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.