Almost like clock-work, when Hollywood rolls out a movie or features episodes on prime time TV about youth in foster care and orphans, there are almost always negative images and stereotypes promoted on the screen. Within the last few years, the images of foster kids have gotten more blatant and increasingly disturbing.
Gone are the days of characters like Harold Gray’s, Little Orphan Annie, where the personality of the kid is actually depicted as positive, despite childhood adversity. Foster youth and orphans are now characterized by being either extremely delinquent, overly dysfunctional, criminals, murderers, or some combination of these. Between movies like Orphan and Mama from the big screen, images of these youth can be viewed as attention deprived, unloved, animalistic people who are involved somehow in a murderous plot. Yes, MURDER! Even Life Time’s 2009 popular movie, America, starring, Rosie O’Donnell and Philip Johnson, featured a main character that committed some type of “insidious act” that hints towards killing his abuser. Ironically, America promoted awareness of the plight of foster children in America! Most recently, Universal Pictures multi-million dollar box office hit, Ride Along, starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart, features a main character whose foster care back ground has produced a hardened and distrusting personality, which lands him in a life or death situation by the end of the film.
Also, popular TV shows like, Law and Order: Criminal Intent and Criminal Minds, have featured episodes where foster youth have been represented as incredibly violent people who go on killing sprees. In addition, in HBO’s, The Wire, these youth are shown as being delinquent, drug dealers, and misguided!
Of course, in an attempt to keep the scales a bit balanced, the ABC Family drama, “The Fosters,” which has recording artist and actress, Jennifer Lopez as Executive Producer, appear to lend a more “credible” representation of youth who experience foster care. But even the characters portrayed in this drama are hyper-dysfunctional teens!
Certainly no one can solely blame Hollywood or any other media entity for the gross misrepresentation of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. They are simply one piece of a massive puzzle that contributes to negative views of foster kids and orphans around the world. But if it was left up to Hollywood, the future of wayward youth would be completely hopeless at best. What would it take for Hollywood to depict more realistic images of these youth? The answer to this question remains unclear, but in the real world, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that flowery images and positive representations don’t always equate to box office sales nor prime time TV views!
America. Sony Pictures. (2009)
Criminal Minds. “Safe Haven.” Season 6 Episode 5. (2010)
Law and Order: Criminal Intent. “To the Bone.” Season 5 Episode 20. (2006)
Mama. Universal Studios (2013)
Orphan. Dark Castle Entertainment. (2009)
Ride Along. Universal Pictures (2014)