Photo Credit: ABC/Peter "Hopper" Stone
I brace myself whenever one of my favorite shows decides to tackle adoption, because it’s almost never done right -- often to the point where I give up watching the show. (I’m looking at you, Desperate Housewives.)
Adoption storylines are nearly always played up for heart-wrenching drama like the current "crazy teen birthmom" storyline on Glee with Quinn planting "evidence" to get her baby back from the woman who adopted her, or potential adoptive mom Julia on Parenthood calling the adoption process "buying a baby."
Worse, they feed into all the negative stereotypes of adoption: the greedy, desperate adoptive moms who’ll snatch up the nearest baby like the latest luxe accessory; the naïve teen or conniving con-artist birthmom; the “bad seed” adopted child. It’s no wonder that adoptive families like mine are often subjected to a barrage of awkward and rude questions, like “How much did she cost?” (yes, someone actually asked me this) or “Where are her real parents?”
It’s a shame, really. Because a real depiction of adoption can be just as dramatic, funny and touching as you’d want it to be on TV, without spreading misinformation. Grey’s Anatomy did a good job with their adoption plot, with Meredith and Derek attempting to adopt an African orphan who had come to the hospital for care. Tthey showed every step of the process, from the homestudy interview to their failure to adopt Zola, not because of the typical birthmother drama, but because they lied about their job and marital stability to the social worker (a definite no-no.)
My favorite "Yes! Finally!" adoption depiction is Modern Family (honestly, what don't they do well?), especially the first season, which launched with gay couple Mitch and Cam adopting their daughter Lily from Vietnam -- and sharing the news (in hilarious fashion) with their extended family.
Since then, adoption has rarely been the main storyline of the series, but they’ve managed to weave it into the stories so cleverly -- whether it’s Mitch and Cam thinking that, as a gay couple with a transracially adopted child, they’re a shoo-in for a swank preschool that seeks diversity, and frankly, any adoptive parent can relate to Cam’s overenthusiastic attempts to “put a positive spin” on adoption for baby Lily.
As these two shows prove in both funny and heart-wrenching ways, there's a realistic way to feature the adoption process into a storyline. I just hope that more TV shows follow their cue.