Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Lilo and Stitch Adoption Movie Review
On a distant planet, a mad scientist has created 626, an experimental creature bred for destruction. Although the Grand Councilwoman condemns 626 to destruction, it escapes and ultimately arrives to Earth, landing on Hawaii. 626 is mistaken for a dog, and is adopted from a shelter by Lilo, a young girl who is being cared for by her 19-year-old sister Nani. Lilo names 626 “Stitch.” Nani was already having trouble caring for her sister, and Stitch’s destructive tendencies make life even worse. Social worker Cobra Bubbles has become very concerned about Lilo’s safety, and has given Nani three days to convince him not to take Lilo into foster care.
How is This Relevant to Foster Care / Adoption?
There are two strong adoption and foster care connections. Stitch is far away from home, living with a new family. His behaviors are destructive and many people are initially uncertain as to whether he can fit into this (or any) family. Some children in foster care exhibit behaviors that frustrate, worry, or confuse their caregivers. At the same time, Nani and Lilo experience the stressful involvement of child and protective services. This will be familiar to most children who have been in (or are in) foster care. Lilo has also experienced significant loss (her parents have died.) She comments, “I remember everyone that leaves.” She prays for a friend. She wonders whether hers is “a broken family.” She struggles with viewing Nani as both a sister and a mother. Her feelings are likely to resonate with feelings that kids have had while journeying through foster care.
Ultimately, a family is formed between Nani, Lilo and some unrelated folks. This illustrates adoption into a new family as well as adoption by an older sibling.
Someone suggests that Stitch should be returned because of his behavior. Lilo protests, “We adopted him and family means that nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” It’s powerful. Stitch eventually overcomes his destructive behavior once he finds a sense of belonging in Lilo’s family. This kind of reminds me of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which suggests that people can invest in love and belonging once they know that they’re safe and stable.
Cobra Bubbles is a firm but compassionate social worker. That’s a hopeful but reasonable expectation of most social workers in the foster care field. As a social worker, I appreciate this film’s avoidance of the negative and unhelpful stereotypes of social workers that seem to predominate most films, and I think it is probably helpful for kids to realize that their social workers are not typically villainous, even if they are sometimes intimidating.
The film affirms that a family doesn’t have to be perfect to be positive. Stitch claims Lilo and Nani as his family, saying “This is my family. It’s a little broken but it’s still good.”
When it seems that Lilo will be taken from Nani, Nani blames Stitch. Some kids watching this film will likely identify with Lilo, but for the ones who identify with Stitch this could be painful. It gives a parental voice to the belief that a child can cause a family to be separated. Even though Stitch eventually saves Lilo and is accepted into the family, these words are never expressly taken back.
Because Nani and Lilo ultimately stay together, this could be a painful film for kids who weren’t able to reunify with their families, and for the families that have lost kids to foster care. Aside from that, though, I see that this film both allows for a broad definition of family while also underscoring the importance of biological family and emphasizing that nontraditional families can work, even when faced with significant challenges. It also shows social workers as allies. I like it. Lilo and Stitch seems like probably a good choice for most kids between the ages of 7 and 10, allowing for the one concern I mentioned at the beginning of this section.
Questions for Discussion
For Lilo and Stitch, family means “No one gets left behind or forgotten.” What does family mean to you?
Lilo remembers everyone who has left. Who do you remember?