Friday, June 17, 2011

Kung Fu Panda 2 -- An Adoption Tale?

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

My kids and I saw Kung-Fu Panda 2 today. I didn't expect to love it, but I am a sucker for any martial arts drama, even cartoons. Well, we weren't even twenty minutes into the film when I realized I was going to enjoy this Kung-Fu tale for more reasons than one.

On the surface, this sequel to the original film, where a schlubby panda learns the art of Kung Fu and becomes a local hero, pretty much takes up where the other left off. Po the Panda and the furious five warriors protect China from evil bandits with their Kung-Fu talents. Things heat up when a really bad guy (a very nasty peacock by the name of Shen) decides to take over all of China by destroying his opponents with his new weapon (a cannon) that is stronger than even the mightiest Kung-Fu warrior. But really the movie is about Po discovering that his father (who happens to be a goose) isn't his real father. There's a line where the goose says something like, "I didn't want to have to tell you this, but you're adopted!" The audience is supposed to giggle at this, because well, gee, dad's a goose and he's a Panda, duh.

But the references to adoption and the enormous effect it has on a person's psyche run throughout the film. In fact, while Po is supposed to be saving Kung Fu, he admits that this quest is really about "finding out who he really is." He is adamant, in fact, that he must find his "real parents."

I was truly amazed at how deeply into the psyche of the adopted child the filmmakers went, discussing themes of abandonment, the lifelong scars that cannot be healed from a parent's presumed abandonment, not knowing who you really are until you know where you come from. I'd even say there was a nod to transracial, er rather, trans-species adoption in there too. It was quite profound. At the end, the panda bear decides that even though the beginning of his story was tragic, he had the power to define himself now and not fall prey to his original circumstances. I was quite impressed, although I'm not sure I agree with Po's assessment of how easy it is to redefine oneself. Also, at the very end, we're given a sneak peek at what will obviously be the set-up for Kung Fu Panda 3, which will clearly continue Po's journey to discover who he really is. I don't want to ruin the whole film for those of you who will be forced to watch it with your kids, but Dreamworks obviously wanted to go deep with this movie and elevate it beyond elementary material.

So, all of my adoption advocates and fellow Meltingpot Readers, have you seen Kung-Fu Panda 2? Do you think it does a good job presenting adoption in a positive light? In an honest light? I'd love to hear other people's opinions.

I'm listening.



Jay said...

I love the first one .. that cool that bought adoption.. cant wait to see this .. have great weekend

karen b said...

Thank you for bringing this up. I WISH we would have seen your post before we went. The story of abandonment and birth parents being slaughtered was too much for us and our 6 year old adopted from China. Even the part where Po looks at his father and says 'you are not my real father' was awful. For the age of the likely audience more care could have been taken. We left as soon as we saw the gist of what was going on in his flashbacks. There is too much similarity between his abandonment and the real stories for many of our Chinese born girls. I wish I had known. We are very open with our daughter about all details. But I am not sure she was ready to see these fears displayed in a large, emotionally charged way.