PANAMA CITY, Fla., May 17, 2012 — The lame joke at the expense of adopted kids in the movie The Avengers isn’t just mean, it’s something perhaps worse: unfunny.
The Avengers has scored big at the box office. However, it has fallen flat with an increasingly number of child advocates across America. The reason? This exchange in the film:
The Black Widow character says, “[Loki] killed 80 people in two days.” Then Thor, Loki’s brother, replies, “He’s adopted.”
Ha, ha. That’s the laugh line. Whether you have a child who is adopted or not, the fact is the line just isn’t that funny.
Outrage is ping ponging across the blogosphere, raising the ire of adoptive parents in particular.
Some parents who took their children to the movie now report online that their kids were stunned that being adopted was somehow “bad.” These parents say they had a lot of explaining to do to wash away the stain — and in some cases, pain — caused by the line.
There’s even been a new Change.org petition, “Marvel Comics - Apologize to Adoption Community!” which calls for Marvel Comics to apologize for the offensive joke and pledge not to do it again.
The fact is that the line would be horrible and insensitive no matter what type of film it was in. But in a film aimed at kids, many of whom are still grappling with their place in their families and communities, this goes to a whole new low.
Want proof of just how bad that line is?
I like to do something I call “the substitution game,” whereby if I want to check whether or not a line is acceptable I simple swap out whatever word I have questions about with either the words “Jewish” or “African American.” If the line sits well using both of these, the line passes the test.
So let’s try that here to find out if people would think the line was so funny if these words were used instead of “adopted.”
So here we go:
The Black Widow character says, “[Loki] killed 80 people in two days.” Then Thor, Loki’s brother, replies, “He’s Jewish.”
Ugh…awkward, isn’t it? Doesn’t seem quite so funny.
OK, let’s try again:
The Black Widow character says, “[Loki] killed 80 people in two days.” Then Thor, Loki’s brother, replies, “He’s African American.”
Thud. Not funny, right?
The use of either “Jewish” or “African American” in place of “adopted” in this line wouldn’t have made it past the first draft of a script, let alone actually have been shot by a major studio.
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.
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