One thing about being a parent through adoption is that I am overly sensitive to the portrayal of adoption in the media-both news media and various forms of fiction. I think that’s one reason why Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors. Starting with her debut novel about a home where pregnant young women were sent away to give birth in the 1950s, much of her work has incorporated themes surrounding adoption. (Of course, I first became interested in her work before our IF journey started, so maybe that doesn’t explain my interest in her work.) Her work is too complex to label it as either “pro” or “anti” adoption, but she often returns to themes about how strangers come together to form families due to unique circumstances.
But many of the adoption-related themes in the media reinforce the idea that biology trumps all in forming “real” families. And this is one theme that has held me back from completely embracing the otherwise great show of Once Upon a Time. In case you haven’t been watching this show, all the standard fairy tale characters have a second identity in the real world. In the first season, the real-life version of the characters had no recollection of their fairy tale characters even as some traits persisted. There are a few key new characters and twists in the new lives of classic characters. First, Snow White and Prince Charming have a daughter, who is now grown and apparently destined to lift the curse that created their second identity. This daughter, Emma, had a son (Henry) that she placed for adoption when he was a baby. And guess who adopted him? The wicked witch/queen (as in the one who gave Snow White the cursed apple).
While I didn’t relish the idea of the adoptive mother as the evil witch, I thought the adoption theme was well done in the first season. There was tension as Emma started to develop a relationship with Henry, but you also got the sense that maybe things would have been much smoother if they weren’t also battling for the lives of all the fairy tale characters in the town. And while Emma was attached to Henry, she was also visibly uncomfortable when he kept calling her his mother. But the second season has gone much further down the road of implying that Henry doesn’t belong in his adoptive family at all. To the extent that I started rooting for the evil queen! Has Henry’s life been so horrible that he has no soft spot for the woman who raised him?
The last episode was supposed to have a happy ending. Snow White and Prince Charming and Emma and Henry were finally reunited to be one big happy family. But I found myself reeling along with the evil queen and wishing the story had a different ending. She finally did the right thing and was rewarded by being pushed aside and reminded that she can’t possibly be Henry’s mother. The worst moment was when someone actually commented on how she reunited mother and son even as she saw her son run into another woman’s arms. Please-let the evil queen have a happy ending too!