Does This Mean I Have To See Kung Fu Panda 2?

I am not much of a movie-goer and my kids have now (thankfully) aged out of the basic animated movie stage.   But I ran across this column about Kung Fu Panda 2 from The Guardian (UK).   I had no idea that the movie had an adoption theme, and since I haven’t seen the movie I cannot really comment on how it is handled beyond what’s in the column, but there are two points I’d like to raise. 

First, this is a movie aimed at young children and their families and it raises issues, even if only in a subplot, with something that will  important to some/many families.   (Given the prevalence of adoptive families, many non-adoptive families will have children who know kids who are adopted.)  In that context, what the movie says about this matters.   It seems to me quite likely that it will be influential for at least some children/families.   The fact that it is an animated and generally sort of light-weight film doesn’t change that.     

Thus, this is an instance where popular culture can and surely will influence how (some) people think about the world.   As such, it’s important to consider what the message or teaching of the movie is, as The Guardian’s column does.   And my question about whether I have to see the movie myself is a semi-serious one.

Second, as the column notes, our ideas about adoption (as about so many things) have changed over time.   Popular wisdom (and scientific studies, too) evolves.   But there’s always as danger in over-generalizing.   What is good for some/many/most children may not be good for all.    And messages delivered via popular culture like this are typically sort of blunt–they necessarily lack nuance.  (I’m thinking here of the “ymmv” qualification.)      This doesn’t lead me to conclude that movies shouldn’t try to touch on these themes.   Rather, it reminds me that parents must be constantly aware of the messages delivered by pop culture, doing their best to determine how the message fits with what is best for their particular child.


7 responses to “Does This Mean I Have To See Kung Fu Panda 2?

  1. Julie,

    Malinda has a good review of the movie with links to another review and previous post about it. She is a eyes wide open individual.

    Disney movies seem to always be loss movies – perhaps because Walt was an AP and the formula worked and is still the formula used to this day…adoption always begins with loss…were just expected to be grateful for it.

    • Thanks for posting that link–it is excellent commentary and very thought-provoking.

      It also makes me realize that many adoptive parents probably know before they walk into the movie that the theme will be there and so, in a sense, they are ready and they have made the choice to see it with their kids. But lots of other parents probably walk in entirely unawares and unprepared for whatever conversations might be spurred. Plus they probably haven’t given the issues raised all that much thought in the first place. All of that might mean that the movie is more likely to be the framework the kids are left with. By contrast, adoptive parents are probably more likely to work with or against what the movie starts with.

  2. marilynn huff

    I was going to suggest you see Tangled which is to me the best Disney movie ever and I mean better than the classics, its like a big Broadway show and it is heavily adoption/step themed. Then suddenly it occurred to me, they all are. All of them

    Sleeping Beauty
    Snow White
    Despicable Me
    Hansel and Gretel
    101 Dalmatians
    Beauty and the Beast

    Yup were pretty much looking at a wicked step mother at every turn. Not very fair. They could do a wicked mother fairy step mother once and a while.

  3. It’s an interesting list and maybe worthy of its own post. There’s differences of course–in 101 Dalmations the parents are both alive and together, but the kids are snatched. Pinnocchio is a bit more like the Velveteen Rabbit. But the commonality you point to is striking. Some would say this isn’t just about Disney–that it’s something deeper and more fundamental than that.

  4. I was thinking about Cruella Deville being the evil kidnapper and maybe the kindly young couple are the nice adoptive couple welcoming all like the children and grand children – interesting they kept the kids together. I don’t know if I can pin down the exact theme other than adoption seems generally good like in Up where he becomes a father/grandfather figure to the little boy. And even in tangled she was a kidnapper pretending to be an adoptive mother, or just mother she never implied that she adopted the rapunzel girl.

    Its the step family that gets the raw deal in fables. Hansel and Gretel Snow White etc etc. I suppose its a good story vehicle. My friend is a not insignificant screen writer and oddly enough he’s writing a comedy about the really cool bond of a step dad and daughter its not suppose to be deep its like a summer comedy thing I think but still its not common so it would be refreshing. I know plenty of people who love their step parents to death and have better relationships with them than their parents.

  5. pinocho is like velveteen rabbit which is my favorite children’s book ever I love that book so much. Oh do I cry when the rabbit hops away from the boy.

    But the toy maker he’s his older adoptive father right?

  6. I wish I remembered my original fairy tales better and then could compare Disney. Sad to say, it’s a bit of a blur.

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