Today I had a weirdly adoption-heavy day. When you're sick, it's a perfect excuse to read fun books and watch movies, and I loaded up today, because who knows when I might get better? So I read Lorrie Moore's new book A Gate at the Stairs, and then I watched Juno at long last, being the one person in the western world who had not rushed to see this miraculous witty work in the theater. Then I realized that somehow I had ended up processing two wildly different works about adoption, both painfully unrealistic in their own ways.
Moore's book is told from the p.o.v. of Tassie, an aimless young college student who takes a nannying job with an overachieving older couple who adopt a biracial child... and overachieve in dealing with race as they do with everything else. Meanwhile, she has her own racial blindnesses, as a secret jihadist actually convinces her that he's Brazilian and whams, bams, and thank you ma'ams her on his way out. Well, no, it's a more in-depth relationship than that... entangled with her fragmented family, her brother enlisting, her wary attitude toward domesticity... And shockingly, considering this promising landscape, it all ends in massive disaster!
Juno you probably know, and I wouldn't advise any couple adopting to watch it... first of all because if they are dreaming of getting a perfectly healthy white baby with a perfectly healthy, intelligent, law-abiding mother, it's best to shoot those dreams down now, and second of all, because the demise of Jennifer Garner's perfect marriage might cause them to take too hard a look at their own. Yeeeow. At the same time, I feel like people got caught up in the overwritten coolness and cutesiness of the teen lingo and the admittedly wonderful cast, art direction and set dressing of the movie and ignored that fact that it's basically a charming romp through well-enough-to-do white suburban teen pregnancy, from which the teen can escape totally unscathed and in fact better than ever.
Moore's work is maybe less emotionally unrealistic, but it's not realist in the sense that it is a weird confluence of awfulness. It is, however, authentic in pulling together all the most troubling strands of our society and distilling them through the experience of Tassie.
I feel the need to go watch Cinderella to swab some idealism back into my brain. Oh god, I feel like Juno, who just wants to know that two people can be together forever. Yuck.