Thursday, March 15, 2007

Swerl POV: Angelina Jolie

Show of hands, folks -- how many of you have gotten ANY form of the "Brad and Angelina" jokes? You tell family and friends of your news -- you got a referral, you got your homestudy approved, etc., and the response is "Better hurry before Angelina takes all the cute ones!" or "Didn't you hear? Ethiopia is soooo yesterday, Vietnam is where it's at!"

Now that Angelina has brought home Pax, international transracial adoption is once again bracing for another round of ANGELINA: LOVE HER OR HATE HER. Currently, she is the public face of our extended "ITA" family -- how does that make you feel? (This is not rhetorical, seriously, COMMENT!)

How do you feel when international adoption is reduced to the following (all culled from the comment section of

She collects kids like lap dogs or an "accessory". This month's accessory of the month is a Vietnamese kids. Next month, it will be a Laotian kid. Pretty soon she'll open up her own orphanage for her adopted kids taken care of by "nannies".

"That kid over there would go good with my Vera Wang outfit!"

And, most directly:

And there it is... FAD. After soul-searching, agonizing decisions and a commitment to a very visible, potentially difficult lifestyle, this irreversible choice to add to your family through international, transracial adoption is being reduced to the most ephemeral media hype.

A complicated, emotional topic is reduced to a referendum on a celebrity. News, in the 24 hour cycle, gets turned into opinion, then drama -- "why not adopt from America?" "what is she trying to prove with her multicultural kids?" "who's the next celebrity to jump on board the 'trend'?" We are then either compared to, or asked to answer for, a woman we don't know -- sometimes by those in our families, communities, churches or schools.

One explanation is that there IS NO FAD. Angelina grew up with a narcissistic, often absent father. She acted out in showy, self-destructive ways, then, while filming a movie in Cambodia, realized that life exists beyond the Beverly Center Mall. She felt pulled to adopt a Cambodian child. Her husband at the time wasn't on board with this idea, and the marriage dissolved over this issue. She felt the need to do humanitarian work, to honor all those kids still in orphanages or refugee camps. A combination of that work and the realization that she had more love to give caused her to adopt more children. She met a guy. They fell in love. They had a baby. She does not feel a difference between her biological child and her adopted children. In fact, when pressed, she admits that the contrary is true -- her adopted children have been in her life longer, so, in some ways, she feels a stronger connection to them. She once again feels capable and willing to adopt, and would also like her oldest child to have a male playmate with whom he can relate. She adopts again. She keeps it quiet until the last moment. She gives money to the orphanage that helped raise her new son.

EVERY person who adopts internationally can relate to elements of this story. Is Angelina perfect? Who is? Does she mean well? Who cares? Did she bend rules? She said she didn't, but we all know how harrowing the process is, and everyone, to some extent, pads their case (who actually lives up the their portrayal in the letters of recommendation, for instance?) Finally, we know OUR OWN motivations. This is why it is so hurtful when, through the prism of Angelina, international transracial adoption is portrayed as...

...buying babies

...treating children as ego-stroking accessories

..."collecting" foreign children

...less valid than pregnancy

...a gross attempt to play "martyr" or "saint"

...insensitive to or rejecting of American kids in foster care

...a profound, life-altering decision(life-altering for us AND our children) made with all the thought that one would give a haircut (does it make me look "cool"?).

How does the media coverage of Angelina affect you?


5KidMom said...

The anti-Angelina sentiment makes me MAD!!! Whatever or whoever she was in the past, let's face it, she has changed. She is a person with extreme resources that chooses to use them for good. She (and Brad Pitt) give of their time energy and money to travel around the world to help and bring attention to some of the neediest places in the world. They know they catch all kinds of crap in the media, and they keep it up anyway. What fault is there in that?

If someone wants to compare me to Angelina in some way, I take is at a compliment. I am not a big celebrity watcher, but I find great pleasure in watching this couple and their growing family. May God bless and keep them, just as I would pray for any other family that is truly "walking the walk, and talking the talk".

Daryn and Brooke said...

Yeah-we have had people say, 'oh, did you get the idea to adopt from Ethiopia b/c of Angelina?' she is only person in the world who has a heart for Africa's orphans...I have a great deal of respect for her, though-exactly: she has made mistakes but who hasn't? How can you NOT respect her for growing her family by adopting children who need loving homes? Because of that respect for her, it doesn't bother me too much to be compared to her. But what does bother me is how people are so quick to criticize. I think people who do this are just feeling threatened b/c they aren't as servent hearted as her...they are like bullies who have to tear down to make themselves feel better.

KelseyChristine said...

It's frustrating that so many people agree with the accusation that Anjalina Jolie is "accessorizing" with her children. And I wonder how many American children the critics have adopted's easy for them to judge her I guess.

Chuck and Jenny said...

EXCELLENT post! I think I'm going to do some writing about the celebrity factor also...