Inglorious Bastards.

Inglorious. How have I not made the connection before? How have I not made the connection between the present day child in care, parentless, institutionalised or fostered, and Superheroes when throughout 20th and 21st century they are featured as the heroes and heroines of so many major commercial blockbuster films and books?

Superman the all American hero was a foster child. Pippa longstocking, the Swedish rebel girl, was parentless. Bronte’s Jane Eyre was orphaned and Dicken’s Oliver Twist so too Moses who probably holds the most famous story of a foster child. The list is endless. For contemporary examples you needn’t look far either: Harry Potter was a foster child, Lisbeth Salander from Steig Larsson’s phenomenal millennium series was institutionalised and fostered.

In the face of the evidence how have we not made the connection between present day children in care, those who need to know it the most, and their illustrious past? Taking into consideration, the success of the aforementioned books and films – including The Bible – and that the latter are mere children can you tell me how and why the connection has not been made and then celebrated, studied, written about? Whether instinctive, academic, political or personal I would love to know.

4 thoughts on “Inglorious Bastards.

  1. Yayyyyy! You're the only person, other than myself and the wonderful James Boswell, himself an adoptee, who I've seen make this link. Meanwhile, make this
    and see that just today, I put a tribute to him on my blog.
    I LOVE this coincidence of going to the same place today! But orphaned or – as Boswell calls them Exposed children, because we do still have parents – know all about coincidences leading us places.
    He died in the 1980s but he left a book The Kindness of Strangers, which celebrates this connection with all the heroes of literature. I'm doing a Phd and my essay incorporates this look at literature. In fact, before the 20th Century it seems almost all heroes are orphans. Tom Jones, Moll Flanders, all the cornerstones of literature. And now? Mostly orphans appear as screw-ups…the ones who are damaged enough to be the murderer. It's complacent, conformist hack writing that's a problem for the looked-after and cared for kids now.
    OOH I'm excited by this. If anyone can spread the word, Lemn, you can. And thank you.

  2. just one more thing…in my opinion, the devaluing of orphan-specialness in our culture seems to coincide with the sealing of adoption records. At first you get all the great American Superheroes and then the focus shifts, the origins are seen as the past. The emphasis is on being rescued from 'other' or nasty, rather than being special in the first place. Just a theory. I promise not to stalk this page any longer!!

  3. Do you mean that we have all made the explicit link that young people in care are central to the literature and movies in popular culture, past and present?
    I'm glad you connect with this and I took a look at your blog. Superheroes in care is something I've been banging on about for some years now.
    But more to the point is the question why has our society not made the correlation?

  4. yes, I guess that's what I meant – the explicit ink. I hadn't realised you'd been on it for years, sorry. Thanks for going to my blog.
    As for society…hmm. I don't think society cares, a lot of the time. If we did, it wouldn't be so acceptable for orphans or fostered children to be the scapegots in adult drama so often? In children's drama, still, the heroes are all free of parents and so they can nip through reality in a way that parentally confined children can't.
    I'm busy tracing the roots of society's attitudes towards 'exosed' or 'found' children. At the moment, I'm learning from Boswell again, that in ancient society, aka the model for ours, the slaves were more often than not, abandoned children. And kids were so commonly abandoned that there were plenty of enslaved people.
    Zipping forward in history I'm thinking about all the kids who were sent to Australia and Canada and South Africa from England, and how the expectation of the people caring for them was that they would work, not have a childhood. There's something in this history, in the expectation that a child put out of doors has to be of use to someone, that could be the unconscious source of a lot of orphan-shame, I think. Shame gets in easily when you have no mum to protect you and you find yourself dependent of the kindness of strangers…does for me, at least. Have you read Clarissa Pinkola Estes? Or listened to The Stone Child, one of her audio-books. She was adopted. She is SO good to listen to. So interesting on the psychology of the 'unmothered'.
    As for today, maybe children in care are also carrying the disowned parts of the much vaunted but creaky family system. The bits that don't work. Can't transport them overseas any more and forget about them for the time being. SO perhaps 'problematising' them rather than celebrating is a way of disowning? Society isn't always particularly conscious, it doesn't like to own its own stuff. My personal journey has often been about sloughing off the labels and low expectations that I came with, as a toddler, to my adoptive parents.
    How would it be if adult society started celebrating the power of orphan-children released from the confines of parental tethering? The originality? The unruly magic? I heard you tell your story and I heard that unruly magic. If we said, it's great that this person was given up as a child, s/he became intuitive and resourceful and made a huge contribution to society because (not inspite of) the fact that s/he was given up. Perhaps women would run around getting laid and giving up kids all the time if we started celebrating bastards and honouring them! Then where would we all be (smile).
    So I don't know the answers but I think about it a lot at the moment and I'm always interested in what you have to say.

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