Thursday, June 27, 2013

Man of Steel: A “Super” Movie for Adoption

Yesterday, I reviewed Man of Steel. Today, I'm pleased to share a second (and third!) voice on the movie. Debbie Schwartz is the founder and director of Forever Families Weekend for Jewish Families Touched by Adoption. She recently reached out to share her take on Man of Steel, and also provides her 15-year-old son's take, as well. Enjoy!


Last week my family (me, my husband, and my two sons, ages 15 and 13) saw Man of Steel, the new Superman movie.  Spoiler alert, sort of...I'm going to talk about the movie and its adoption themes.  I'm not giving away plot points.  I'm pretty sure you all know the basic story.  But stop reading if you don't want to know...

Overalll, I think the producers/directors/screenwriters actually did a really good job with the adoption themes in this movie, which was a pleasant surprise.  I suspect a lot of people won't even realize some of the adoption sub-text (if they aren't involved in the adoption community).  But both of my kids and my husband and I certainly paid attention.

First, there is a very poignant scene early in the movie when Jor-El and Lara have to put baby Kal-El into the spaceship and send him to Earth to save his life.  Lara says something along the lines of “Now that he's actually here, I don't think I can go through with it.”   They are, for all intents and purposes, birthparents making an adoption plan (although they have no idea which humans will end up raising their son).  Both birthparents are clearly struggling with the idea of separating from Kal-El.  Lara also talks about how difficult it is to imagine that she won't see him take his first steps, etc.  I couldn't help but relate it to what it was like when our children’s birthparents said good-bye in the hospital.  Jor-El and Lara clearly love their son.  They also realize that (since the planet Krypton is doomed), his best hope is to be sent to earth where he has a chance at a life.  They send him away so that he can live.

Later, there are multiple flashback scenes to Clark Kent growing up in Kansas which echo many adoption themes.  My favorite (and the one that was SO accurate that I was certain an adoptive parent or adoptee must have been involved with the script) was when Clark - frustrated and angry and riding in his father's pickup truck - says to him, "You're not my real father!"  It was a classic adoption moment!  [Later I learned that the producer and the director – a married couple – were in the process of adopting when they made this movie.]
I will say that the one “sour” adoption note for me was the way that Clark’s father Jonathan reacted in the scene.  He agrees with Clark that he isn’t truly his real father – which is not the response I would have given!  I wish that the writers had allowed Jonathan to claim his place as Clark’s father while also acknowledging the fact that he isn’t his biological parent.  On the other hand, Jonathan kept his cool…I know many adoptive parents who would have been so busy feeling hurt and rejected in that moment that they would not have handled it calmly.  If nothing else, the scene is a good reminder for adoptive parents (and pre-adoptive parents) that role playing and practicing responses for those “in the car” moments can come in handy.

Throughout the flashback scenes to his childhood, Clark Kent struggles with feeling alone and different (well, after all, he really IS different!) and wanting to know where he comes from, who his birthparents are (my term, not his), etc.  And when he finally learns the story of his background, he later says to his mother, Martha Kent, that he has finally found his people.

In the end, as you know, he does decide that he is more human than Kryptonian (is that a word?) - identifying with his adoptive family and claiming Earth - the only home he has ever known - as his own.

For what it’s worth, I found the fight scenes to be excessively long and violent.  I do NOT recommend this movie for young children and, if your teen is struggling with adoption and identity issues, you may want to be sure you see it together and/or have him/her see it in the afternoon, rather than the evening, so you have time to discuss the underlying adoption themes before bedtime.

On the other hand, my kids shrugged off the adoption themes ("Yes, Mom, we saw that there were adoption themes in the movie." – a sentence which was accompanied by giant eye rolls) and thought the level of violence was perfect ("You just didn't like the violence because you're a MOM!").
The following day I had a second conversation with my 15-year-old about the movie and the adoption themes.  He agreed that the moviemakers "got it right" about adoption - that although not ALL adoptees feel alone, different, etc., the movie did a good job of representing those feelings for the ones who do.  He remarked that the scene in the truck felt authentic to him, too.  Interestingly, he was particularly struck by the scene between Clark and his mother, Martha, after he tells her that he "found his people."  My son thought it was accurate that Martha Kent was both happy for her son and sad at the same time, as well as worried that they would take Clark away from her.
From start to finish, Man of Steel represents adoption better than most movies – and from an adoption standpoint I highly recommend this film as a great way to initiate an adoption conversation with your teenager.  But don’t be surprised if they just roll their eyes at you…

Check out Debbie's website at, and follow her on Twitter @DebbieFFW

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