Posts Tagged ‘Jessica O’Dwyer opinion piece’

Adoption as punchline

Monday, November 29th, 2010

On November 8, I received an email from Bob Stevens of Massachusetts, telling me about a television ad that he found offensive.  Bob wrote: “I learned of your book and website in my research to raise awareness about adoption and bullying. Perhaps you might join my effort to enlighten our corporate citizen, Sony, about adoption.”

He went on to tell me about a Sony ad for Playstation3 that features a father taunting his daughter with this line: “You’re adopted!”  Bob noted: “In this age of enlightenment, Sony Entertainment still feels that adoption is fair game for bullies.” He asked me to join him in celebrating National Adoption Awareness Month by “helping Sony Corp. to be aware of the devastating repercussions of their insult.”

One way I could do that was by writing an editorial, which I did. “Adoption is not a line for a gag” appeared in the November 29, 2010 edition of the Marin Independent Journal in the “Marin Voice” section. Click here to read the article, or read it pasted below.

Bob also suggested writing to complain to Jack Tretton, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America. I sent a short email outlining why I found the commercial offensive, and you can too. Mr. Tretton’s email address is

Finally, here’s the link to the ad, posted on YouTube with 95,000 views and counting. After watching it, you may be inspired to act in some small way to raise sensitivity about adoption.

Thank you for caring. Here’s my article.

Marin Voices: Adoption is not a line for a gag
By Jessica O’Dwyer

PICTURE the scene: You’re at home watching Kung Fu Panda on the FX Channel with a group of teenagers, when a commercial comes on for Sony’s Playstation 3.

The product advertised promises to improve your golf game. The camera focuses on a middle-aged mom practicing her swing, then zooms in for a close-up of her father’s face. To break his daughter’s concentration, the dad taunts her by saying, “You’re adopted!”

According to my friend who was there, the teens watching Kung Fu Panda saw the commercial and reacted with stunned silence.

Why? Because, like 1.5 million other children in this country–2 percent of all U.S. children–each one of the teens was adopted.

As an adoptive mother to two children myself, I am acutely aware of how sharply and deeply thoughtless comments about adoption can cut. No matter how loved a child is, or how well-adjusted, a cruel and thoughtless remark pierces to the core of their very being.

There’s a reason the writers of the Sony ad chose that particular line of dialogue. They knew it would hurt. Too often, the tone and delivery of the word “adopted” implies “less than,” “inferior,” and “unwanted.” The subtext is crystal clear.

Much like skin color, religion, size and shape, adoption is something most children did not choose for themselves. It is a state of being that is immutable.

Even when wonderful, adoption is not simple, and it’s not easy. Volumes have been written on the subject, with titles such as “The Primal Wound,” “Silent Tears” and “Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self.”

 In my house, on most days, there is nothing facile about adoption.

Yes, there is love and joy, but for my daughter and son, and, by extension, for my husband and me, there is also pain and loss, identity struggles and unanswered questions. That’s not even factoring in the complicated emotions of our children’s birth families.

Why is adoption considered fair game for mockery?

Two recent films — Orphan and Pauly Shore Adopted — demonstrate how popular culture treats the subject. Both films give viewers permission to make fun of kids who are adopted.

I try to imagine a movie that makes equivalent fun of essential elements of myself, one that crudely mocks my religion or skin color. Legions of viewers would stand beside me and protest.

Indeed, laws and potential lawsuits protect us from such “entertainment.” Making fun of adoption is equally wrong.

I, for one, am taking a stand and saying, “Enough.”

According to a study by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, some 60 percent of Americans report a personal connection to adoption, either knowing someone who has been adopted, adopting a child, or relinquishing a child for adoption. Does Sony Corp.’s Playstation division only employ people belonging to the other 40 percent?

How can an entire company be so insensitive to the facts of adoption in this country? Adoptive families are here to stay. We are your neighbors and coworkers, your colleagues and friends. We have feelings, too.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month.

According to a recent survey released by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the Adoption Institute, in America today, more than 134,000 children wait in foster care for adoptive homes. Worldwide, some 163 million children live without families. Instead of making jokes about kids who are adopted, shouldn’t we focus our efforts on finding ways to help the 163 million orphans who are not?

The words “You’re adopted” are far too serious to serve as mere punch line.