We live in a world of constant entertainment at our fingertips. I don’t know about you, but I love to veg out on the couch and watch something on one of my many streaming apps. As an adoptee and birth mother, I often notice when adoption gets thrown into the storyline. From small details to large parts of the plot, adoption is popping up in streaming more often these days. Check out some of the latest shows I have seen on Netflix, CW, and Fox that include adoption in the mix.
Fate: The Winx Saga on Netflix
Fate is a series streaming on Netflix that honestly took me by surprise. I was already hooked because I love a good fantasy drama with anything magical but, in between the fantastic fairy storyline, there were many deep feelings related to adoption. The show revolves around Bloom, a girl from the states who finds out in a traumatic experience that she has powers. She quickly learns that her powers are prompted by emotions and, when her parents upset her, she accidentally starts a fire. The headmaster of a school for fairies learns about Bloom and comes to whisk her away to a boarding school in Europe, which is just the cover story for her human parents.
As Bloom attends the school and begins to learn more about her identity as a fairy, she quickly learns some secondary life-altering information: she was switched at birth. The family that raised her is not her biological parents. Her mother was a fairy, and she is what the fae call a changeling. This means that she was swapped out with another baby. Bloom’s parent’s biological child was very ill and did not survive, but the parents never knew about it as they thought Bloom was the child her mama had given birth to. It was super confusing and traumatic news to throw on a young woman who also just found out she had fiery powers. Bloom feels betrayed by the woman who swapped her and, along with many other reasons, she ends up disapproving of her but, ultimately, she decides that she wants to tell her parents everything.
What I appreciate about this small part of her storyline is that the roles are ultimately switched and these unwittingly adoptive parents are being told far along in life that the identity of their family was not the reality. It reminded me how important it is to normalize adoption for an adoptee. I also appreciate how the producers and writers of the show allowed Bloom to feel rage, confusion, betrayal, hurt, and disappointment about finding out she was adopted. It’s a very realistic, complex ball of emotions that an adoptee can and likely would feel if he or she found out 18 years down the road that he or she had a different identity than he or she realized. Overall, I enjoyed Fate and the little adoption nuggets it served up for me.
Bling Empire on Netflix
I had no idea that I would enjoy streaming Bling Empire off of Netflix as much as I did. I honestly just needed some good reality TV through which I could multitask, but I ended up getting reeled into the luxurious lives of crazy rich Asians. The cast is a large group of rich and fabulous Asians, but there are two in particular with whom I found myself resonating. Kevin Kreider is an adoptee who grew up in Philadelphia. Kevin shares how he always felt like the odd one out as one of the only Asians in his small hometown. He shares what I think many transracial adoptees can relate to: he always felt different as not only was he raised in a white family but a predominantly white town. He shares throughout the series that he has found such belonging with his group of friends, especially through his best friend Kane Lim. Kevin’s mom comes down to visit him and they have a serious chat about how he wants to explore his biological roots but that he wants his mother’s blessing and feedback before moving forward. His mother quickly shares that she supports him and that she thinks his birth parents would be proud of who he’s become. This moves Kevin as he was nervous about talking to his mom about this. He didn’t want to upset her or hurt her. I resonated with this particular part of Kevin’s story because I feel like adoptees—at least I feel this way—often fear exploring their biological roots because they don’t want to hurt their parents’ feelings or seem ungrateful for the life their parents provided them. While these are valid feelings, I have learned through the years that it’s unfair for adoptees to feel this way. We have a deep longing to belong and to get answers about our biology, even if our adoption story is amazing. Sometimes we just need closure or self-discovery.
Kevin’s adventure helps another cast member, Kim Lee, work through some things during the season as well. When Kevin shares with his friends that he wants to find out answers and that his mother supports him, Kim opens up and shares that she has not seen her biological father since her parents’ divorce and that she has lately decided she wants to find him. Kevin encourages her and ultimately Kim sits down with her mother and her step-dad, whom she’s always called her father, and lets them know that she wants to go look for her biological father. She lets her stepdad, Daniel Segal, know that she didn’t want to hurt his feelings by this. He reassures her that he understands why she’d want to explore this part of her history and that she will always be his daughter. Kim hires a private investigator and, when he finds information, Kim takes Kevin with her to learn more about Tony. Fast forward a bit, Kevin and Kane go to find Tony and they knock on doors and call folks during their stay in Charleston, South Carolina, to get answers for Kim, who doesn’t know about their trip. Ultimately, they find out that Tony had passed away. When they share this news with Kim, she is grateful that her friends were able to get her closure, even though it’s sad. This reminds me how important it is for some adoptees or estranged children to find closure to move forward and that having a support network can be important during these times. Again, I loved the drama and luxury of Bling Empire, but the adoptee journey Kevin took seriously gave me all the feels. I was so proud of him for finding the truths he needed to move forward.
Dream Home Makeover on Netflix, Season 2 Episode 1
This one was an unexpected little treasure. I love interior design and I decided to stream the Dream Home Makeover series on Netflix. I was pleasantly surprised to hear in Episode one of Season two that the couple whose house was being worked on were adoptive parents. If you are touched by adoption, you probably perk up anytime you hear adoption being talked about. Laree and Travis Hansen talk about their kids and then share that they have a 10-year-old daughter, Halle, who was adopted. Laree then shares, “I am so grateful for Halle’s birth mom for giving us the opportunity to raise her daughter. She’s so beautiful. The most beautiful girl. That’s our story—sorry I am getting so emotional. But adoption is a beautiful thing.” My birth mama heart just ached with pride. I could tell how much Laree honors and respects Halle’s birth mom and I appreciated that she shared what she did. I also love that she said that the birth mom gave them the opportunity to raise her daughter. It just shows me that they likely have a great open adoption, or at least I hope so. Anyway, that’s the only part of adoption for this show, but it is a great hidden few minutes among some fabulous design.
Nancy Drew on CW
I grew up reading my mom’s old Nancy Drew novels and I loved playing Nancy Drew PC games as I grew older. So of course, when a show came out on CW, I was here for it. In this version of Nancy Drew, the teen eventually discovers that she was adopted, making this yet another show where the teen finds out some life-altering secret that derails her and pushes her onto an emotional journey. Nancy finds out that not only is her birth mother dead, but she also finds that she passed shortly after giving birth to her. She then finds out that her birth father is alive, and he had no idea that the birth mother was ever pregnant. So he, too, is shocked at this late discovery. I love the reality of the ramifications that keeping this kind of secret can have on adoptive parents. Nancy struggles to forgive her father, Carson Drew, for keeping this from her all of these years. He shares that he thought he was protecting her, but ultimately Nancy found the betrayal too hard to get past.
Heartland on Netflix
Heartland is a Canadian gem that can be streamed on Netflix. Heartland is all centered around a horse ranch and a horse whisperer named Amy, although she doesn’t like being called that. There was a snowstorm down here in Texas a couple of weeks ago, so I began binge-watching Heartland with my mom. A few seasons—okay, six seasons in—we meet Georgie, a character who ran away from her foster family and was found in the Heartland barn. Ultimately, the Bartlett, Flemming, and Morris families (which are all of the families living at the ranch) let Georgie stay temporarily at Heartland until she can be placed with another foster family. Unknowingly to the families, they begin to realize they love Georgie and want her to stay permanently with them. Eventually, Amy’s sister Lou and her husband adopt Georgie.
A few seasons later, Georgie is doing a project revolving around her family tree and her parents quickly realize that she doesn’t have her biological roots on the tree at all. They question whether that is healthy and ultimately find and reach out to a biological aunt to come down and spend some time with Georgie. Georgie has contact with her brother Jeff during the entire time she is on the show, but he lives elsewhere. While the aunt turns out to be a shady character, Georgie learns a great deal about her biological roots and her parents. Another thing that I think is done well in Heartland regarding Georgie’s adoption story is that the trauma she has experienced bouncing from home to home in the foster system after her parents died in a car accident is shown transparently. Georgie tends to run away when things get rocky, and she thinks that the moment she messes up she will be sent away. As an adoptee, I can relate to that feeling. I have always struggled with feeling like relationships are only conditional, but I found out, just like Georgie, that when someone truly loves you, they love you unconditionally.
911 on Fox
Let’s talk about some ugly screen time. I am a huge fan of medical dramas and the Fox primetime show 911 is a weekly view for me. I was disappointed to see in the current season that the second episode has a scene when Chimney, a paramedic, stumbles upon an illegal adoption ring where these pregnant women are being held against their will. Meanwhile, the woman who was keeping them hostage was taking their babies and profiting off of selling them to adoptive parents—at least that’s what the storyline suggests. While there are human trafficking rings that do awful and illegal activities and I think people need to be made more aware, the way it was presented seemed to yet again give nasty stigmas to adoption. I think that this episode was more of a tainted view that I drew, but my overall point is that adoption is not always painted in the best light on TV; I can recall several crime dramas that find illegal adoption rings or a birth mother coming to steal the baby back. The other side of this issue is that it is raising awareness that many unethical practices are happening in modern-day adoption, so that is beneficial.