I’m moved to write this by a post today on The Adopted Ones blog, which is itself inspired by this TV listing. There’s a new reality show out there and the hook is we watch young women thinking about giving up their children for adoption.
What does it mean when decisions about adoption become the stuff of reality TV? I suppose it means we’ve come a long way from the days it was a deep and dark secret, but really, is it all progress? I’m inclined to agree with the criticism you’ll see on the Adopted Ones blog, but there’s more than that to bother me. This isn’t entertainment–it’s real life and it’s serious and it’s not for us to sit around and watch. Then again, I suppose we (as a culture) do a lot of that these days.
I was thinking about entertainment already today because I picked up a guide for the Seattle International Film Festival this morning. Perhaps it is no longer a surprise, but my topics here are now the stuff of cinematic exploration.
Starbuck is the opening night feature in Kirkland (a Seattle suburb, if you are wondering.) It’s a modern comedy about a man who has over 500 offspring via twenty years of sperm donations. The too-many-offspring problem for your entertainment and amusement.
And Gayby is the gala presentation for the lesbian/gay section of the festival. It’s about a gay man who helps a single (and I think straight) woman friend get pregnant by having sex with her. Complications ensue. (It’s also a comedy.) This one reminds me of last year’s Father’s day post.
I suppose there is nothing new here. Families have always been the stuff of entertainment. From Father Knows Best to Modern Family pop culture (in the form of the TV sitcom) has always presented images ofthe basic family unit. I suppose the inclusion of unconventional family forms is a step towards recognition and acceptance. How much more accepted can you get than to be the subject of a light-hearted comedy?
That’s a little different from the reality TV problem, though. Not that I’m much of a consumer of that entertainment, but it’s always struck me as a bit like the Roman circuses, and I worry that more than anything it heralds the decline of our civilization. I’m probably overreacting, but when we are invited to watch and enjoy the struggles of real people trying to live their lives I do worry.
If anyone happens to see any of these movies or shows I’d love to hear about them. Maybe I need to get out more and see some for myself. At the very least, they are a sign of the times, I think. Could anyone forty years ago have imagined any of these things as light-hearted comedies or any other form of entertainment?
Of course there’s a serious side to the subjects that underlie these entertainments and it seems to me that the biggest risk is that we could forget that. Still, I don’t suppose every treatment of every subject has to be equally serious. Sometimes you can learn a lot from comedy. And so in the end, what can I say except welcome to the mainstream.