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.