The pile of Academy Award nominations for The Kids Are All Right surprised, well, no one. Between the best picture nod and supporting actor and leading actress nods for Mark Ruffalo and Annette Bening, Kids is on track to win three of the biggest Oscar categories. But the awards show is still weeks away, and we already have a few big winners.
Infertile couples of America and single moms. Because every time Kids is mentioned in the media leading up to the awards, there are two discussions that have to come up. One: the many ways to form a family. In this case, Bening and Julianne Moore play lesbian moms with two kids. Which leads us to discussion number two: Sperm donors. Aka, how two lesbians are able to produce children.
If you haven't yet seen the movie (and really, get out and see it, I loved it), Kids follows Bening and Moore's characters' two children as they seek out their sperm donor dad -- played by Ruffalo -- and come to grips with what role biology plays in parenting. I won't spoil the ending for you, but anyone who has ever met an adopted child knows there's more to being a Mom or Dad than genetics.
And yet there remains a stigma to using reproductive technologies to conceive children -- be it via egg or sperm donation. I recall reading with horror when one infertile dad told USA Today his urologist advised he keep the secret of his swimmers even from his children, the kids conceived with donor sperm. The dad, who went on to write a book, Helping the Stork: The Choices and Challenges of Donor Insemination, to help other families in his situation, had the wherewithal to say no. But his comments were most shocking because he was talking about a medical professional, a man who should have had a scientific rather than an emotional response to such a common problem.
What The Kids Are All Right manages to do in two hours is present America with a working example of the normalcy of raising kids who are not 100 percent genetically related to you while simultaneously offering a look at the mind of a donor. The fear that donors always have some ulterior motive is efficiently blown out of the water.
As Ruffalo, who happens to have three biological children with wife Sunrise, said later, he walked away almost wishing he could have been a donor at some time. A devoted dad, he makes no connection between his genetic material in a cup and the three kids who run around his upstate New York home. Hopefully his acting won't just win him an Oscar but some acceptance for an entire sector of American parents.
Does this mainstreaming of an important issue make it easier for parents?
Image via Amazon