It’s stupid, and I can live with that

29 Oct

Photo courtesy of

‘IMGP7574 [2011-10-26]‘
courtesy of ‘JAM Project’

Susan has already talked a bit about seeing adoption in pop culture and the inanity in Glee. She’s not the only person to get bugged by Quinn’s “get my baby back” by a long shot.

Glee Perpetuates Adoption Stereotypes
Adoptive Parent Groups Attack ‘Glee’ for ‘Quinn Wants Her Baby Back’ Storyline
Glee Adoption Story Line Sparks Controversy

There’s even a petition, linked from the Hollywood.org story, asking the Glee creative folks to put together a PSA about adoption realities. The originator, Amber Austin, says “In real, legitimate adoptions, a birth mother cannot simply take a child away from their family or pop back into a child’s life, however this is one of most pervasive and harmful myths about adoption.”

Personally, however, the Glee storyline doesn’t bother me (so far). You’re welcome to believe that’s a matter of my personal leanings – I don’t have the same pre-existing investment in adoption falsehoods that Susan does as an adoptee, and you don’t keep your sanity as someone working in the computer field for long if you can’t get over inaccuracies that you know are grossly wrong.

But the true reason it doesn’t bother me is because I have too much liberal arts education.

Amber uses the word myth above when she means “common falsehood.” That’s not an unusual usage but it’s not the main meaning. Check your dictionary and the first definition is probably a variation on this: “a traditional story, esp. one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon.” There’s a more generic one that I’ve seen around and which I first heard in a myth & culture class. “A myth is a story that may be false on the outside but true on the inside.”

The meaning there being that it doesn’t matter if George Washington ever said that he cannot tell a lie, he did chop down the cherry tree. The point of the story is a supposed lesson about Washington’s honesty. And I’m perfectly comfortable viewing the content and happenings on Glee in the same light: they don’t have to be reality or realistic to tell a valid story.

The point of Quinn’s outburst about wanting to get full custody isn’t that it’s possible or common. It’s a goal stated by a character who we’ve acknowledged is a troubled person. Her life has gone to crap and now she’s decided this is her road to redemption.

Honestly, the fact that it’s a legally impossible goal strikes me as the least troublesome thing about it. It’s not the first time we’ve seen characters on that show set their sights on something that’s impossible. Last season saw Artie decide he’s by god going to walk again, and soon. That was raised and wrapped in a single episode, but I think the parallel is accurate. These are supposed to be teenagers, and the Glee characters’ lack of ability to manage their emotions and set reasonable expectations is probably the most realistic thing on that show.

So I’m okay with Quinn thinking this is what she wants, provided the show shows the likely real result of these actions. I don’t mind her nasty and incorrect outbursts about who the child’s “real mom” is because she’s supposed to be acting out and misguided.

Every way that Quinn is wrong is wrong on the outside but true on the inside – it speaks to the fears we have about how people will perceive our relationship with our adopted child. It reflects the worries we have about managing the relationships in open adoption. It addresses the conflicted feelings birth mothers can have about placing their biological offspring with someone else and maintaining contact.  It’s a rough sketch, not a documentary.

I’m not saying it’s brilliant writing and they could still really screw it all up. But fiction has to show people doing things that fly in the face of reality sometimes. Partly because not every story needs to tell its internal truth with dead-on accuracy. Partly because people do believe some of those stupid things, and showing folks encountering the likely repercussions of acting on those mistaken beliefs might, I think, do more good than a hundred PSAs.

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