Fighting the Foes No Single Superhero Can Withstand

I haven’t seen The Avengers.

I don’t plan to see The Avengers.  Not because of the now-infamous line that has given many in the adoption community significant pause but because it’s simply not a movie I would enjoy.

But it is a movie that my children will probably one day want to see.  They’re young now–too young for a PG-13 experience; but all too soon, given their current penchant for all things superhero, it will be on their short list.

And as their mother, I feel it is my responsibility to think through the line in question.  My sons are adopted.  How they see and feel about themselves is and always will be of paramount importance to me.  And anything that might interfere with their sense of self-worth I question.  I have to.   Any parent would.

The line that has caught the attention of many adoptive parents and adoption professionals amounts to effectively two words: “He’s adopted.”  The character who speaks this line uses it as either a way to explain the violent actions of another character or, as some have suggested, as a way to distance himself from this character.  Either way, it is a line that is supposed to be a joke, supposed to be funny.

In our culture, saying something is “just a joke” seems to grant that something certain privileges, amnesty even, that cannot otherwise be achieved.  Say something offensive in one context and you might get fired; say the same words someplace else, call it a joke, and suddenly you get to peck at anyone who might deign to be offended.   The person offended is suddenly condemned as “too sensitive” or not knowing how to pick his/her battles.   Many people expect comedy to be inappropriate if not offensive and defend its right to be so.   We’re told to “laugh at ourselves” and “learn how to take a joke.”

As a 44-year-old, I know how “to take a joke.”  I can take it in the context it is delivered.  I can run it through my own personal filter; attach it to the schema borne of decades of reading and viewing and observing; form my opinions; and make my final determinations.

Children cannot do this.  Not yet.  And while one can certainly argue that young children should not be viewing a PG-13 film, many are.

Whether a viewer is adopted or not, offended or not, it is comments such as these–joke or not–that contribute to society’s perception of people who are adopted.  Yes, there are plenty of positive representations.  Plenty.  But sometimes it’s the one negative comment–whether about adoption or something else entirely–in a sea of positive that sticks–to your child, to mine.

The Avengers may be garnering attention today, but tomorrow it will be something else.  Here’s hoping that though there is occasionally a misstep along the way that we continue moving forward.

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5 thoughts on “Fighting the Foes No Single Superhero Can Withstand

  1. Back in the “old” days the term adoption had an entirely negative connotation. Prejudice in the US is alive and well. People don’t shed their prejudices easily and it is important that Negroes, gays, Jews, Muslims,–everyone–whose labels have been ridiculed by some slanderous word deserves to know why that label insults, and that representatives of that label continue to own and defend that label against all enemies foreign and domestic…sooner rather than later, in a loving manner,
    Better from you than someone else.
    Peace,

  2. The movie details the story of two brothers, who became brothers through adoption. The adopted brother does, in fact, grow to be evil and there is a point that his brother, in jest, claims “he’s adopted.” However, the underlying heart of the story is that he will not give up on his brother, no matter what. As he repeatedly tells him, “we’re family”.

    Though you may not think you would enjoy the film, it does not seem fair for you to condemn it through one line, if you’ve never seen it. If you had watched it, you might be able to recognize that this is a film that celebrates family and brotherhood, regardless of how that family is created.

    Perhaps a case should be made that this film sends a strong message of loving your family even if they make the wrong choices. It says to stand by your friends, even if you don’t agree with their decisions. It is a movie about unity and togetherness that is not often found in the Hollywood scene. Rather than condemning it over one line, let’s focus on it’s powerful message:

    Family is everything, and you stand by them no matter what.

    • I thank you for your perspective; however, I maintain, as I wrote in this entry, “Yes, there are plenty of positive representations. Plenty. But sometimes it’s the one negative comment–whether about adoption or something else entirely–in a sea of positive that sticks–to your child, to mine.” This movie may have otherwise been a sea of positive; but to this adoptive mother, that was the comment that stuck.

  3. I think that this line has been largely misinterpreted by a lot of people to have a more offensive meaning than the intended one. The context of the scene helps: Thor is vouching for Loki and saying he will stand by him despite his bad actions. When he hears what Loki has done, he backtracks with “He’s adopted.” That line is not meant to explain why Loki is evil, but rather is Thor’s attempt to distance himself from Loki’s actions by explaining that they are not genetically brothers. The humor (at least for me) comes from the lameness of Thor’s cop-0ut, which comes immediately after he argues eloquently (by super hero movie standards) that Loki being adopted doesn’t matter. The line is funny because Thor is caught off guard and does a complete 180 on his opinion with a weak single line that is much shorter and simpler than his usual speeches.

    This is how I interpreted the line and how I think it was meant by the writers. This seems less offensive to me, but I’m not adopted.

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