Adoptors Assemble? [Guest Post] by Vince Preston

Laith has graciously offered to let me borrow his soapbox for a little while. I’d like to thank him for this opportunity.  The following is a response to the comments I’ve read about a petition asking Disney to issue an apology to adoptees for a derogatory comment about adoption in their recent movie: The Avengers. The original article I reference and related comments can be found at Slice of Sci-Fi.

In the interest of full disclosure I’m going to state the following right at the beginning:  I have not seen The Avengers yet.  I am a huge fan of sci-fi/fantasy, the Marvel universe and Joss Wheadon.  I am also a father through adoption.

After seeing this story on my feed reader, I’ve read a number of opinions on the topic and I wanted to share the opinion of someone within the adoption community.  To clarify, the phrase “adoption community” could be viewed akin to “geek culture”.  There are many flavors of adoption just as there are many flavors of geek, but just as in the geek culture there is an overarching commonality of those who are in the adoption community, being touched by adoption.  I hope to provide a little bit of insight into why other members of this community are calling for an apology.  I will also note, that I don’t think that a formal apology is necessary, but I am deeply disappointed by this line of dialog.  Disappointed in Joss.  Disappointed in Marvel.  Disappointed in Disney.

Adoption, unlike creating a family through biological means, creates a whole secondary set of needs and concerns in the upbringing of your child.  This especially becomes a potential issue during adolescence, when a child is most forming their sense of identity.  Aside from the usual tumult of these years, there are added questions about their identity as an adopted person. These questions can have a profound impact on the child as they explore what it means to be adopted, try come to terms with the loss of their birth-family and understand why there were adopted and who they are.  

I’ve hunted down a larger section of the dialog from the scene in question to help me put it into better context.

Bruce Banner: I don’t think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy’s brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.
Thor: I care how you speak. Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard. And he is my brother.
Natasha Romanoff: He killed eighty people in two days.
Thor: He’s adopted.

As an adoptive parent, I think that having more context makes it worse for me.  Thor goes from defending Loki as his brother to distancing himself.  If Thor truly viewed Loki as a brother the fact that they are not birth-siblings shouldn’t have anything to do with his attitude to Loki’s actions.  What Thor is saying by using this deflection to distance himself from his bother is left unsaid, but it is very clear to me.  What Thor is saying is “He’s adopted… what do you expect? Loki is not ‘of us’”.  Loki was born to the Ice Giant’s, an admittedly very evil race in the Marvel universe.  That is the reason that he is evil, not because he is adopted. But how do you explain that to an adopted child watching the movie, who is struggling to form their understanding of themselves? Of what it means to be adopted? The Mighty Thor just said that Loki killed those people because he was adopted.  As an adult, I know and understand the intent behind this line, but a child would not understand the difference between what is said and what is meant.

Adoption creates a case study in Nature vs. Nurture.  In the case of Loki, his nature clearly won, but that is typically not the case in the ‘real world’.  In real world adoptions, the child grows up with a blend of nature and nurture.  Every adopted child is a blend of the birth family (nature) with their genetics and natural abilities and the adoptive family (nurture) with their ethics, personalities, etc.  It is the seemingly black and white attitude that Thor presents in the movie is what has some members of the adoption community upset.

Vince and SonAre there more important things to worry about?  Yes.  But as a fan of the genre, this gives me pause.  As my son grows up, I will want to share my love of this genre with him. But how can I, in good conscience, expose him to this type of an attitude?  I will reserve full judgment until I have seen the movie, but based on that one line, a throw away joke for cheap laughs, I don’t know that I’ll be including The Avengers in the curriculum as I grow my little geek.

– Vince Preston

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2 thoughts on “Adoptors Assemble? [Guest Post] by Vince Preston”

  1. I haven’t seen the movie yet, either, but adoptees are not the only folks who get skewered in popular media (geeky or not). Women and minorities are usually the butt of many jokes. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be concerned about the joke, but that pop culture media often marginalizes somebody at some point.

    I think the writer may have wanted to convey Thor’s possible explanation of why Loki had killed so many? Maybe? Who knows.

    1. Indeed, as I comment over on the Slice post and Vince mentions here, adults are able and _should_ be mature enough to understand the distinctions, children in the audience would not be.

      Had this been a joke revolving around Black Widow crashing a vehicle and “women drivers” it would probably generate equal if not more outrage in certain circles. Unfortunately humor is a finicky thing and many jokes are going to offend someone.

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