Just in Time for Halloween: Orphan

This post was originally published on AdoptionBlogs.com on October 30, 2009. Republished here with permission.

orphanLet’s get one thing straight: I hate horror movies. I had no intention of seeing Orphan. But when the adoption community came out in droves to boycott it, even getting Warner Brothers to change the film’s trailer, it reminded me of church groups protesting The Last Temptation of Christ and Dogma. I decided I’d actually need to see the movie before commenting. I wasn’t going to pay full price, so my husband added it to our Netflix queue. It arrived this week.

This post is part movie review, part critique of how the movie portrays adoption. There are spoilers here, so don’t read it if you really want to see the movie. (Though I don’t really recommend the movie.)

The movie uses every horror movie cliche, in droves. I don’t even watch horror movies and I know this. It reminds me of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, replacing the black, mentally challenged handyman with a four-year old deaf girl. We’ve got all the right camera angles, the false gotchas, the missed phone call, a blackout, insanity, a greenhouse, an ice covered pond, fires, knives, guns.

Of course, adoption is portrayed all wrong. I don’t even know where to start. I think I have to use a bulleted list.

  • The mother is a recovering alcoholic who stopped drinking within the year. That is, she states during the movie that it’s been “almost a year” since her last drink.
  • The mother clearly hasn’t stopped grieving the death of her stillborn child. She’s having second thoughts, which she admits to her therapist. But her therapist pooh-poohs her, saying “You wouldn’t have made it through the home study if you weren’t ready.”
  • When the parents are discussing adoption, the mother says, “I want to take the love that I have for [my dead daughter] and I want to give it to someone who needs it.”
  • The parents go to a children’s home. I was under the impression that we don’t have those anymore here in the US.
  • The parents meet Esther and are immediately enthralled. The nun who runs the place says, “I could put the paperwork together and see you back here in three weeks.” When three weeks are up, they take Esther home.
  • Post-placement visits? What post-placement visits? There are no social workers to be found. And forget about post-adoption support.
  • The family doesn’t take the child to therapy until the nun from the home shows up with concerns about Esther’s paperwork. This child has theoretically lost her entire adoptive family to a fire that she barely escaped. You’re telling me she’s not in therapy?
  • I say “theoretically” because the “child” isn’t even a child. She’s a 33 year old woman with a rare hormone disorder that makes her appear like a child. Somehow, she got from Estonia to America and faked all of her identifying information.

If anyone who sees this movie honestly thinks that adoption works this way… I mean, even Lifetime movies get it better than this.

Adoption groups protested that the movie played on common myths about adopting older children. All I see is adoption being used as conveyance for bad horror. I’m more upset at the totally unreal presentation of adoption than I am at the plot. Other than the mention of the home study, nothing is based in reality.

So if someone tells you they’re afraid to adopt because of Orphan, ask them if they chose not to have biological children after they saw Poltergeist.

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