The P.C. Police Need to Calm Down About Orphan; or, Disclaimer Is the New Black

orphan controversy

I had every intention of simply ignoring the whole story about how adoption groups have been getting all pissy about Orphan much in the way I ignored when the gays got cranky over Brüno.  This was in part because I actually want to revisit Brüno when it’s out on DVD to really take a nuanced look at that controversy (though my initial reaction was that it was hysterical, and its graphic sexuality and general flamboyance were more subversive than damnig), so I’d prefer to make a well-rationed argument as opposed to a knee-jerk rant.

Oh, and there’s also the fact that the call for an Orphan disclaimer may be one of the dumbest things I’ve heard in my entire life.

So when the story popped back up today at Celebitchy yesterday like a killer in a horror movie coming back for one last scare, I kinda felt the need to address it as both a fan of the movie, a serious love for film, and a person with both a modicum of intelligence.  In order to have this discussion, though, we must address Esther’s much ballyhooed secret, so consider yourself SPOILER ALERTED.

The case against Orphan, as laid out in the following quote (which was originally reported by Fox News Pop Tarts), is precisely everything irksome about activists groups complaining about movies:

“Although we recognize the film is fiction, the response we have had from adoption groups and potential adoptive parents has been overwhelming,” [Children Uniting Nations founder Daphna] Ziman told Tarts. “When a major corporation sensationalizes on an area that affects our nation’s most needy children without responsible messaging it is unconscionable. WarnerBros. needs to be socially conscientious of the children they are potentially harming and put a disclaimer on the film and a public service announcement educating viewers on the plight of children living in protective custody through no fault of their own.”

UGH!  Admittedly, this can all easily be written off as Fox News looking for a new quote to make an old story interesting while the supposed controversy’s still luke warm.  Fair enough.  

But if people are truly worried about this affecting adoptions, then these activists probably haven’t even seen Orphan because Esther’s secret is not the sort of thing that should cause a rational adult, particularly any adult that would be granted an adoption, to reconsider adopting.  In the real world, people adopt actual children as opposed to 33-year-old psychotic Russian prostitutes with proportional dwarfism.  If seeing Orphan makes you seriously reconsider the idea of adopting, then you’ve probably no place adopting in the first place.

As a character, Esther’s presented as inherently mysterious because she’s foreign, and she’s becomes monstrous when her condition is revealed.  I’m more willing to buy that this film is problematic on grounds of xenophobia or its representation of dwarfism, yet that even feels like it’s reaching.  The twist in Orphan is so outlandish that Esther’s otherness feels more parodic than prejudiced.  Yes, the bulk of the tension relies upon you believing Esther is in fact a nine-year-old girl, so Orphan is not going to win any points for sensitivity and political correctness; but it’s hard to take the demands of these adoption groups seriously when it come off as politically correct bullying.

The demands that Warner Bros. make disclaimers for Orphan and a PSA supporting adoption, while well meaning, are more damaging than effective.  It presumes audiences are too stupid to separate reality and fiction, which is insulting.  Added to that, it suggests that we can’t be saved from ourselves, let alone Hollywood; instead, we apparently need thought police to chastise the media and make certain that we’re all lectured on how to interpret what we’re witnessing.  It’s well meaning, but it’s also more likely to frustrate than engender sympathy to your cause.

I’m all for building dialogues that allow us to share and express our differences.  Society needs these dialogues, and I certainly believe advocating about adoption is a worthy cause, but why not spend your time working on more important issues instead of asking for Hollywood to self-censor a horror movie that’s too over-the-top to demand such a serious reaction?  Why not advocate for joint gay adoption in all 50 states, or spend time trying to solve the bureaucratic mess that is the adoption process?   I get that Orphan doesn’t present the image of adoption that you feel Hollywood should portray, and I hope your balking raises a worthwhile discussion about meaningful adoption issues, but you’re frying the wrong fish.

Or, in this case, homicidal dwarf prostitute.

And cheers to Celebitchy for getting me all riled up with, as Shmathan calls it, “permissive intellectual liberal” rage.

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