Tuesday, March 9, 2010

WEtv and The Locator

If you haven’t heard of him, Troy Dunn (AKA “The Locator”), has been on the air via WEtv for some time now. Troy’s entertainment niche is reality TV in which he, as a private investigator, reunites long lost family members through his generous and magical search capabilities. Included among the reunions are those of adoptees and birth parents. If this concept didn’t already make your stomach turn, note that viewer comments to his site laud his selflessness as the reunion services are provided free to on-air participants and given that he is shown on camera walking away from the reunited parties before they can realize he’s departed. Never mind the fact that Mr. Dunn has a completely independent site that provides for-fee search services or the fact that a camera crew bothers to stay behind and video the whole ultra-personal, teary-eyed reunion despite the fact that the main character has walked out of frame.

If you haven’t gathered my opinion on this show from the first paragraph, let me make it plain. I believe Mr. Dunn and WEtv are exploiting the legal plight of adult adoptees for entertainment and profit and I’m quite put off by it. I decided to help the cause by feeding the media beast through a series of posts with which I’d welcome further help.

My first approach was to explain at the show’s viewer feedback blog that Troy should help resolve the cause of adult adoptees’ issue (urging his viewers to advocate state law change to provide adoptees access to their own birth certificates) rather than treating the symptom, of resolving one adoptee’s conundrum at a time. I also approached Troy on Twitter (TheLocator) to make him aware of my post. To his credit he did respond, though, his response indicated the birth certificate access issue was one of politics and not appropriate for his show. From Troy, “I appreciate your suggestions about the show, but I am not going to use the show as a political platform. We have fans from all sides of the political spectrum and I love them all. Reconnecting fractured families is something important to all families, regardless of political persuation(sic). Family is a universal value and THAT is what The Locator show is driving home- the value of family.” My response to Troy was to thank him for the forum and to point out that I wish this wasn’t a political issue – that neither I nor my fellow adoptees had any choice in making it so.
This exchange can be read in its entirety here.(in reverse chronological order – see: “AnOhioAdoptee on October 3, 2009”).

Subsequent to this post, I decided that if the show wouldn’t pursue resolution of the legal issues that actually create a venue for Troy to exploit, that perhaps he would demonstrate his largesse by revealing his highly effective search techniques so that adoptees everywhere could leverage his knowledge without having to pay for information everyone else gets as a birthright. Mr. Dunn never responded. The one-sided conversation can be found here.

My most recent attempt to call out the exploitation was when The Locator was invited to appear on the Oprah show. On both The Locator’s site and Oprah’s, I posted the following:
“I am disappointed that someone of Oprah's integrity would give legitimacy to Troy Dunn. It is hard to understand why the public fails to recognize the exploitation occurring in this man's efforts - especially in the case of adoptions. He continues to provide search services that would be largely irrelevant were it not for the unjust state laws that deny adult adoptees access to their own birth certificates. Please give air time to the root cause of this issue and urge your viewers to support changes to state laws that would restore adult adoptees' birthright: unconditional access to their original birth certificates. ” The Locator site post can be found here and the Oprah site post can be found here(search for “AnOhioAdoptee”). Neither of these posts were responded to or commented on.

I’d like to think that other adoptee rights advocates would avail themselves of this forum that WEtv has provided. They clearly welcome the feedback and if we provide more publicity for the unfortunate shows while making our cause known, I think that’s a fair exchange in the near-term. I welcome thoughts on this. In the interim, The Locator show team has actually provided a new topic asking for feedback on this very point:

Just this week, they created a discussion topic, “Should adoption drama be televised?” which can be found here: http://www.WEtv.com/forums/we-tv-shows/the-locator/should-adoption-drama-be-televised.html.

I encourage my fellow adoptee rights advocates to register and make posts conveying how you feel about the subject as I have done. I also believe we should provide support to each other’s posts and contributions (through ratings and additional comments). In the end, we should make the case that the best use of shows such as The Locator are as platforms to make them obsolete through changes to unjust laws.

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