The horror movie Orphanis attracting criticism from adoption advocacy groups who worry it casts older adopted children in a bad light. Well, the demonic ones, certainly.
A letter signed by the leaders of eleven adoption and child-welfare groups stated
We are concerned that in addition to its intended entertainment value, this film will have the unintended effect of skewing public opinion against children awaiting families both in the United States and abroad...(and) may impede recruitment efforts by feeding into the unconscious fears of potential foster and adoptive families that orphaned children are psychotic and unable to heal from the wounds of abuse, neglect, and abandonment.
My first reaction was kind of summed up by one of the tipsters who emailed us about this story: "It's like claiming Rosemary's Baby would make people stop getting pregnant." Well, it probably did, but that's kind of the point: it would have been a major, irrational leap, and those few people shouldn't dicate our collective action. Are Psycho and The Shining discriminatory against hospitality industry employees? Are The Omen and The Exorcist arguments against having kids?
No. But at the same time, it's true that any good horror movie deals with issues that scare us as a culture, on a subconscious or conscious level. Godzilla dealt with topical issues of post-Hiroshima nuclear fallout. The Day the Earth Stood Still played into Cold War fears. And yes, part of the resonance of Rosemary's Baby comes from fact that pregnancy does involve an element of being taken over, of losing control, and of physical danger.
Those who object to this movie are concerned about just this: systematic portrayal of adopted kids as sinister. And while this may seem overly touchy, it's worth knowing that the movie's original tagline was actually "It must be hard to love an adopted child as much as your own," which besides being cruel, stupid, untrue, and insensitive, implies that an adopted kid isn't "your own" - by definition inaccurate. I'm not one to dismiss these objections out of hand, simply because it's true that letting little things go is what leads to larger societal attitudes. And those who object to the film worry that older adoptees already have a rough time, given the perception that such cases are usually "troubled" - although the statistics actually tell a very different story. They wish, one assumes, to challenge certain stereotypes we take for granted. But at the same time, while I see their point - The Bad Seed has probably lodged in a lot of our subconscious - I can think of at least as many portrayals of angelic orphans as sinister ones (Annie, Oliver, Night of the Hunter, Australia, hell, even Harry Potter.) At the end of the day, the villain is usually the devil, or some more amorphous form of Pure Evil that Satanists would, I suppose, be within their rights to object to. (Or are they proud of it? I'm confused.) The truth is, no one thoughtful - and, one really, really hopes, no one considering adopting an older child - is going to be swayed by a B horror movie. And if the controversy has got us talking and thinking and actually realizing consciously that this is merely a stupid cinematic trope - I'm for it.