Last week, the Hubster and I went to see the Best Man Holiday. Let me tell you. I LOVED it. I’m not sure if it was nostalgia or just plain giddiness about seeing
slightly older and much, much wealthier versions of me and my friends. I could have a whole in-depth conversation about this movie so hit me up if you want to meet up for happy hour or want to do a Google Hangout. This blog is specifically focused on its treatment of infertility and missed opportunities to highlight adoption and specifically foster care adoption. Disclaimer: So if you haven’t seen it and reading about themes and events in the Best Man Holiday will mess it up for you, feel free to check out my archives. *wink*
The original Best Man movie centered on a reunion of college friends and ended with the engagement of Harper and Robin and the wedding of Lance and Mia. The Best Man Holiday takes place fifteen years later and the characters are now well into their careers and family lives. Robin and Harper are expecting a child and their back story reveals struggles with fertility issues and multiple miscarriages. I’m sure many women can understand Robin’s feelings of blame for her previous miscarriages. Couples can also relate to the numbing fear that comes with carrying a baby to term after multiple mishaps. It is so healing for many of us, myself included, to see our stories reflected back on television and in movies. It lets us know that our experiences are valid and that we are not alone. It is unfortunate though that fertility issues have become so prevalent that it is becoming such a mainstream conversation. Sidebar: Are there more stories showing black families and infertility or do I just notice because I’m in my mid-thirties and can relate better?
Later in the movie, the player of the group, Quentin, jokingly confronts Harper with the possibility that Robin’s fertility problems could be the result of Harper’s low sperm count. Harper denies that he is the reason but does not give any other explanation. A few moments later Quentin asks him the same question again. He reassures him that it is okay to have this problem and he doesn’t quite know how to handle it because one rarely hears about brothers having fertility issues. Harper denies it again.
A couple of things about this situation. First, the rudeness is real. When people find out you have fertility concerns, they want to know what and in particular, who, caused it. Part of their curiosity is concern but it’s mostly straight up being nosy. There was no reason for Quentin to ask that question – repeatedly. That notwithstanding, I appreciate the filmmakers choice in having Quentin ask the question in a joking manner. In a true –to-live situation, this would give Harper the ability to back out of the conversation with his emotions and manhood still intact. I also appreciate the acknowledgement that stories about black men with fertility issues are rarely heard and addressed. However, his lack of knowledge did not require Harper to school him using his own life as a lesson.
Secondly, the fertility question was asked in the middle of a conversation about Harper’s lack of recent success and inability to provide financially for his family. Adding in the possibility of male factor infertility seemed like a shorthand way to show how low Harper had fallen. He used to be a top-selling, Oprah- celebrated author and now he is broke AND shooting blanks. How pathetic, right? Including these subjects in the same conversation made it almost impossible for Harper to feel comfortable revealing his fertility issues and reinforced the thought process that not being able to father a child is less manly than having children that you can’t provide for. Unfortunately this was a missed opportunity to provide black men a relatable model of male infertility – one that is handsome, young, relatively successful, married to a beautiful woman and positively handling a physical issue that is out of his control.
Moving on. Lance and Mia now have a small tribe of four children. The oldest two children were chocolaty brown and cute and look like they actually could be the offspring of Lance and Mia, who are two brown-skinned African-Americans. The youngest two were the cutest little biracial children you could ever see. In the family picture, they just looked…different. Two of those children were doing their own thing. Imjustsayin’.
When I saw these cute little cherubs, I assumed they were adopted. And since they were clearly siblings, they MUST have adopted them from foster care as a sibling group. Yep, I made up an entire subplot of the movie and was just waiting for how they were going to reveal this. The movie received a serious side-eye from me when Lance said that he had been present for the birth of all four of his children. Not only because that was a serious suspension of disbelief but because they missed an opportunity to show a unstereoptypical version of foster care and adoption.
When I talk to my friends and colleagues about what the Hubster and I are doing, we get a LOT of questions. Most of them are because they have very limited experience with anyone involved in the foster care process. For most of my friends, the only foster parent they know is an older retired lady (single or widowed) at church or down the street that takes in foster children for money. The only children in foster care that they have seen are out of control with extremely bad behaviors.
Lance and Mia really could have provided a different face for foster care. They were wealthy, college-educated and would have no incentive to participate in foster care for the money. Their children, all four of them, were the best behaved children ever. The Hubster even commented on it because he didn’t believe any child could sit still and watch a whole football game. I would have loved to see some people, even if they fictional and on-screen, that I could refer others to in order to provide a contrast to the ideas that they hold.
So to reiterate, I love, love, loved the movie but would really enjoy more movies that flesh out the issues of infertility, foster care, and adoption in a black cultural context. I’m sure it’s coming.