The Kung Fu Panda series has a great subplot about adoption. Many children’s movies have tackled the subject of adoption, but this one is unique in that it follows the whole evolution of an adoptee. For a vast number of adoptees this series mimics their own lives.
In Kung Fu Panda, the lead character is Po. He is a panda, and his father, Mr. Ping, is a goose. Po is obsessed with kung fu and finds himself fighting alongside the Furious Five (a group of highly trained masters) to protect the Valley of Peace. During the chaos, he is chosen to be the Dragon Warrior and to fulfill ancient prophecy. This is shocking to everyone, even Po. There is no mention of adoption in the first movie other than through suggestion and innuendo. This seems very appropriate to me. For lots of adoptees, like myself, being adopted wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t something that we dealt with daily. Our parents were ours because they raised us, and it didn’t matter that we didn’t look like them. That was just ordinary life.
In Kung Fu Panda 2, Lord Shen has returned from many years of banishment to wreak havoc once again. Upon seeing Shen, Po has a vision of his mother. He goes to Ping to seek out answers. His adoptive father tells him that he was abandoned on the doorstep of his noodle shop as a baby. Po later learns that the only way to defeat Shen is to find inner peace. This sets him out on a journey to find out the truth about his past. Throughout the movie, Po’s flashbacks tell the story of how Shen had attacked the area long ago. The pandas had fled to survive. His mother had hidden him and led the enemy away before being killed. Toward the end, Lord Shen asks Po in desperation why he has not been emotionally beaten. After all, he had killed his mother. Po answers, “You’ve got to let go of that stuff from the past, Shen, because it just doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is what you choose to be now.”
I have never heard a truer statement. Whether you knew about your adoption from the beginning or you found out about it later, it doesn’t matter. Whether your childhood was terrible or wonderful, it doesn’t matter. You can’t let your life determine your future. It’s what you do with yourself as a person now that matters.
Kung Fu Panda 3 introduces Po’s biological father, Li. He tracks down Po at the noodle shop. Po is very excited to meet him. The pair look alike and have plenty in common. To defeat the newest villain, Kai, Po must get back to his panda roots to discover his chi. Throughout the film there is unmasked jealousy from Ping. He even stows away in Po’s backpack to the secret woods where the pandas relocated. The family works on their issues there. Ping says to Li, “I was worried you’d steal Po from me…but I realized that having you in Po’s life doesn’t mean less for me, it means more for Po.”
Reunions may cause some uneasiness or jealousy at first, and that is understandable. When both families are involved in the child’s life though, the child wins. Wasn’t that what everyone went through the adoption process for to begin with? The goal was to give the child the best possible life.
While each adoptee’s story is his or her own, collectively this is a common positive adoption journey. The series tells the story of an adoptee doing amazing things with his life while having a full support system behind him.