Here are some Adoption STAR staff reactions to the latest film clip we watched as a part of our TV/Film clip-viewing project. See our Facebook post on 9/2/14 for more information (or to view the clip for yourself). The clip in question is from the film Matlida.
“While this clip aims to provide comforting insight into the adoption process, which typically causes emotional anxieties for both the adoptive and birth families, it has an adverse effect on the audience’s knowledge of the adoption process. The paperwork necessary to adopt a child is never as simple as copying pages from a library book – even for a child with special powers! Additionally, the clip portrays the surrender and placement process as easy.
The birth parents are completely indifferent to the surrendering of their child and, at most, the Wormwoods are eager to surrender Matilda because it seems convenient. This is a terribly unrealistic example of the experience birth parents encounter during the surrender process. The clip fails to take into account the raw emotions that are inherent in placing a child – mourning and grief. Birth parents in the real world are not placing their children because it seems convenient in the moment; they are placing their children because they want to provide their child with the best life possible. It takes a truly selfless person to put their child’s needs before their own, which is what a birth parent does when they place their child – they are willing to put their child’s future and well being into another family’s hands (and they are doing so in the hope that the adoptive family can provide more opportunities for the child).
Moreover, Matilda and Miss Honey’s stories are no less exaggerated than the Wormwood parents. Miss. Honey is quickly convinced to adopt Matilda after simply being asked. Miss Honey doesn’t even need to sign paperwork – that’s pretty effortless! Likewise, Matilda’s adoption is shown to have a very smooth transition. The adoption of an older child most often comes with its struggles. An older child will have already become accustomed to daily life routines and being adopted can cause stress related to change, abandonment by their birth family, and many other difficulties.
My last thought after watching this clip is – what about her brother in the back seat who she does not even say goodbye to?” – Senovia Cuevas, Administrative Assistant/Intake Worker
“Let me first start off by saying that the story of Matilda (both the film and the book) is one of my favorite childhood tales to this date. Despite the inaccuracies that this clip may display, I still feel that it is worthy for every child to watch.
I am sure that it is obvious that adoptions do not occur like this in today’s reality. While we do have loads of paperwork (that we refer to as “signing” when a placement is about to occur), it is not the only aspect of the adoption process and certainly not anything a child (even as gifted as Matilda) could possibly complete. However, knowing Roald Dahl and his works, adoption is a common motif. Additionally, his works represent perfect, happy endings, in which case the story of Matilda would not be complete without this adoption taking place.
One of the concepts I would like to call into question is the intention of Roald Dahl when he wrote this particular chapter in his book. Did he intend for this scene to make sense, or rather was he purposefully trying to make this type of adoption unbelievable. Of course, when you write about a girl with magical powers, it is difficult to decipher. When I first watched this clip, I didn’t think that it designed to convince viewers that this is truly how adoptions work. Yet, because of the portrayal of Matilda’s adoption, it becomes easy to view it as simple, quick, unrealistic, and almost childish. It could be hypothesized that it is because of influences like this book that there is modern social stigma that adoption is ‘second-rate’ to having biological children, while in truth it is merely another way of creating a forever family.” – Chris Fancher, Post Adoption Correspondence/Office Support
“While this end scene in Matilda gives the audience a nice happy-ever-after, it gives a completely inaccurate picture of what is involved with adopting a child. Matilda pulling out ‘adoption papers’ that she was easily able to obtain makes it seem as though anyone who can Xerox can place themselves for adoption. The purely happy emotions felt by everyone throughout the clip give an unrealistic oversight of the nerves, sadness, and the inevitable ‘adjustment period’ for all those involved. Additionally, Matilda’s adoption took place in a matter of 45 seconds from the point of Matilda pulling out the papers to her being Ms. Honey’s daughter. The movie is geared towards children, and in that sense I can understand making things more light and airy. At the same time, children who watch this movie (and where this scene serves as their their first introduction to the world of adoption) may forever think back to that scene when having adoption related discussions in the future. These children may unconsciously base their views on adoption from scenes like this one. Matilda is ‘placed’ as an older child, and with that will inevitably come the loss of one family while entering her forever family. This aspect of Matilda’s story was completely left out. I can laugh at the humor used in this scene, but viewing it through ‘adoption eyes’ makes me uncomfortable, as it misses all of the key pieces to an adoption journey. – Zack Fried, Client Relationship Manager and Administrative/Intake Department Supervisor
“As an adoption professional it was difficult to watch for many reasons, but primarily because the message that you get while watching is that all you need is love to make a perfect adopted family. Any struggles or losses associated with adoption are ignored. However, Adoption STAR’s Chris Fancher reminded us all that this movie was based on the book by Roald Dahl and thus was more of a reflection of it’s time. It is interesting to note that Rhea Perlman, who played Mrs. Wormwood, is both a child advocate and an adoption advocate.” – Wendy Lane
This video can look different each time you watch it. For one, they simplify adoption. They exhibit a lack of legal representation (adoption workers, witnesses, lawyers, etc.) and lack of support for all the members of the adoption triad (sudden placement, no pre/post adoption support was made available, etc.). On the other spectrum, this is a children’s movie where children may or may not catch on to the various components of adoption. I think that the whole movie sets up the viewer to be very happy for Matilda when she gets to live with her adoptive mother, but when you see just this short clip, you may have mixed feelings. I think the movie could have done a better job at portraying adoption if they were going to involve it at all but I also feel that it is not necessarily the movie makers main focus, therefore, they skim over the thorough adoption procedures that are used to today. – Stephanie Velez, Birth Family Advocate