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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New Show- Switched at Birth: Adoptee Related?

I've been watching the new show on ABC Family, the one where two girls are switched at birth and learn of the mistake at age 16. The show explores various aspects of the switch, how everyone deals with it, and other issues surrounding teenage issues. On top of it, one of the girls is deaf, which leads to further "What if?" scenarios because if she was raised by her biological family, she wouldn't have gotten the horrible disease that took her hearing. While these girls were not adopted, there are a lot of parallels. The acting isn't the greatest, there's a lot of drama that makes me personally roll my eyes, but I still love this show. I love it because it points out a lot of problems with adoption only in a more "acceptable" level because these girls were switched at birth, something that people feel sympathetic about.

I've made a few observations. *SPOILER ALERT* One of the mothers found out when the girls were three that there had been a switch. She hires an investigator who tracks down her daughter. She makes the choice to keep it a secret. Her raised daughter was already "hers" in her mind and her biological daughter was already "theirs". The show does a pretty good job in painting this decision as a bad one and everyone is pretty mad at her when it comes out (because secrets always come out). Her raised daughter is rightfully angry and lets her mother know it. She felt she had a right to know her family (much like adoptees feel they should have the right to know where they came from). The mother and her get into a big fight and the mother says that "she's" the one who made the daughter who she is. The speech is full of entitlement and doesn't come across well, but it's not supposed to. That's a common attitude with adoptive parents and it's shown for what it is, something that is about the parent, not always the child.

There is a huge feeling of "We all need to get along for the sake of the girls" and "It's important to know where you come from". The girls always felt like they didn’t belong (blonde blue eyed girl on one side, dark hair dark eyes on the other) and that they didn't quite fit with their parents. One of the fathers is missing through most of the season and just finally comes back. He approaches his biological daughter at an art show and she later brings him home to meet her parents. Cue WWIII. The parents (now like adoptive parents) are not happy they didn't have control over this situation freak out. They kick him out and try to find a way to control the situation. The conversation that the mom has with her raised daughter reminds me of adoptive parents who want complete control over their child's reunion. I get that this girl was only 16, but it's kind of silly to tell her that "there's a right way and a wrong way to initiate contact and he did it wrong" as if it explains why four adults can't get along. What is old enough to know? At what age do you want to know your background? When the girl and her father met for the first time, her first questions were "Where do I come from?" and "Why did you leave?" Ding ding ding! The adoptee in me was nodding along.

This show is fiction, but I think that it's a start. It's not really about adoptees, but I think it's a great thing to have these feelings and these issues out there in pop culture (though I'm not sure how big this show is). I also think that any show that attempts to start to change perceptions that biology doesn't matter is great in my book.

Has anyone else seen this show? Any thoughts?


  1. I have watched the show pretty religiously since it started. I agree with your above observations and I find the show pretty fascinating. As a birth mother/first mother of a now 22 year old (still yet to be reunited in person), I certainly can feel the angst of the two mothers in the situation struggling with their roles.....THanks for the interesting post.
    Sara B.

  2. I haven't seen the show but I plan on trying to catch it on netflix when they have it.

  3. I watched every episode and I do agree with you. Although it is not based on the premise of adoption, I still identify with their feelings of abandonment. I was moved by the meeting of Bay and her "bio" dad. I also expected the reaction of her folks saying he couldn't see her. I am looking forward to when the new season starts! Thanks for posting this Jenn!

    P.S. I am an adoptee who just reunited with my bio family last summer.

  4. I love this show and hadn't really thought of it from this p.o.v. -- great post! Are you going to watch the new show about the twins who were adopted and separated? At least, I think that's the premise, I've only seen a few commercials while watching ABC Fam.

  5. I mainly watch this on DVR and skip the commercials so I missed the previews for a show about adopted twins... That could be interesting. What's up with ABC Family these days?

  6. Hi Jenn . .. i have watched this show from day one, hanging on every episode up until recently when I've been spending less time watching t.v. in general. I totally think it captures the adoptee experience. I loved the first series before it took a long break. I couldn't wait until it came back. I loved the parts where Bay was searching for clues about her father. Felt so familiar. And the parents with more money mean well, but they really just don't get it alot of the time (adoptive parent similarities). I see Bay's biological mom more as a birth mother similarity because she gets stereotyped because of the side of town she is from, plus she is a minority. So many, many parallels to adoption: secrets and lies, money equaling power, wondering why you don't look like your family, processing the painful realities of what could-have-been . . . .


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