Beverly Hills, 90210: Steve Sanders and the Spring Dance Adoption Meltdown
Its my birthday and I'll push my friends away if I want to.
Nobody I know who was raised on shows like Beverly Hills, 90210 seems to remember the Steve Sanders adoption storyline, which is wild to me. It wasn’t just mentioned once or twice, there was a whole plot line running throughout the show revolving around his dysfunctional family life (he even looks for his biological mother later on in the series). I wasn’t allowed to watch growing up, so when I was under-the-weather a few months ago, I decided to catch up on Hulu.
I’m not going to lie, until the ‘Spring Dance’ episode appeared at the end of season one, I didn’t think very highly of Steve. He was drunk at inappropriate times, womanizing a little too hard for a teenager, reckless, annoying and oftentimes mean. This opinion might offend some of my subscribers to read, but that tracks. Adoption is traumatizing and traumatized people often engage in harmful behavior. Not only was Steve adopted, following his parents divorce his father didn’t claim him as his son and his mother became largely absent due to her filming schedule as a famous actress. The character profiles the writers developed for both of Steve’s “parents” makes sense to me also.
I loved how the writers revealed Steve’s origin story. He’s at the high school spring dance with his friends and his boy Brandon starts getting close with his ex-girlfriend Kelly. It happens to be Steve’s birthday (which he acknowledges as a day he struggles with) and Kelly had been the only person he opened up to about his adoption. Kelly wasn’t being sensitive to his emotional needs on that day, so Steve copes with feelings of abandonment and betrayal by lashing out. A drunken confrontation with Brandon ensues in the hallway over the situation and Steve shares his story with the audience. Steve was triggered and had some sort of episode that I feel many non-compliant adoptees with negligent parents will understand. If my memory serves me correctly, something similar happened to me at a school event freshman year.
Here is the best video I could find online. Fast forward to 1:20 to get to the relevant parts.
Let me know what you think about this character interaction in the comments below!
Edit: I forgot to mention that Steve is a late-discovery adoptee (LDA). While there is no good time to tell someone they are adopted, many people in the adoptee community would prefer to have been told upfront about their relinquishment. There is an added layer of trauma when LDA’s find out they are a part of a kinship situation and the people in their family are playing roles in their lives that are not grounded in truth. For example, learning you have been adopted by your grandparents and simultaneously finding out as an adult that your sister is in fact your mother. I’ve never heard of a case where that ends well.