This past weekend, I took my family to see the newly released Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Based on the cartoon shorts that were part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Mr. Peabody did not fail to reproduce the hijinks of the original including Mr. Peabody’s puns.
But the movie made us squirm as adults.
In fact, it needs an adoption/foster care disclaimer of NOT SUITABLE
You see, writers of the screen play for the movie made a villain out of an overbearing child services worker. If you know the back story of Mr. Peabody, he is an exceptional dog/scientist/historian/genius who adopts a human boy as his own. In this movie adaptation, an overbearing ideologue of a social worker takes it upon herself to seek to terminate a permanent and legal adoption (something the movie makes quite clear) all because Mr. Peabody and Sherman do not “match.” In fact, Sherman has a bad day at school and bites a fellow student in kindergarten out of frustration thus inserting the overbearing social worker into the story.
Here’s the problem with this:
1.) Any kid who bites might fear being taken away. Let’s face it – you may not have ever had a biter, but the mere idea that a kid-like behavior could result in action and/or intervention from the state with the intent to remove a child may be too much for any kid.
2.) As a parent blessed with kids through transracial adoption, my kids don’t “match.” As they listened to the vitriol from the villain case worker, my wife and I couldn’t help but be frustrated with the manner in which the conversation was presented. Since Mr. Peabody is a canine, he should have had no rights to adopt a boy the social worker intones. How far of a logical step is it for a child with darker skin to think he doesn’t match a parent with fairer skin thus placing him or her at risk of being taken away?
3.) A case manager presented as the “bad guy” can set off kids from foster care or adoption that have been stuck in the system. For some, the case worker may be the person they view as the main “stressor” in life. A movie like this may generate unwelcome challenges.
While we are on the subject, can we all just agree not to make case workers the “bad guy”? I know there are a few examples of over-reach on the part of the state, but in the main, most case workers are over-worked, underpaid and dealing with highly emotional situations day in and out. Despite all of this, they labor tirelessly to help protect children from dangerous situations while striving to help families get back on track and whole.
While the movie may have a few laughs, this dangerous line of reasoning as part of the plot makes Mr. Peabody a tough pill to swallow for adoptive and foster families.
John Mark Yeats