If this isn’t a manufactured bit of controversy designed to ride the wave of a recordbreaking movie, then I don’t know what is. An editorial in The Washington Times has called out The Avengers for a “mean and unfunny” joke about adoption, but writer Andrea Poe has completely missed the point.
Poe and other commenters are taking exception with this exchange concerning Thor’s brother Loki:
Black Widow: “[Loki] killed 80 people in two days.”
Thor: ”He’s adopted.”
They claim that this punchline is an attack on adopted children by equating them with death and destruction. Poe reports that parents were upset after taking their kids to see the movie, because their kids came out of the film thinking that adopted kids were somehow bad. She really takes up the campaign, writing,
The hope now is, of course, that enough media attention has been brought to this unfortunate episode in this blockbuster movie that such blatant ignorance and bias won’t turn up again.
Sadly, that hope is unlikely to match reality anytime soon. Far more likely, this line is likely to be joined by many other offensive, stupid, callous jokes in future.
Hollywood has increasingly become a place filled with writers who are insulated and isolated from mainstream America and who find sophomoric bullying humor that wouldn’t be tolerated in a middle school as a pathetic excuse for a career.
Sounds like someone’s got a chip on her shoulder. There’s even a petition on Change.org called “Marvel Comics – Apologize to the Adoption Community!” Seriously. Poe goes so far as to suggest that if you replaced “adopted” with “Jewish” or “black,” the joke wouldn’t have made it past the first draft.
That’s true, but there’s a huge chunk of the story that everyone is overlooking: No one has quoted the movie correctly. Here’s the actual exchange—paraphrased because I saw the movie two weeks ago, but accurate in tone:
Thor: “Don’t go insulting Loki, he’s my brother, we were raised together, etc.”
Black Widow: ”He killed 80 people in two days.”
Thor: “He’s adopted.”
The “he’s adopted” punchline shows us that Thor has enough of a sense of humor to correct himself, and that he’s distancing himself and all of Asgard from Loki’s treachery. If anything, Loki should be celebrated as a nuanced study in the adoption narrative: Partway through Thor, he learns that his father has hidden his true parentage from him, and suffers a crisis of identity from this discovery. Doesn’t sound like the writers glossed over this dramatic arc at all.