The grotesque manipulation of 'Find My Family'
TV doesn’t get much more manipulative than Find My Family, which premiered last night after Dancing With The Stars. The first episode was a repulsive mixture of aggressive agenda-pushing and teary uplift. The show suggests that every adopted person should want to meet his or her biological parents, and every person who gave up a child for adoption is obliged to yearn to meet that child.
How does the show know? Well, in part because its co-hosts, Tim Green and Lisa Joyner are both adoptees, and as Lisa tells one young woman, “I’m adopted myself, so I know exactly how you feel?” Really? Exactly? I doubt so personal a matter can ever be completely understood by another, especially by two people (interviewer and interviewee) brought together solely by TV.
Find My Family operates a kind of benign blackmail. You can have the FMF team help you locate your long-lost child, but in return, you have to appear on-camera, bare your most intimate feelings, and then go and stand under the show’s jaw-droppingly hokey “family tree” — “a very special place where we bring families together,” says Green. Once there, you must have the first seconds of your reunion filmed.
It was telling that one of the most articulate of the people profiled last night, a grown adoptee in Wisconsin named Jennie, said after being reunited with her birth parents, “I don’t know for sure where things are going to go.”
For a series that’s all about the primacy of tears and emotions over clear-headedness and privacy, it’s a wonder that this mild, restrained comment was edited into the broadcast. “I will be here for you to begin again,” go the lyrics to the sappy theme song of Find My Family. Great. And will you be here a year from now, when some of these people may decide — as a few of them surely will, don’t you think? — that this reunion was a complicated, sometimes troubling and upsetting experience that they may regret was filmed for public peeping?
Did you watch Find My Family?