Monday, November 4, 2013

Adoption Movie Guide: Ender's Game (Expecting Too Much From Kids?)

Earth has been invaded twice by an alien race. Now, believing that the best defense is a good offense, humanity has banded together and sent a fleet of warships to the alien home world. But they need someone to command the troops. An elaborate series of training programs and schools has been created to build up – and whittle down – the youth of the world, with the hopes that it will ultimately result in one very specialized prodigy who will become the commander of the fleet. Andrew Wiggin is in grade school. Throughout his training, he is bullied. He fights back, but only because he wants the bullying to stop. But the ferocity with which he fights back earns the attention of the international military. He travels to space to enroll in the final stages of training for command.

The Adoption Connection

Humanity is fully depending on children to save them. The film shows the damage this causes. Adoption isn’t part of the Ender’s Game story (at least, not in the film), but the film does remind me that some prospective adoptive parents have high expectations that the children they adopt will bring them joy, healing or fulfillment. That’s too much to expect of kids; adoption needs to be about meeting a kid’s need for a family, rather than meeting a family’s need for a child.
Ender is taken from his family by government officials. He is only allowed very minimal contact with his sister; otherwise, he has no contact with his family.

Strong Points

Ender is a good kid. He embraces the belief that winning isn’t the only thing that matters – it’s how you win. He acknowledges – and demonstrates – that he would rather understand his attackers and find peace with them, rather than destroy them.

I love the books in the Ender’s Game series. They are stories of insight, introspection and redemption. Ender’s Game is only the first in a series of books which become progressively deeper, but even Ender’s Game does a fine job of creating a believable future universe and showing the inmost thoughts of a conflicted youth. The film doesn’t really capture Ender’s essence, but it does a beautiful job of creating the universe that I’ve loved for so long.

The film revolves around the fact that society has put all of their faith, and all of their expectations, on children. The children are expected to save the world. And it’s so good that the film questions this and shows the way in which society’s expectations hurt Andrew.

Challenges and Weak Points

There is quite a bit of kid-on-kid violence, including one scene where Andrew’s older brother chokes him. This, and the fact that Andrew is separated from his family by government officials, could be difficult for kids who have come through foster care.

Ender does not get to reunify with his family.

The film suggests that “being right” doesn’t justify violence. It suggests that we can make amends for things we do that cause pain. It’s a good film, and it’s worth seeing. The real adoption-reflection moments are probably more for adults; as you watch the film and see the International Fleet’s motivation in their work with children, consider the various reasons that people pursue adoption.


As you pursue adoption, what are your expectations? Are you expecting to meet children’s needs, or are you expecting children to fill holes in your own life? (Wanting to be a parent isn’t bad! In fact, if I was interviewing an adoption applicant who didn’t want to parent, I’d have some serious concerns. But it’s worth examining who you have expectations of – yourself or the child?)

The International Fleet stopped Ender from having communication with his family. Did they actually need to? When you foster or adopt children, will you allow them to have contact with their birthfamily? Why or why not?

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