Orphan Movie: Hurtful to Adoptive Kids and Parents?

The trailers for Orphan chilled me to the bone, but not in the way the distribution company, Warner Brothers, intended.

What truly scares me about this latest in a long line of wicked-adopted-kid horror flicks—which at one point included the line, "it must be hard to love an adopted child as much as your own"—is the effect those 30-second TV previews could have on my two daughters, who spent the first years of their lives in the care of Chinese orphanages.

Orphan isn't exactly new as far as Hollywood portrayals of bad adoptions go. Evil adoptees, from The Omen's Damien to The Ring's Samara, have cropped up so often in horror movies that they're a cliche. Goofy sitcom dads regularly threaten to put their wild kids up for adoption if they don't tow the line. Even kids' films get it terribly wrong: Meet the Robinsons depicts a charmingly offbeat orphan named Lewis who aims to please potential adoptive families, and is repeatedly rejected.

My girls, ages 5 and 2, will one day be old enough to be hurt by such images and words. We speak openly about their adoptions, and so far I've managed to shield them from more than a few seconds of evil Esther, the main character in the movie, thanks to a quick finger on the remote. But odds are, my daughters' classmates and friends have seen a whole lot more--certainly enough to cause their friends to ask some tough questions about their past, and to give potential playground bullies plenty of ammunition.

We've done our best to accentuate the positive aspects of adoption, with repeated readings of adoption-friendly books like A Mother for Choco and Over the Moon. We've shown them the videos of their adoptions, and created beautiful books that depict their whole story, from their first families to their forever ones. We celebrate the anniversaries of the day we first saw their pictures and the day we met, alongside their birthdays and other "regular" family events. And I've tried to serve as an adoption ambassador: I show up in my daughters' classes at least a few times a year, to share our favorite adoption stories, celebrate Chinese New Year, and sometimes, to pass out an adoption handout to their classmates' parents, so they can talk with their kids about adoption more confidently.

But I worry that I have waited too long to tell them that the world may be unkind to our family simply because we don't share the same genes. And I'm afraid that I may be leaving them open to bullies, without an arsenal of witty comebacks. My heart aches whenever I think of telling my girls that there are people out there who may try to make them feel bad about being adopted, and so I wait, hoping every day that they don't come home crying because someone said that they didn't want to play with them because they're orphans. And knowing—based on the experiences of adoptive parents who have gone before me—that that day is coming.

Orphan could beget that day; but it also might not. Some people say I should just relax. After all, Orphan is just a movie--and in fact, the name is misleading, since Esther—spoiler alert!—is not even an orphan, or a child for that matter.

Logically, I know that I probably should just let it go, now that the movie is in theaters and the commercials are bound to stop within the next week or two. But the mother in me wants to do whatever she can to fight back against something that's threatening her kids' happiness and innocence—even if that something is "just" a movie.

What do you think of Orphan? Share your comments below.

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