WOW! I just noticed that I have not really written about anything since the end of May. That is a loooooong time for me to not chime in about adoption in some way, shape or form. So leave it to an animated movie to give me that push to raise my voice and speak of the messages that adoption CAN send to people ... especially in the media.
So, my youngest son just adored Kung Fu Panda when the original came out and it was a no brainer that he wanted to see it for his Birthday this week. No problem buddy, I liked it too and would be happy to see it with you. Not too long ago I read the reviews and noticed that there was an underlying theme of adoption so I was intrigued, but not surprised. You see, since I had seen the first movie I knew that Po was not born to the goose that raised him. Pretty obvious if you ask me. So off we went, but not before mixed reviews came in on my fan page after posting that the theatre was my destination. This only intrigued me more.
SPOILER ALERT! I am going to talk about specific things in the movie so if you have not seen it and want to form your own opinion, set this post aside and revisit it after you see it.
So, the story of the panda that became a kung fu genius is mysterious. We know that he has left his little restaurant home to study his craft with his new found posse of kicking fighters. We also know that he somehow knows that he belongs somewhere else, destine for other things.Here comes the bad peacock that has some big issues of his own, so he of course is dominating all that is good in China. The twist begins when Po, our panda friend, meets a bad guy with a symbol that sends Po into a dream like state that begins to tell the tale of his true identity.
The movie shows us, from Po's POV, an image of a larger panda looking deeply at him and then running off. Any parent in the theatre knows that this is more than likely Po's mother ... leaving him alone. This sets the tone for the rest of the movie. After some fighting, some more flashbacks and some loose explanation from an old wise woman, the real meat to the story is that this evil peacock ordered all the "Warriors of Black and White" to be killed. This would include Po's panda ancestors who were banioshed, or killed, so the peacock would not be haunted by the wise woman's words. But let me go back a minute to what really struck me in this revaluation that Po has about his TRUE self.
He goes to visit his father, the goose, at the restaurant because the discovery that this goose is not REALLY his father has shocked him. So the goose starts to explain what the real story is, where Po came from. He took a long time to even get the word out, but he finally said it:
Dad: You were adopted.
Po: What? Why didn't you ever tell me?
That was the line that struck me. Then I think the Dad replies with his own comment like ... Well you never asked. This was my first reaction to the adoption theme, the fact that the writers of the movie turned it back onto the adoptee to be responsible to know that they were adopted. Or at least I think it was, to be honest I was still so taken back by the comment from Po that I might have missed the real reaction from the Dad. Either way, it left a bad taste in my mouth because believe me ... children are VERY impressionable through media. So it rubbed me the wrong way, but not enough to really affect my feelings for Po or his journey.
Then, towards the end of the movie when the peacock is trying hard to dominate the world and get rid of Po, this peacock admits that he had Po's parents killed, that HE took his parents away from him. When Po searches his inner feelings his memory shows his mother running for their lives, trying to figure out a way for Po to be saved. She finds a box of radishes and puts him into it and then takes a moment to just look at him before she takes the most hurtful steps of her life. We see the love, the bond between them. Then we hear the bad guys, they are looking for them both. She takes one last look, a big breath and then she leaves. Po is crying, scared and confused but stays put. We know that she will die, but he does not understand why she is just running off. The next morning he is at the restaurant and the goose takes him in.
I don't think kids that are really young can understand that. And I think this is why some people are upset with this movie. The reason why I mentioned the conversation between Po and the goose is to make the point that adoption should not be shameful to talk about. Even if your kids are not adopted, it is important that they understand that not all adoption is abandonment. It is not that cut and dry. There are about 90% of parents out there that would need a REASON to leave their kids. And it better be a good reason, too. If a child is afraid that they will be abandoned based on a movie that they see, then that child needs to be spoken to about the difference between adoption and abandonment. It is a serious issue and should be addressed sooner than later... just my opinion.
The message of Kung Fu Panda 2 sits on both sides of the fence with me. I am always going to identify with the mother who leaves. I am one of them. I had reasons. They may not make sense to others, but they make sense to me. But I also see how the media makes it seem that the tragedy of it all lies solely on the parents backs. That the act of leaving, even if it means that the child will be saved and live on while the mother will die .... that act is just inconceivable or worse, unjustifiable. I was left liking the message that she loved him so much she sacrificed herself for his well being. I understand that all too well. SO my opinion is that the message of the movie, if talked about properly to children and explained well, was a wonderful testament of a mother doing what she had to because she loved her child. Plain and simple.
Plus, Po finds the inner peace that he has so long been searching for which leads him to understand that although he has had this tragic past, although his life was changed forever by the hatred of the peacock ... he knows that his life has purpose, that not all is lost in life because of the cards we are dealt. He sees that he was fortunate enough to be loved and cherished despite the tragedy. He knows he can find happiness through himself.
I just hope that others can see it that way. I am not sure though, the audience seemed confused when they left. And that is why I think so many are torn about this movie. Of course not everyone sees things the same and perhaps I have babbled too much about it by now, but I know that there will be topic for debate on this movie for a long time to come.