This article is a very unique and thoughtful read about how Once Upon A Time portrays adoption.
So often adoption is represented purely as a joyful resolution, with a focus on a family being formed. But the complex realities behind adoption can’t be ignored in favor of only considering the happy ending. Ann Fessler’s The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade, shows how, before abortion was legal and single motherhood was visible, young, unmarried, pregnant women were subjected to the same manipulation and coercion that Ashley deals with on Once Upon a Time. And these abuses aren’t just things of the past; even today many young women end up placing children for adoption because they simple can’t navigate through barriers like classism and sexism that set up adoption as a fundamental way to “redeem” herself for the “sin” of being unmarried and pregnant.
More nuanced portrayals of adoption could make viewers questions their presumptions about who birth mothers are, why they make the choices they do, and what their lives look like afterward, as well as how adoption can work. Once Upon a Time, then, both gives and takes: it allows viewers to more carefully consider the power dynamics behind adoption, while at the same time clinging to old ideas of birth and adoptive parents in opposition. These are challenges first mothers deal with every day: how do they do the work of openness in a world where their relationship with their child’s adoptive family is still viewed as suspect? Forming a lifelong relationship with strangers and finding a balance of contact that meets everyone’s needs is complicated enough, without images everywhere portraying openness as, at best, an unnecessary oddity, and, at worst, a threat to the child or adoptive family.
Interesting. I love it when a fantastic show sparks an interesting/ thought provoking dialogue.
Does Once Upon A Time bring up any talking points for you guys?