Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Despicable Me" and the Adoptive Parent

Those of you who know me, know Marshall and I adopted two out of three of our kids. One adoption was a domestic, open adoption and the other was an international adoption from an orphanage. This week we took our kids to see the movie "Despicable Me".

I will say that all of us absolutely LOVED the movie and can't wait to watch it again. Marshall and I are not the most sensitive of adoptive parents, but for the general adoption community, there were a couple of cringe-worthy moments and some themes that are good to discuss with your children after the movie.

(Warning: Spoilers Below)

The Synopsis of the Movie: Main character Gru battles with Vector over which one can be the world's biggest villain. Vector takes something that Gru wants back, but he has to get into Vector's highly fortified compound to steal it back. While unable to get inside, Gru spots 3 orphaned sisters who are selling cookies for the orphanage. They are let inside the compound, so Gru decides to adopt them, to use them as pawns to gain access into the compound.

The treatment of the girls by the orphanage director is ridiculously awful. Told they would never get adopted b/c of the way they are, their "worth" to the orphange director is solely linked to the amount of cookies they can sell. If their behavior is bad or they don't sell enough cookies, they have to sit in the cardboard "Box of Shame". Honestly, it was so ridiculous it was funny.

Other adoption issues:

*Gru is able to fake a resume to adopt the girls, and take them home the same day.

*When Gru becomes softer-hearted/loses focus because of the girls, the orphanage is called by his scientist, and the girls are returned. (and all three are put in cardboard boxes of shame)

*When Gru regrets allowing the girls to be taken, he's later able to take them back again with presumably no paperwork.

After reading all of this, why would any adoptive parent want to take their child to see this movie? Well, I feel it completely redeems itself in the end. And it was an incredibly fun movie for both kids and adults.

In the end, the movie shows older child/sibling adoption in a very positive light. How adopting older kids even with the wrong motives can truly change your heart and make you a better person.

Our kids are ages 10 and 1/2, 6 and 4 and 1/2. None of our kids said anything about the adoption issues raised in the movie. We had to initiate the discussion with them. When we did bring up the inaccurate portrayals of adoption in the movie, all three kids dismissed it as "silly" and started laughing, bringing up their favorite parts of the movie.

Disclosure: Our family was also not bothered by adoption themes in "Meet the Robinsons" but rather used it as a platform for talking about adoption with our children after we saw the movie.

We personally feel that ridiculous portrayals of adoption/orphanages are not harmful to our kids if we take the time to discuss issues after the movie. We would, however, have a problem if orphans/adopted children were portrayed as bad children solely because of their adoption status, or if adoption in general is portrayed as a bad thing. We don't feel that this movie does either of those, in fact quite the opposite.

Conclusion: If you consider yourself or your children to be sensitive to inaccurate portrayals of adoption, you may want to screen the movie before watching it with your children. If "Meet the Robinsons" didn't bother you, then "Despicable Me" probably won't either. In fact, you may just end up loving it as much as we did.


  1. thanks Julie - I was so bummed to hear that Despicable Me was so poorly thought out re adoption but I trust your judgement and appreciate your honest review!
    Looking forward to seeing it - Steve Carell is MY FAVORITE! (He is MY Edward!)

  2. I haven't thought much of Despicable Me other than that it looks like the dumbest movie on earth, so thanks for the heads up on the adoption theme. Still probably won't see it, but at least I know a little if someone brings it up.

  3. I think parents mean well in shielding their children from offense, but I wonder if they can shield children too much. Life will present all kinds of opportunties to become defensive, but it's a good idea to teach early on everything shouldn't be taken personally.

    Your children have a good sense of humor and undrstand it's just a silly movie. That's really good!