Peddling Pathos

I’m a sucker for real-life feel-good stories.

The more uplifting episodes of OprahExtreme Makeover: Homeowner EditionThe Biggest Loser.

Oh yeah — I’ll watch them, in a heartbeat.

And I know they’re contrived — scripted, edited, polished — all with the goal to hook the audience by pushing tearjerker and then soaring emotions, in order to deliver eyeballs to advertisers.

Yet, I still watch them because, whereas the production companies package the stories for the audience, the real people at the heart of the stories still remain… real people.  It’s a case of “If good things came out of awful situations like these people, then that can happen to anyone — that can happen to ME.”  It’s an act of optimism.

But sometimes the contrived nature of peddling pathos gets even to me, a self-avowed gobbler of pathos.

Case in point: Find My Family.

I’ve seen about two or three episodes of this show, and it does all that one would expect a “reuniting adopted kids with their biological family” show would be: wringing out the tears from the audience, as we hear their tragic stories, and then having our emotions soar as the split family reunite, with joy and much hugging, including the acceptance of the biological family into the adopted family’s life.

But as an adopted kid myself, the stories that make it to the small screen aren’t as representative and as simple as the producers make it out to be.  Of course, it’s understandable why they do it — it’s a reality show, after all, not journalism.  But in this case, the message, “See, this can happen to you, too,” just makes me feel a little sad.

I’m happy for the families whose stories had such happy endings that they got aired.  But it makes me wonder about all those families — all of those adopted kids, searching for their biological parents; all of those biological parents, searching for the kids that they gave up — whose stories didn’t end so happily, who ended up in failure.

It’s no surprise, that all of the situations on Find My Family have been domestic adoptions, that, in most cases, the biological parents and/or siblings and the adopted weren’t that far away from each other.   Overseas adoptions are trickier, fraught with red tape, sovereignty issues, and cultural barriers.  Also, it’s no surprise, that all of the situations on Find My Family have been straight-forward, down-on-their-luck cases: the biological parents were too young, too poor, to take care of the baby, and so they gave up their baby, with hopes that a new family could give him/her what they could not.

Sometimes, babies aren’t born in such simple, cut-and-dry situations like that.  Sometimes their biological parents’ situation is so messy, so awful, that it isn’t a case of financial reasons or maturity that prevents the biological parents from keeping their child, but something else entirely — family politics, hurt feelings, guilt and shame, hate.

And so they give up their child, perhaps to spare them from the hurt.  And it’s those stories — THOSE stories — that will never get aired.  The wrong kind of pathos — doesn’t get the right amount of eyeballs for advertisers.

I don’t blame them — the producers.  And, again, I feel happy for the families, whose stories have happy endings.  It’s just, in the case of adoption, I don’t know if that kind of optimism is horribly unrealistic.

In my case, I don’t want to know.


About lizardqueen

If single-mothering were a paid job, I'd be rich. However, it doesn't, so I write (which doesn't pay the bills) and teach (which does). I'm overly-educated in the liberal arts, but that doesn't hinder my ability to be pragmatic and realistic. YAY.
This entry was posted in Family & Parenthood, History & Currents Events, LQ POV, Pop Culture, QUIRKS. Bookmark the permalink.

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