The Corner

Les Misérables, Hugh Jackman, and the Blessing of Adoption

I’m sorry to interrupt the fiscal-cliff garment-rending, but I wanted to take a moment to mention something truly good and beautiful in our recent pop culture. My wife and I finally saw Les Misérables, and — like most NRO writers — we were profoundly moved. One moment stood out more than the others (caution: minor spoiler follows).

When Jean Valjean (played by Hugh Jackman) finally removes the young Cosette from her abusive home, he sings to her as he very gently, very awkwardly caresses her sleeping head. That moment took my breath away. The combination of the words of the song, the adoring yet fearful and uncertain look in Valjean’s eyes, and the tenderness of his gestures showed on the screen the very emotions I’ve struggled to explain since becoming an adoptive parent. What is it like to meet a new child and love her instantly and so completely? Watch the movie, and you’ll get a glimpse of the indescribable joy — combined with awkwardness and uncertainty — of the moment when an adoptive parent first meets his adopted child.  

After the movie, I googled Hugh Jackman and discovered that he is an adoptive parent himself and has very publicly advocated for adoption. I don’t know much else about Mr. Jackman (other than the fact that he’s a very believable Wolverine), but in this regard he is rendering invaluable public service.  A true culture of life in many ways rests on a foundation of adoption — and not just in the literal, legal sense. After all, Christian readers should recognize that each of us has received a “Spirit of adoption” as children of God, and it is that very Spirit that causes us to cry out to our Heavenly Father.  

The results of the election — along with a myriad of other cultural indicators — have reinforced the need to return to first principles, of the need for families to “walk the talk” of the kind of culture we want to restore or create. As an echo of our Savior’s love for us, a spirit of adoption only enriches our culture and our lives, and seeing that spirit so beautifully portrayed on film was a marvelous holiday gift. Well done, Mr. Jackman.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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