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‘Avengers’ Joke Does Impact Kids Waiting For Adoption

‘Avengers’ Joke Does Impact Kids Waiting For Adoption

on May 11, 2012 | 13 comments

A joke about adoption in “The Avengers” has drawn strong reactions from adoptive families and professionals.  Loki, the adopted son of Odin, is the villain of the movie.  Thor, who is Loki’s brother, makes a joke about Loki.  When a fellow Avenger Black Widow states that Loki has “killed 80 people in two days.”  Thor replies, “he’s adopted.”  Thor’s comment plays upon a stereotype and negative perception in our culture about adopted children.  The stereotype is that adopted children are “bad” children or become adults who commit acts who hurt other people.

While individuals will argue that adoption advocates are being too sensitive about the comment, I want to share with you from the perspective of a child waiting for adoption.  I have worked for nearly twenty years with children and adolescents who have been abused by their birth parents.  These children and adolescents have been the victims of violence, not the perpetrators of violence.  Yet these children and adolescents blame themselves for being the victims.  They frequently believe that they were abused because of who they are or what they did.

A significant number of these children do not  return to live with their birth families and have their parental rights terminated.  Once their parental rights are terminated, most of these children become available for adoption.  During the time they are waiting for the courts to decide if rights will be terminated and for an adoptive family to be found for them, these children live in an emotional and relational limbo.

One of the consequences of this time of relational limbo is that foster kids believe that they are “bad” kids and no one wants them.  The longer kids wait for adoptive families, they more depressed and despondent they become because they believe they are unwanted and unlovable.  Despite the efforts that foster parents and professionals make to help these kids feel loved and wanted, there is no way to match the therapeutic impact that occurs when a child is “chosen” by an adoptive family.

The joke in “The Avengers” just confirms for children waiting for adoption their perception that they are unwanted, unlovable, or different.

I don’t want an apology from Marvel for the joke.  The reality is that comics have overwhelming portrayed adoption as a positive experience in their storylines about superheroes through the years.  Superheroes have swept aside the stigmatism of adoption for many years telling the stories of adopted superheroes who represented good and try to champion worthy causes.   The entertainment industry has for years made jokes at the expense of stereotyped groups.

I want a joke about adoption in “The Avengers” to create enough media stir that everyone becomes more aware of the impact of adoption on children and the need for foster and adoptive families in this country.  Let’s talk about how the joke impacts foster children and adopted children.

Then let’s do something to make life better for foster or adopted children.  Let’s make a donation to a adoption or foster care group.  Let’s babysit for a family with foster children.  Let’s buy pizza for kids in foster care.  Let’s become foster or adoptive parents.  Let’s use the laughter from a joke to make a change for the better.


  1. We recently took our family to see this movie (two of our kids were adopted, through foster care). I’ve got to admit, that my first response to this line in the movie was that I found the humor in Thor trying to distance himself from his brother’s (because, Thor does recognize Loki as his brother) wicked actions. Immediately, however, I wondered how my children, specifically my 10-year son (who chose to see this movie for his birthday), would react. I was a little disappointed at the seeming insensitivity, but my son never questioned it, although I haven’t asked him about it as of yet.

    I say all of this to simply say that I appreciate your perspective on this, Dr. Robinson. I appreciate that you are not making more or less out of this one statement, but rather, putting into the perspective of reminding us all to be aware of how these precious children perceive their world. From one foster mom to another, I say, great article!

    Trish Barbarick

    May 11, 2012

  2. Thank you for posting this article. You are confirming what adult adoptees have been saying this week. We are tired of being the butt of jokes. The main-stream media, especially TV, doesn’t get it.

    You bring up a very good point: children are the most vulnerable. They suffer the most in their developing sense of self.

    Me, as an adult, when I saw the movie and heard the laughter after the comment “he’s adopted”, my heart sank. This is definitely an insult to adoptees everywhere. It doesn’t matter how many “statistical poles” show that the general public’s opinion is that adoptees and adoptive parents are “too sensitive”, what matters is that the silent victims of this verbal slam will continue to be viewed as inferior because they are adopted, and therefore, defective. Our bad blood, our known or unknown heritage, our status of being adopted itself, has tainted us.

    Truth is, we are people, too, and we come from a wide variety of backgrounds in our natural families. Whatever circumstances that led to our relinquishment and adoption, whatever our true blood ethnicity is, we should be accepted and respected as human beings.

    You are so right: turn this negative perception into positive action.


    May 12, 2012

  3. It’s time to pass laws that protect children from the process of adoption that strips them of their rights to their own birth records, heritage, ethnicities, and cultures. It’s time to pass laws that protect father’s rights in adoption so that children are not needlessly separated from their fathers because of hidden babies.


    May 12, 2012

  4. “The joke in “The Avengers” just confirms for children waiting for adoption their perception that they are unwanted, unlovable, or different.”

    But does it? The joke itself was the equivalent of Thor making a big deal about them being close, then responding to the mention of Loki’s crimes “…ah but we weren’t that close really” – it’s the denial that’s funny, not the fact that Loki actually was adopted.

    Clearly some adopted people have seen the joke differently, as an attack on adopted people (as seen in comments all over the web), but lots of them have not (also seen all over the web)

    “Let’s talk about how the joke impacts foster children and adopted children.”

    Why not talk to adopted and foster children or let them talk, rather than post your own opinions on the web?


    May 15, 2012

  5. So I suppose everyone missed the line directly before the offensive line where Thor defends Loki by calling him his brother? Did everyone miss the part where Thor speaks to Loki on the hillside, speaking to him as his brother, reminding him of all the times they spent together regardless of his ‘true’ parentage? Or has everyone chosen to focus on the two words that someone can construe and bend out of perspective to sound cruel and targeting?


    May 15, 2012

  6. *sigh* Could one joke really make adoptees feel they are unloved, when through the rest of the movie Thor affirms his relationship to Loki and attempts to reason with him? Like the first time the two meet, Thor talks about “their father”. When Loki indicates Odin is not his father, Thor made it clear that he felt that they are still brothers.


    May 15, 2012

  7. What?! I was adopted as a young child, and I must say, it was in no way offensive to me! I think too many people just look for a reason to complain.


    May 16, 2012

  8. I am sorry that this joke *may* have offended adopted children, adopted adults or those that support them. We will correct this mistake and remove any story where adopted children are misrepresented as rising up and being nothing short of amazing.

    So say good bye to Peter Pan, The Lion The Witch and Wardrobe, The Boxcar Kids, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Superman, Batman and Robin, Spiderman, etc.

    It’s not like one joke is going to wipe out a convention we’ve seen in literature for years. Children empathize almost instinctively towards characters that are abandoned and or adopted. We want to help them, support them and cheer for them.

    The very community that fostered this joke, the comic book world, has never done anything to support adoptions. Sorry about that. 😉


    May 17, 2012

  9. I understand stereotypes are harmful, however if we are all this sensitive to them there would be no unrest. My question is why are parents allowing children under the age of 13 to watch this movie? Parents become angered at the producers, however the producer put an age restriction on the movie as a warning. So why is the joke and movie being blamed for a parents poor choice to allow a child that is unable to understand the joke see this movie that is rated PG 13?


    May 24, 2012

  10. I accidentally stumbled across this discussion. I was adopted and never once did I associate Loki with myself. I guess I was supposed to? That sucks. I don’t kill people.


    May 27, 2012

  11. “The stereotype is that adopted children are “bad” children or become adults who commit acts who hurt other people.”

    I wasn’t even aware that this was a stereotype that existed. To me the joke meant that he had some issues to deal with/was troubled. That’s not the same as being a bad person, even if he did bad things.


    October 28, 2012

  12. Kal-El was adopted.


    November 16, 2012

  13. I totally see what Dr. Robinson is saying. And, I think it’s funny how many people are complaining she took the joke “out of context” by taking her statement out of context. Not to mention ignoring her obvious good work with kids and knowledge in this area.

    Even if I see “holes” in her argument I think I’ll side with her expertise on this one.

    Or maybe I just don’t like Marvel comics or the Avenging Team. hahaha

    Noel Green

    December 18, 2012


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