No, I’m not speaking of Smallville. I’m going to be talking today about the old Superman movies with Christopher Reeve as the star. I know you’re probably wondering how this relates to adoption, but I will show you.
When Superman’s story begins, he’s an infant. We find him on his home planet, Krypton. His parents Jor-El and Lara put him in a pod to save him from Krypton’s impending explosion. Then we see them no more. The planet explodes in the reflection and view from the escaping pod. The next we see of Superman is his pod crash landing in the Kent’s farm fields, where what will become Superman’s adoptive father finds him and takes him in.
Let’s explore some of the negative adoption stereotypes that were perpetrated by a storyline like that. Superman’s parents didn’t abandon him. They actually knew his life was in danger and did the best thing they could to save him, which was to send his pod out into space and hope he landed on a friendly planet. This is much how birth parents today are still viewed. People take negative stereotypes about parents who lose their kids to foster care and place them upon parents who make that relinquishment decision at birth. They also assume that we’re abandoning our children, even if we’re actually doing the best thing we can think of doing for our children. This may not be literally saving them from a threatening living situation, or an expectant mother may feel her child is in literal danger if she parents that child. However, when Mr. Kent finds the baby, the assumption is that the baby has been abandoned by his parents.
The second stereotype perpetuated by the storyline is that adoption is a charitable decision by the adoptive parents. When Mr. Kent finds the baby in the field, the emphasis placed on the “poor, abandoned baby” makes it seem like the Kents are heroes for taking in the child no one knows a thing about and raising him as their own. This stereotype was widely known and acknowledged in the baby scoop era where all adoptive parents were painted as heroes for adopting a stranger’s baby. Once the feeling of being heroes had passed, the fact of adoption was then promptly covered over by adoptive parents trying to raise these kids as their biological children. Some adoptions still happen that way today. But adoption should happen with respect to the child’s biological roots too. I’m certain you would agree.
Superman grows up feeling different and when he starts blooming in his powers, he figures out why he feels that way. Even though the Kents raised Superman in the way they felt he should be raised, because they knew nothing about his biology they couldn’t encourage that side of him. That’s one of the many benefits of open adoption. Not only does the adoptive family have access to medical history, but they have ongoing access to at least the birth mom’s personality. If the Kents had access to Superman’s biological parents, they would’ve known he had many special powers and he wouldn’t have had to search for who he was like he did.