It’s been a week since I touched this blog – believe it or not, I sometimes have better things to do – and when I fired up WordPress, I imagined the recent success of The Avengers would be a decent excuse to share a quick thought on The Hunger Games I’ve been sitting on for far too long.
As it turns out, this is not that post.
When I googled ‘The Avengers’ ‘the avengers’ to find reference to the fact that it is now the highest-grossing movie of 2012 – and enable my admittedly-nebulous link to the more-recent release – I instead came across a post on the The New York Times ‘Motherlode’ blog titled That ‘He’s Adopted’ One-Liner in ‘The Avengers’? Not Funny. And since it was marginally more contemporary, I decided to postpone my aforementioned note on The Hunger Games. Straight to an excerpt:
I have never walked out of a movie before. But last weekend, I walked out of “The Avengers.” This popular film has largely received positive reviews, touted by many critics as the director Joss Whedon’s funniest flick. The best one-liner? According to some, it’s from the hero Thor regarding his brother Loki:
Thor: He is of Asgard and he is my brother!
Black Widow: He killed 80 people in 2 days.
Thor [deadpan]: He’s adopted.
It was the biggest laugh line in the movie theater yet. As an adoptee and comic book fan, I sat in the dark theater stunned. I thought of the 12- and 13-year-olds whom I had just seen file into the theater with their parents. Were any of them adopted children as well? Were any of the adults, like me, a member of an adoptive family? Was everyone laughing, or did it just sound like everyone? Shaken, I turned to my boyfriend and politely told him I wanted to leave.
The author, Jessica Crowley, goes on in this vein for, well, the whole post:
As more and more Americans seek to build their families through domestic and international adoption, why did a joke about adoption play so well? And if it played so well here in the U.S., will it play even better in other regions in which adoption is not as socially or culturally accepted? No doubt, some will think adoptees are overreacting. But what does this mean for adoptees, and perpetuating the stigma surrounding adoptee status?
Now, I’ll be totally honest. I haven’t seen The Avengers. In fact, I haven’t even seen the vast majority of the Avengers’ eponymous releases: I haven’t seen Iron Man. I haven’t seen The Hulk. I haven’t seen Iron Man 2. I haven’t seen Black Widow. I haven’t seen Captain America. I haven’t seen Iron Man 3. The only one of these I have seen is Thor, and only because it was playing on a long flight and Natalie Portman. And not having actually seen it in context, I’m not qualified to judge whether the line Crowley finds so upsetting is actually funny.
But I also don’t think it takes a superhero expert to realize that walking out was probably an overreaction (even Crowley predicted this would happen). She manages to read the ‘joke’ as a knock on adoptees in general, when it’s pretty clear that Thor only intends to distance himself from his brother’s deeds; establishing a dearth of shared genetic material is one good way to do that.
Speaking of ‘dearth’, imagine if the line went: “Luke – I am your adopted father.” More like: The Empire Slaps Back Weakly. Nurture is obviously important, but when it comes to the gods, so is nature.
All that, based on only 18 words of the movie’s dialogue. So tell me, what is it about adopted people: do they have poor hearing comprehension or just lack a sense of humor?