don’t want that for my children. But I also don’t want the world to view their adoptive status as inferior or subpar or shocking. I don’t want something so important to them and to me to be used as a cheap, not-so-funny punchline.
I ended my post on adopt a highways saying I hoped we were raising our adopted kids to be more like hardy asters rather than hot house flowers. My kiddos seem to be pretty darn sturdy, but at times I still want to be their greenhouse. They may not need protecting, but I still need to protect.
If you want to write to Sony to express your opinion on the commercial, send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Image credit: notashamed