Has everyone had the chance to see The Avengers yet? I sure hope so - it's pure escapism at its finest. Critics and fans agree that it's a must-see for the summer, so I won't take any more time participating in the crowded online circlejerk.
We all know that the film shattered box office records in its opening weekend, and its second weekend in theaters wasn't that bad either. If the ending scenes didn't give enough of a hint that a sequel is in the works, Disney has already confirmed it. Tony Stark is awesome, Scarlett Johansson tight suit, HULK SMASH - ok all of this is awesome. But there's a small chink in Captain America's shield, if you will, and it comes from a group of adoption advocates upset with a particular joke from the film.
I'm sure you remember what joke I'm referring to. I mean, you must have been so overwhelmigly offended that you've spent the last few days steaming about it. Ok, just in case you let a harmless joke go by and lose itself in the perpetual intensity of the film as a whole, I'll remind you [possible spoilers, but not really].
During one of the rare but brilliant comic interludes in the action, Black Widow makes a point to say that the film's villain, Loki, had "killed 80 people in two days." Avenger Thor (and Loki's brother) quickly replies that "he's adopted." You know, to separate himself from the bad actions of his brother in a lighthearted, harmless way...oh wait controversy.
An official petition on change.org has been created by Jamie Burke, longtime About.com "Deafness guide." That petition demands that Marvel apologize to the adoption community for the joke. Here are some snippets from the petition:
Marvel Comics - with one line that you carelessly failed to edit out of the script for the Avengers movie, you have insulted adopted children, adult adoptees, and adoptive parents!
Sooo..according to your scriptwriter, the fact he was adopted is the reason he is a bad guy!
Being adopted is NOT something to use for the butt of jokes! Marvel, immediately cease using adoption as the butt of jokes AND issue a public apology to the adoption community!
Furthermore, you have to consider how children think. A child doesn't know the history of Thor and Loki. Plus, a child does not understand context the same way adults do. A child who is adopted only hears those lines above. So the child thinks to themselves, "I'm adopted. The bad guy was adopted too. Does that mean I am bad too?" One parent actually posted a comment along these lines on a certain forum, stating that their adopted child had actually made a very similar statement after seeing the movie. This statement is now posted under petition updates.
The petition also directs you to some bloggers who are incensed about the joke as well. One blogger writes:
Thor's flippant "He's adopted" comment could easily be better. Most likely a better line would have been "He's my brother, though he was adopted and his background was from those who are worse than us." Shows his love, but also his distaste for Loki's actions. Probably would have taken all of a minute to deliver that line. For those who have or haven't seen the Thor movie, that's still a good and neutral line.
When describing their reaction to the scene, another blogger writes:
I missed the next 15 minutes of the movie because I was seething. Joking about adoption isn't funny. Joking about being adopted isn't funny. Making fun of a late discovery adoptee is especially not funny.
There's also a thread on the Disney forums if you're interested.
One parent says that his daughter didn't get the joke. Here's her line of thinking, according to him:
Are people laughing because they think adopted kids are bad? Am I bad?
I've prepared myself for the accusations of insensitivity, so here goes:
Really, guys? Really?
So, in writing The Avengers, Joss Whedon took the time to make a sweeping statement: Being adopted means you're a bad guy. You're sure that this insignificant line couldn't have simply been Thor trying to differentiate himself from the appallingly terrible decisions of his brother.
Or, you know, a joke.
I'll save everyone the broad, sweeping generalizations like "we're all giant crybabies," because some things really are offensive and it's true that some people can be insensitive to certain groups - even if they aren't actively trying.
But all this kind of shallow demand does is lessen the impact of the truly insensitive stuff that people say everyday. If people keep crying wolf when it comes to taking offense, it will just continue to dilute our collective response when someone is genuinely hurt by something in our media or pop culture.
Apparently, some in the adoption community tend to agree:
"As an adoptee (now an adult) I would like to add my voice to this and say that you do not speak for me. You do not represent me, and I find this kind of evocation of nameless children for your own petty and bitter purposes to be vile exploitation," writes Shannon Cuttle on the petition page. "I find this humorless attitude, which serves no purpose but to calm the egos of insecure people who have no concept of context, greatly offensive."
This isn't the first time in recent memory that an adoption joke has caused controversy. Last year, a North Carolina dad publicly criticized the game Portal 2 for a few choice in-game quips. So this isn't an isolated event. Hell, who am I kidding. People are going to get offended about anything and everything. But this outrage is so magnificently misguided that it stands out. I mean, it makes going full retard seem like a prosecutable hate crime.
Maybe I just fail to see the harm where there is some. If you found this joke offensive and truly believe that the filmmakers owe the adoption community an apology, please sound off below.