This new show on HBO called Here and Now has received pretty bad reviews. As a Haitian, Black adoptee, I can give you my thoughts on why the reviews have been so bad. But that is not what I would like to focus on here. I want to focus on why it should actually be receiving raving reviews not just from the US, but from all around the world.
Adoption concepts, complexities, and a myriad of issues pervades this show like I have never seen before. This show deals with VERY real issues adoptees face in general, and adoptees of color who are living in predominantly white homes will really be able to relate to how the adopted children in this show grapple, handle and deal with their pain, frustration, and very “loving” but ignorant white parents.
This is not a “feel good” show. After every episode, I found myself feeling very triggered. I felt triggered because I could relate to each adoptee’s story. I could relate to the white adoptive parent’s reactions to their kids. I could even strangely relate to the white biological child in the home.
So maybe we should be asking ourselves for whom this show was written. It was not written for random people looking for a “feel good” show to binge on. As a matter-of-fact, I DO NOT recommend binging this show at all. If you are an adoptee, or an adoptive parent, you will understand what I am talking about. DO NOT binge-watch this show.
Unlike This Is Us, Here and Now starts with the very hard questions and only gets more complicated. Season one opens with a very messed up family who looks amazing on the outside but is completely falling apart on the inside.
Family character breakdown and thoughts from my point of view:
- Greg -the father. He asks the harder questions as he is a philosopher and realizes that what he wrong in his previous book that received so much love and attention is no longer what he believes in. He is present with all of his kids but only physically. He considers the adoption of the children an “experiment”.
- Audrey– the mother. My a-mother to a “T”. Everything about this character haunts me and brings me back to when I was a child. She wants to be seen as more “liberal”, more “woke” and yet in doing things that make her more left, she hurts the adopted children in her home. She even sounds like my mother. I’d like to throw up. White liberals are the worst because they think they know the answers and they compare their suffering to people of color. What is really missing however, is the fact that they really have NO CLUE how a person of color is feeling or what they have gone through. White female liberals also tend to conveniently forget that the Women suffrage movement did not include people of color. It really should have been called White Women Suffrage.
- Kristen-the biological daughter. I can’t begin to tell you how much I could relate to this character mainly because I have 2 “siblings” who are biological to my Audrey. Her personality is one that feels “left out” because she is not Black, or Vietnamese, or Colombian. She is just plain ole white and sees herself as boring. She completely misses how wealthy her family is and how much white privilege follows her around. She searches to be someone special, she wants to be someone neat, and exotic, and exciting so badly, that she appropriates other people’s culture and religion to try and find a place to fit in. Yes! As much as I have a place in my heart with love for my siblings, I can’t forget the times they dressed in African, Haitian, and other garments attempting to look more exotic, taking on the character and personality of people of color just to be able to live vicariously through us, through me. Somehow to them my color, my race, my identity was a costume. The racism I received, they would never have to experience because they could always take off my race and culture at a second’s notice. I on the other hand….well, this is me! Kristen embodies the typical white child who grows up in a family with kids of color. They begin to feel lonely, and left out. The parents are given praise for “saving” the Black and Brown and Asian kids and the little white kid is just….the white kid. But instead of using this privilege for good, she decides to do what almost every white bio kid in a diverse family does; appropriate.
- Ashley-the female international adoptee from Liberia. She is black and beautiful like me. She is raised in a family comprised of 2 white parents and a white sister (Kristen), and though she loves the family with all her heart she finds herself not being able to fit into her black community and struggles to truly love her husband who is white and does not understand her daily struggles as a black woman. Her relationship with her white sister is super rocky because they are many years apart and yet, though Ashley is older, her white sister is treated with more love and respect by family and also by society. One of her biggest fears is raising her little 4/5 year old black daughter in a society that things her color is equated to dirty. Ashley grapples with the expectation white people put on her and how much she really does not know about her people group. Though her mother “tried” to show her who she was by dressing her in her cultural garb, she was never taught to be black, and black in America. She realizes throughout the show that white people really do not see color unless it has to do with uplifting their whiteness. I can relate to her character more than anyone else’s because I was and am Ashley and her family was/is the one I was raised in. There was “love” but it was always comparable and measured by the outside world first. As for me, I felt as though my color made me more of a “risk”. I remember going to Europe and the white girls got the privilege of being in charge of the finances….like I could not be trusted. Let’s sit with that.
- Malcolm-Ashley’s husband. He marries into this family not caring that Ashley is black and in not caring that she is black, he dismisses the every day frustrations and struggles of being a person of color. His privilege is on his sleeve and his blissful ignorance begins to create a reality for his 4/5 year old daughter that will really hurt her in the near future. He senses there is something really off about Ashley’s family but does not consider that it may have to do with their adoptions.
- Duc-the international adoptee from Vietnam. This character is amazing. He reminds me of me when I was younger. Though he was not the golden child, he strove to be perfect and to not repeat the mistakes of his biological mother. He sees the world as sort-of a competition because his family made it this way. I could strongly relate to this character because my upbringing was like a competition. Who could pray better, who could sing better, who could eat less, who could eat the most, who could read the best, who gave my Audrey the most attention, who volunteered to clean the most, who was less lazy; it was all a competition from the minute we woke up in the morning til we laid our heads down to go to sleep. For Duc, he feared not being good enough and falling into the role of his biological mother who was a prostitute. So he spent his life subconsciously mimicking his white philosopher dad and eventually becoming a writer like he was, and a motivational architect (I’m still not sure what that means). I always wanted to be like my a-mother and I think in some ways I am like her since she did indeed raise me. But I have found myself in the past 10 years running away from who she is because who she is, is never what I want to be, or even could be.
- Ramon-a gay white-passing international adoptee from Columbia. He is also viewed as the golden child. I love this character so much because not only is he an adoptee but he is also gay. And not only is he gay but he also has this thing called Porous Mind , a phenomenon that allows him to seen and feel things that are truly there for him but can’t be seen by others. He is seen to have a Thin boundary in his mind as opposed to a thick boundary. He has lucid dreams, and frequent dream recall. His character taps into the supernatural and I could fully relate to this ability to tap into the other realms of life. I am able to do that ALL, The, Time and it is scary as FUCK. But he uses his pain and ability to see beyond what thick boundary would allow, to create video games that require the mind to contemplate and meditate. His personality can be seen as someone who may have ADHD and his adoptive parents want to just diagnose him because they fear the unknown. I feel my brother was similar to this character and instead of tapping into the trauma that he had gone through being separated from his biological family, they wanted to compare him to the “functioning” kids in the family. Instead of digging deeper into his separation, they wanted to give his supposed issue a name. So they settled with LD; learning Disabled. APs never want to see how adoption trauma shapes the adoptee. They believe that if you “love” the child enough, there will be less to no trauma. Ummm…nope! Never has worked and never will work.
There are many more characters in this show but I wanted to just focus on the family that is being highlighted. Other characters change the course of the show and I may or may not do a piece about that later.
Things I focused On as A Black Adoptee
This show does indeed have several flaws but doesn’t every show? What I really enjoyed about this show however, is the adoption component and how each character has to wrestle their own demons. Some receive help like Ramon, and others create their own help like Duc. Still, some of the other characters struggle to understand what form of help is necessary. I personally am still wrestling with my anger in adoption in general and how people are eager to take a child but not willing to support the family the child comes from. I am using the 21 Days to re-parenting, a guide that has helped me re-parent myself and get in touch with the “little” me. I have Tali Love, a Pretty Brown Nomad to thank for that.
With the different forms of help in mind I wanted to highlight certain sections of each episode that I would like anyone who has been “touched” by adoption to focus on. There are 10 episodes and each episodes carries with it so much depth that it is hard to not pause and rewind just to be able to hear and better comprehend the wisdom that is being dropped left and right.
There is a lot of intense dialogue throughout the entire show and because of this, so much can be missed. I decided to take a few minutes to focus on a few scene sections that stood out to me right off the bat.
Zoom in On these!
Episode 1: Eleven, Eleven
In this first episode we are introduced to the characters and Ramon’s character is immediately faced with some supernatural phenomenons Focus on the scene where the adopted kids and Ashley’s model are talking about how their adoption is seen as “saving”, as if they were all in need of a savior. The model says “must be cool, having siblings from these exotic places.”
Episode 2: It’s Coming
This episode struck me because it was the beginning of Ashley’s realization that she was no longer protected by her “white Card“. Focus on the scene where her white sister punches an anti-abortion Jesus freak, but both girls get arrested. Look deeply at how the white girl is treated vs Ashley, the black girl. At about 30:08 Ashley is being interrogated about a super expensive bag that she purchased. The officer is assuming since Ashley is black, she stole the bag. At around 30:12 the white officer pulls out the skin lotion from Ashley’s bag and says “why do you need so much skin lotion?”
These scenes are poignant for people of color. Since the beginning of the making of America, people of color have always been treated as lesser. I find it amazing that people of color built America, and yet get no credit for it. They created the roads, the homes, the pastures, they built what we know now to be the “greatest” nation. And yes, the white people are afraid of the black and brown people. They are jealous of the success of the Asian people. They measure their lives and compare it to the people of color. Their fear created redlining; a system that refused loans to black/brown people and so they were not able to build their homes or reside in certain areas. This created the inner city, where they could live close to where they work. Unlike the working middle and upper class who could afford to buy a car and drive into work from their comfortable suburban homes.
The fear is huge. These people raise their kids to be comfortable and to not be around people of color. Then reality sets in and the kids grow up. They grow up only knowing one side of history (theirs). They grow up to be bigots and racists and little white kids who shoot up schools to be different, to be unique. Like in this show, Kristen tries so many measures to be different.
When Kristen punches the anti-abortion dude, she gets arrested. She jokes around. She laughs, she asks questions. SHE punched the guy. Ashley had nothing to do with it. And yet Ashley gets arrested and is completely humiliated. She is pretty much assaulted, spoken to in a stern voice, and made to feel as though she is a thief for owning expensive things.
We live in a society where the lighter your skin is, the better you are treated. The less slanted your eyes are, the more respected you are. We live in a society where white kids can wear Guatemalan clothing and think nothing of the hard work put into it. Or white women can barter hard-worked clothing down to pennies just so they can turn around and sell it for a large profit.
I grew up with white people. I spent my days watching my Audrey negotiate someone’s dinner money while trying to buy a hat, or shoes, or a piece of Haitian artwork. And then she would turn around and sell it for a profit, knowing that some other white person would pay big money for it.
We live in a society where if you are not lighter, you are treated worse than a dog. You are called names, and you are told “go back to your country.” You sit puzzled wondering what you ever did to be told this. This is the only country you know. Where else are you supposed to go?
White people just don’t understand the lotion issue. I watched one of my girlfriends put on lotion at night before bed. She used a lot of lotion. For her it was part of her nighttime routine. It was something she did AT NIGHT. No one could see the lotion residue, nor her dry skin during the day, but she chose to put it on at night. When I would put lotion on during the day she always wondered. She always asked. I could not explain to her more than what she could see. I have dry skin. I need to keep my skin moisturized otherwise it will crack.
My APs never did the lotion stuff out of the knowledge that our skin is visible. I in fact don’t remember them ever putting lotion on my body because of my dry skin. I would go to school with ashy skin all the time. Kids would make fun of me. Maybe my white sisters went to school with ashy skin too, but you couldn’t see it.
As for Sun Block? We NEVER were really lathered in it and we were discouraged from using it. We were made to feel like we were some magic people from some other place who was immune to the harsh Caribbean sun. No. We were not. We burned. And it hurt like hell.
Just because you can’t see it, does not mean it is not there. As we walk into Episode 3, remember that Ramon’s visions are becoming stronger. He thus far, is the only one who can see the numbers 11:11. Also keep in mind that Ashley’s feelings about her family are beginning to change and she is the one seen as “strange.”
Episode 3: If a Deer Shit in the Woods
I found this episode to be intriguing mainly because the adoptive father seems to be having some kind of midlife crisis. He sees the angel’s sign (eleven eleven) and takes a detour causing him to realize that nothing really matters and that everything, like the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 2:17. But this episode gets more complicated when his wife decides that prosecution for a hate crime done by a white kid at Kristen’s school is not necessary. Focus on the words she uses in this episode and why it is problematic while having kids of color. I feel that she thinks that she is not culpable or required to stand up for people of color because in the end, she has kids of color; somehow that exempts her from being racist. Yep! I can relate. The amount of hate spewed at me as a Haitian child was met with “pray for them.” Really? Prayer? I laugh!
Episode 4: Hide and Seek
This particular episode was relate-able because a huge party was planned for Ashley’s 4 year old daughter and no one RSVPed to the party. When Ashley called to inquire, everyone seemed to not be available. We have to remember they are all living in very white Portland and though it is free and liberal, at some point, black people were not welcomed to that state. It is extremely segregated and having a mixed family could have contributed to the kids not being able to go to a little black girl’s party. Ashley slowly begins to realize that her blackness really does affect everything she does. Focus on her conversation with her husband as she tries to share how she feels about the situation. Also focus on the fact that her daughter was called “poop” by a white girl at her school and how this frustration begins to build in Ashley but not the white husband. Take the time to also look at Duc’s need to be perfect and how it affects him. The scene at the big pool where he is recording himself on an Iphone and a white lady comes up to tell him he has snot in his nose really begins to change the course of how he thinks and it begs him to ask the question “why am I trying to be so perfect?”
At about 17 minutes and 25 seconds, Ashley’s adoptive mother comes to her workplace and they have this dialogue about work. Audrey gives Ashley a backhanded compliment. “You know, I envy you. You have always been smarter than me. This is so much easier than trying to make the world a better place.” Focus on Ashley’s face as she tries to figure out why her adoptive mother had to say what she did. I can relate very much to this line of thinking and this form of gas lighting. The mother in this show, like mine, continues to create situations where she needs to be the hero every time. She envies “us” but we are still not as good as she is. Ashley’s reaction is one I have had many times in my almost 40 years of being alive.
Episode 5: From Sun Up To Sun Down
In this Episode we find Ashley hesitantly getting to know another person of color at her daughter’s predominantly white school. Focus on 6:53 when she is introduced to the black mother of a cute black boy. The white teacher Aid at the school assumes they will “get along” because they are both…well, black. Intent Vs. Impact, Right?
Ashley meets the woman and her son and the woman immediately notices that Hailey is Ashy. The little boy’s mother says “oh honey you need your lotion” and Ashley, embarrassed, says “ah yes, we…we know. We were running late today.” Focus on Ashley’s face as she is clearly embarrassed at a fact that she knows she SHOULD know and be aware of but because of living in white isolation, she forgets often. Watch carefully as you see Ashley’s face. Just 1 more instance where she does not feel black enough. I can relate to this very much as my A-family was very careless. Due to our skin color they also thought we could not burn in the sun so they NEVER applied lotion to our bodies and yes, we did burn. You could not see it as much but you could definitely feel it.
There is a scene where Ramon and his father are in the car (after the lotion scene). His father Greg tells him that he should not focus on the past or the future but to live in the Here and Now. What he does not understand is that for adoptees, the future is uncertain without us knowing a bit about our past. Focus on how Ramon says “I know dad. I read your book.” This is a poignant scene because it shows that Greg can pack his life into a book whereas Ramon seems to struggle with his foggy and confusing past which cases him to struggle with living in the present. For many of us, our adoptions was a lie. The father wants to fix Ramon’s problems but it is clear as the show progresses that it is not possible.
In the restaurant scene, you will notice Ashley meeting with her dad and she brings A-LOT of lotion. She is clearly embarrassed at not being prepared and is also trying to tell her father something…something he will never understand. I feel like she brings the lotion with her to tell him that he should have taught her to be prepared. At the restaurant, money seems to buy the father’s love.
Focus on 15:38 when Ashley says that she is thankful for growing up around white privilege but she does not think it was “good” in the end. The father defends himself and the family as he says “we tried out best…we introduced you to Liberian culture…” Keep a close eye on Ashley’s response to this. It is so home hitting for international adoptees being raised by people who do not look like them. The conversation sorta ends with Ashley laughing after the white dad tells her she has to report the cop for feeling her up. She says “that right there is the difference between you and the world you live in and the world I live in.”
At around 30:43 Malcom invites the black family over for a “barbecue”. The black father does the barbecuing and Malcom is talking to Ashley over the phone. Focus on her facial expressions as he tells her that they should come over (they are already over) and how uncomfortable to looks. She has already been embarrassed once by the mother/wife, she is reluctant to seeing them again.
A few minutes later, both sets of parents are sitting down and having a chat. The black family asks Ashley what she does and the white husbands thinks it is his place to share what she does. At some point, the black parents give a brief history of Portland. Focus on how clueless Ashley is about the state she lives in and how Malcom seems to know about it’s history. Ashley tells the couple how she wanted to be a History teacher and how from her classes she realized how fashion is change….instead of the issues with History, Ashley focused on fashion. Keep your ears open for when Malcom drops the big bombshell. The one that is used as an excuse as to why Ashley is so ignorant (44:03-45:20).
Can I relate to every scene in this episode? Yes…..on a massive scale. How many times did I try to talk to my APs about what I was going through as a black little girl…how many times was “pray for them” the answer…not…”how did that make you feel?” Things my white siblings could do and get away with were just not things I could ever even try to do. I could list the things they did but I would be here all night and I want to move on to Episode 6.
Episode 6; Fight, Death
The complexities of this episode are numerous. Listen to the conversation between Ashley and her mother at 15:23. Ashley is confronting her mother on the time she didn’t stand up for people of color who were being bullied. Focus on Ashley’s tone and needed to get her point across about her mother being focused on a country, instead of the whole child/adult.
At 18:24 you will see Ashley taking a self-defense class. She is shaken by the way she was treated when arrested with her white sister. She feels this class will help her better manage not just her emotions but also control her responses.
In this episode we also see Ashley approaching a white mother who’s daughter called her daughter “poopy” because of the color of her skin. Focus on the interaction and the encounter. The encounter comes around 32:00. Ashley is very centered but clearly bothered. The way Ashley reacts to her daughter being called “poopy” is clearly white-polite as opposed to actually taking matters into her own hand. Look at the clothing both characters are wearing and watch the interaction to the end. The white mother forces a hug onto Ashley after clearly telling her that her daughter could not have said such things. Ashley feel obligated to hug her.
At around 51:37, Ashley and Malcom sit down to have a conversation. Malcom begins with saying “you got into an argument with Babet” and Ashley is understandably upset that the white lady called the white husband instead of calling Ashley. Malcom asks what happened. Focus on what Ashley says and how Malcom receives the information.
Episode 7: Wake
At about 19:20, Ashley is invited to the black family’s home. She begins to feel comfortable around her people group. She connects to Corey (the man’s) mother. It is clear that she had very few connections such as this one. She stays for dinner and focus on the dinner-talk. Also, focus on what the little girl says about the black family’s chicken (25:35).
In this episode, Duc’s flareups are a direct result of his AP’s dysfunction. The fact that Duc can’t be upfront about what is bother him is causing him to be sick and constantly be on the toilet. By this point, he learns that his father pays an Asian woman for sex and Duc is taking this to mean full disrespect.
At around 54:17, Ashley and Malcom are engaged in a deep conversation about their race and their marriage. Focus on the conversation they both have. Look at how fatigued Ashley is as she realizes her husband will never get it. He will never get the complexities. It’s the Black Lives/All Lives matter issue.
Episode 8: Yes
Ashley feels she needs to apologize to her adoptive mother so she brings an expensive gift with her and a “truce” for the “outburst” Ashley had. Focus on how her mother does not argue with her after she says “peace offering. you are the only mom I have even if you are a white supremacist.” Her mother does not try to defend herself and Ashley is unapologetic about what she says at about 4:40. I find that somehow, money and material things buys the family love.
At about 16:00 you will notice a white man with a Black Lives Matter poster that he plasters on Ashley’s business door. Focus on the dialogue that happens the second this man walks into her store. I find it super interesting how Ashley’s first defense was about private property. Yes indeed he was trespassing and yes he did seem to have an agenda, however, my focus is more on Ashley’s upbringing and how she was taught to respond to these sorts of situations. She is in no way comfortable with this matter. However, had she been been raised understanding her blackness, and embracing her race, she would most definitely have a different reaction.
At 18:23 Duc is really struggling with his father’s infidelity. Not only does he hate that fact that he cheated, but what seems to bother him the most is that he has been spending his entire life trying to be this perfect someone and trying to emulate his father. His father let’s him down big-time and he is spiraling out of control.
The father and the two daughters have a sit-down meal the father cooked. At around 29:09, the adoptee explains to her father and sister that a white man attacked her in her store for turning down a black lives matter poster. Focus on the father’s response and how he completely dismisses the race issue Ashley brings up. Both the white daughter and the father have no idea what it feels like to walk in the black girl’s shoes every day. The father starts in with all of his philosophical stuff. He says “Safety has always been an illusion.” Focus on Ashley’s face when she continues to hear the father say “unfortunately we are….” He puts so much emphasis on how much he thinks they are all “one.”
Episode 9: Dream Logic
Ashley and her sister go to Duc’s book talk and at 25:21 a white man hold Duc’s father’s published book in his hand. He asks him if he has read the book and Duc says “not recently I’ve been a little busy.” The feeling of living in his father’s shadows seems to plague him to the point of not wanting anything to do with his father at all. At 25:31 the man asks “how do you think your father’s work influenced you?” Focus on Duc’s response to this and how he is not really able to answer the question directly. I can for sure relate to this as I always felt that my success was always attributed to my adoptive parent’s saving me. I was a teacher for several years and every time a new parent would put their child in my class, they always mentioned how they knew my father and so on and so forth. No one really liked my adoptive mother but everyone was fascinated with my adoptive father. I could never just be me. I had to be “the child of, the daughter of, the black kid of….” and I never could be an adult to them. They saw me as a perpetual kid, always in need of being saved. I am aware that every child goes through some kind of feeling surrounding the expectations parents have for them and how others see them in light of their parents. However, in adoption, we have two sets of parents and as much as we act and seem more like the adoptive parents, many of us have a longing to know what our actual/real/birth parents were like-did we take on any of their characteristics?
Duc says “I think living only in the present can be a cop-out”. His father focuses so much on the “here and now” hence the name of the show. And Duc is slowly coming to the realization that if we only live in the presence, we may be shutting out what can be improved in the past….to make a better and brighter future.
I find in adoption, adoptive parents tell their adoptees to not worry or think about the past. It is easy to say “we are your parents now” but that does not remove the longing, the curiosity and the desire to know how they got to where they are. Duc says “we are not static….we are the sum total of our actions yesterday, today and tomorrow.” If more adoptive parents encouraged their adoptees to express themselves for yesterday, today and tomorrow, I can almost promise the rate of suicides in adoption would go down.
Duc ends his book talk by saying “living a good life….that’s the goal.” In adoption, adoptive parents need to take in the whole child. Not just the purchase. It’s too easy to keep a receipt because this means that when things go bad, adoptive parents can mentally return the child. Adoptive parents need to throw away the receipt and begin to make other purchases to help the child not become something that can be returned.
Growing up I existed with the thought that I could be returned at any time. I was purchased for 50, 000 dollars according to my adoption papers. I had a large cost on my head. And yet, my therapy bills are close to that cost and where is the help? Am I damaged goods?
At 39:09, Hailey talks a bit about her picture she drew and put on the fridge. Ashley is understandably bothered by how she drew the father and daughter close by and the mother way in the background. Focus on Ashley’s sadness and jealousy.
In this episode we also take notice of Audrey and Greg’s need to understand Ramon more. They begin to search his adoption paper work and Greg soon realizes that the orphanage Ramon was supposedly from didn’t exist. At 47:21 Audrey begins to cry saying “I’m not his mother. I’m not Ramon’s mother.” Greg tries to console his wife by reassuring her that she is. For a split second Audrey puts herself in Ramon’s mother’s shoes. Watch how the father hides his adoption folder in a drawer in the kitchen. We all know this will probably lead to Ramon finding it. Eventually they go to the woman’s house who completed the adoption. You will notice at 43:57 Audrey and her husband begin a real polite conversation with the woman who was in charge of Ramon’s adoption. Focus on the woman’s response to the father when he confront her with her lies. The words are so true. “Don’t look so shocked. As long as there are rich do-gooders, there will be a market for brown babies. …..Keep digging, you might not like what you find.”
I can relate to this scene very much because I found out a few years ago that my mother spent years looking for me. Every time I look at my adoption papers and see the name of another woman as my mother, I am intensely triggered. Intent vs. impact. I’m not saying I was not in need of some help, but all the lies, all the hiding. The fact that my APs didn’t ask my mother for permission but instead faked my identity, is something that is unforgivable. My APs never had to dig, they were the whole that created the pain. When you knowingly taking someone else’s without using proper protocol, you become the problem.
It will be interesting to see what happens when Ramon finds out he was stolen. Will he disown his APs like I have or will he find a way to mend the pain and his broken heart with the knowledge that his mother is also probably looking for him.
At around 54:45 Kristen gets tired of all the “nice” things said about her. For so long she has been trying to find a way to fit in since she is the only “white and plain” child in the family. Her siblings are adopted so she is a bit jealous that they are so exotic. She creates a little celebration to basically…well….celebrate herself. After her boyfriend and she gets beat up on the way home, she comes to a realization that her desire to be someone else is part of the mask and costume she puts on whereas her boyfriend IS who he is. He is not putting on a costume. All her siblings stand up to say something “nice” about her and she gets tired and embarrassed of feeling “different”. Maybe she is getting a glimpse of how the adoptees feel. Focus on what she says about her identities in 55:07. “I tried different identities and I kinda treated it like a game. Like an experiment.”
At the end of the episode, Navid’s dad picks him up after Kristen’s celebration. He is upset that he got beat up while hanging out with Kristen. Focus on what Navid’s dad says around 57:22. He does let his anger get the better of him and almost kills them both but is stopped when he thinks he see’s his mother’s ghost on the street. Meanwhile, Ramon throws his little niece out of the tree-house because he believes the tree-house was on fire.
This episode opens with intense anger as the little girl is being consoled after being thrown about ten feet from the ground. Ramon believes the tree-house was on fire and so he thought that by throwing the little girl out of the tree-house, he could save her. Focus on how the three white family members embrace Ramon. They are clearly upset about the niece/granddaughter but they seem to be more focused on Ramon. Also focus on who the little girl calls out for as soon as she hits the ground.
I’m confused at 3:38 when they are all trying to figure out who will drive. The Hailey’s father says that she needs to be with him. Audrey says that the child needs to be with women “nurturing, healing women.” I wonder if she is insinuating that the masculinity that has been creating problems within her home was not nurturing. Her husband cheated on her, then she had revenge sex, and then Ramon threw the little girl out of the tree house, and then the man Audrey had sex with turned out to be an asshole, Duc is going downhill, and all hell is breaking lose…..Audrey’s thoughts at this moment is that women are the nurturers and healers.
At the hospital Ashley and Kristen get into a “who’s more violent” altercation and it ends with them cussing each other out. Six minutes and one second into the 10th episode Audrey says “you have always resented Ramon. You and Duc both.” Focus on how Audrey says this and Ashley’s response. The mother is not focusing on the fact that her granddaughter just got thrown out of a tree, she is only focusing on Ashley’s response to the situation.
Duc and Greg go in search of Ramon who has once again gone missing. At 11:25 Duc asks his father “how long were you fucking her?” It is important to Duc. Not just the infidelity, but the connection the infidelity had with his past, his memories. Duc is the son of a female prostitute and has constant nightmares about his mother and the men she serviced. Having an adopted father who chooses to cheat on his wife with an Asia prostitute is very significant because Duc has spent the past several years trying to not become his past-his mother. He has stayed celibate in order to not fall into the cycle his mother lived in. And then he is raised with a man who sleeps with someone that Duc connects to his mother. This scene where father and son cus each other out is great. Focus on how Duc describes his surroundings as a child and then focus on how Greg throws in the “saving” trope. I feel they realize at the end that neither are perfect…..once admits it, the other tries to be.
It is tricky with adoption because adoption is supposed to promise a better life for the poor unfortunate child who needed saving. And yet, too often the adoptee ends up in a situation that resembles their past. Too many adoptive parents think that once the child is adopted, that is all that is needed and it is not necessary to continue to seek emotional health for the child. That was the case for me. I’m still in therapy and my APs have never reached out a hand to help pay the bill for emotional struggle. The emotional struggle comes from being separated from my family and the people who brought me into this world. But where I needed and still need intense therapy is understanding why “good” people would willingly traffic a child-leaving her mother to wonder where her child is.
My aunt tells me that my mother never signed any papers. She never gave me up for adoption. She never said “yes” in court. So how did I come to live with the family I was raised with? How did I come to live in a cult-like environment where the one you worshiped was not God, but the mother of the house.
Adoptive parents need to really think about their actions. They need to learn about the adoptee’s culture and raise. They need to be part of the child’s life, not the other way around.
Audrey says at 16:01 “I can’t stop thinking. This is what Ramon’s birth mother felt for over 20 years…”. She is referring to Ramon being lost. Audrey feels some sort of remorse because she has realized that Ramon’s adoption story is indeed not true.
At 33:34 Ashley sits and talks with a representative from Cloth and soon realizes that it is not just her brand they want but they want her black face. They want to add to the diversity of their company. Ashley struggles to balance her workload and her time as a mother. At around 33:43 the lady says “I get to check off 2 boxes.” Focus on how the Asian/White woman explains why she can say she gets to check off 2 boxes. Watch Ashley’s facial expression and her inability to fully comprehend what she may be getting herself into. The woman opposite Ashley says “Ashley, please don’t make this a thing….” policing her feelings of possibly being a “diversity” hire.
Later on in the episode, Duc finally decides to make love to this woman he was wanting to be with but denied himself. For him, he “gives in” to his temptations, losing control. Because for Duc and many other adoptees, it is about control. We try to control every aspect of our lives because as children, we had no control and didn’t choose to be a part of a new/different family. I love the scene at begins at 44:10 not only because I love watching sex in general, but because it shows a side of Duc that he would not let anyone see up until the Finale of the show. Focus on him letting go….and letting himself enjoy the pleasure of being able to do something he denied himself for years.
We see at 45:19 the members at Cloth…all white men, 1 semi-diverse woman and then the obvious diverse woman (because of her name) and then you see Ashley and all her beauty….the only black woman at the table. Focus on the eye contact that is shared between Ashley and Geitha Nyar (I’m pretty sure I spelled her name wrong). Ashley tells Sharon that she needs to call her attorney to look over the contract. Sharon fear that she will look bad if Ashley bags the offer.
The amount of trauma and loss in this show is not lost to those who have gone through major trauma and loss themselves. We see the complexities of adoption right in our faces as we watch each adopted character wrestle through the nuances of not fitting in.
The different stories intertwined here elevates the show in that it demonstrates how each person struggles to really deal with the “here and the now” if they do not know their past.
I did not go into detail about the therapist and his family but it is clear that his trauma stems from being taken from his family, being blamed for doing something he indeed did not do and being abused by the person who raised him in the USA. He believed all his life that his mother loved him but learned in about episode 8 and 9 that she was battling her own demons as well and could not care for him. He deals with guilt, and shame and blames himself for his father and mother’s death. The therapist connects to Ramon in that they both know very little about their childhood and choose to deal with this realization differently. They both seek answers and neither are ready for the truth but are receptive to the path that should lead them to the truth.