My thoughts on the “He’s adopted” line from The Avengers/I’m an Angry Adoptee

Multiple folks have now asked me what I think about the “He’s adopted” joke from The Avengers.  “Doesn’t it make you angry, Kevin?”  Each time I’ve responded with something akin to, “I loved the movie and I totally laughed at the line.”

I fully understand why many adoptees (including some whom I consider good friends) are upset.  For me personally, though, this “He’s adopted” issue is a nonissue.  With that said, the whole scuttlebutt about the line has been interesting for me to observe; I find the reactions from certain adoptive parents and adoption establishment folks a bit peculiar.  For example, one well known adoptive parent/adoption establishment person did his best Hulk impression on Facebook and joined the “I’m angry about the ‘He’s adopted’ joke” bandwagon.  I thought, “Wow.  Imagine what the adoption community could accomplish if individuals like him reacted so vehemently in regards to adoptee deportation.  Imagine what would happen if more individuals like him came to the defense of critically thinking adoptees who are labeled ‘angry adoptees.’”  And speaking of angry…

We here at Land of Gazillion Adoptees are teaming up with Amanda of The Declassified Adoptee on a Facebook page devoted to reappropriating the “angry adoptee” label, which has been used against adoptees for the purpose of marginalization.  The page is doing well.  With minimal promotion it has reached 70+ “likes” and received some doozy pictures and quotes.

So, yeah.  Check out the following pics, go visit the “I’m an Angry Adoptee” page, “like it,” and, if you are an adoptee, we’d love it if you posted some of your own stuff.

Enjoy.

14 thoughts on “My thoughts on the “He’s adopted” line from The Avengers/I’m an Angry Adoptee

  1. I thought the line was funny and stupid, and maybe so crude that it could have been written by an ‘angry adoptee’ him/herself. Maybe it’s like this everywhere but here in Seoul there is something that I call ‘bad adoptee humor.’ Sometimes we can make the sickest, crudest jokes about ourselves . . . and because it is a joke, often times it is FUNNY. Pahaha. We often laugh over these sick, morbid jokes over a drink . . . Or ten. C’mon people we don’t have to live or dwell in our problems, hell, we can even be in peace with our issues, but if you don’t have any, that’s called denial ^^

  2. I didn’t see the movie, but have certainly seen a lot of hype about it. So forgive me if what I say is inaccurate but after seeing all the hype about it, I would not spend my money on the movie, anyway. Not my favorite type of film, also. Saying that, I think the line is totally inappropriate. As an adult adopted person, the line is fine, okay, even hilarious, even down-right funny. Fine. I love that we can laugh at ourselves and make light on our situation. We are adults and should be able to have some humor about ourselves. I’m all for that!

    However, the line is not funny for an adopted child. Kids who are adopted, don’t get that that line was meant to be funny, and meant to be funny only for adults. The Avengers is a PG-13 movie and has now hit the billion dollar mark, so you know that tons of adopted children went and saw it.

    That line stings and burns for the adopted child. Because adoption is such a complex issue, growing up adopted is confusing as hell, as we all know who are adopted. Our adoptive parents, bless their hearts, didn’t have the appropriate words to help us share our confusing experience of growing up adopted. Even if they did and tried and read all the books and seen therapists who specialized in adoption, we as adopted persons didn’t have the words or the courage to express our feelings about our experience, in most cases. That left everyone in the dark about one of the most complex issues that someone can experience. If your adoptive parents did have the words and who were able to fully get the experience and attune with your experience, then great! You are one of the minority. For the majority of adopted persons, however, this was/is not the case. We only found the words to express our experience as we got older.

    So, this is why the Avengers movie line is not in the least bit funny when perhaps hundred of adopted child listened to it. It sends a very cruel message to them. And sends a very cruel message to their adoptive children’s friends and other family members who don’t have a clue as to the impact of adoption. That line just gives another stamp of “you do not belong.”

    If at the end of the movie, if there was a line that stated something about making sure parents tell their adopted children that this line was only intentioned to be for the characters and for the story and that it is fictional, then it would at least acknowledge that it is inappropriate, but I haven’t heard anything mentioned about this.

    Lastly, why couldn’t we have seen the brother/sister/friend of an adopted person who was courageous and sweet and a wonderful and caring person say about that adopted person, well, he/she is that way because they are adopted!!! That is certainly more accurate than what the character in the Avengers said.

    Thanks for listening.

    With lightness and heart,
    April

  3. I haven’t seen the movie, but I am going to–I love most of the super hero movies. Unfortunately, Hollywood and the Brothers Grimm seem to like using step-siblings and adopted siblings in a very negative way. As an a-parent we do have to strive to teach our kids that these are stories that may hurt our kids and put them in a position where they will have to answer some/many unwanted questions. Especially if they see these movies with their friends.

    In our real lives, a step-sister will not suffer the same fate as Cinderella in (I hope) most families. Just as an adopted kid will not turn out to be a seriel killer. These stories and movie lines are used to make the story scary and to showcase bad people. As parents we have to teach our kids that this doesn’t (hopefully) happen in real life to real step-siblings or adopted kids. My mom read us the Grimm Fairytales with that explanation when we got scared. True, I think she was more inciteful than many parents of her generation. But as a-parents we do need to educate and build strong kids by teaching them these lessons. We can’t let them go out in public to these movies and suffer the fate of “victim”, or not be able to answer these types of instrusive questions from their friends.

    I think it is important for our kids to understand how the use of these lines in movies and the “bad guy” image of adoption and step-siblings in stories are just used to make the story better(?), scarier and to sell the movie. Would the Cinderella story be a better fairy tale if Cinderella was a bio-daughter? Maybe!

    Mary Coyle
    Adoptive Mom

    1. The point is that by putting these lines in movies and haviNg the evil characters be step or adopted or “other” – well that marginalizes people- as a mother i think it would be difficult to “explain” to a child that evil does not = adopted or step but if its continually in the culture it seeps into ones psyche and its difficult for a child to separate themselves from that- especially since most adoptees have a hard time identifying with their family so these evil people are the people they can identify with- they internalize the message- ADOPTED = OTHER OR EVIL…. Not what one would want to teach their child.

      1. M.Bailey: Thanks for that explanation. It does make it more clear for me. I think this example equates to the example of some of the lyrics in today’s music that portrays women in a negative light. If we don’t have these conversations about how these words and statements makes a person feel, then we don’t have the power to change it. I appreciate your insight into this. This helps us as parents talk with our children in hopes that they will not let these types of statements define who they believe they are or who they can be. Words are powerful. We have the ability as communicators to limit their power with our education and conversations. Thank you.

    2. Thanks, Mary! I’d love to hear what you say after you see the film. I’d also love to hear what your kids say after you have a conversation about the line afterwards. Your points are well taken, but you may think different about after seeing it.

    3. This movie quote as a single instance honestly wasn’t that bad.

      The problem is, this isn’t just a single instance where one adopted character happens to be evil–or where an evil charater happens to be adopted. It was yet another microinsult on a huge pile of microaggressions in every corner of the media sending messages about the adopted, that already exist.

      Microaggressions are cumulative when it comes to being “othered,” being respected, and fitting in as a human being and member of society. This is one instance upon countless instances where the adoptee plays either the role of the flawed, the evil, the disturbed, or the entirely unreal character. It doesn’t matter that when when we go back to real life we all know being adopted doesn’t predispose anyone to being evil (and some people don’t know that. Adopted Child Syndrome theorists believe every closed adoption adoptee is predisposed to Anti-Social Personality Disorder aka “Psychopathy”). It’s not ever seeing yourself portrayed as “good” that adds up. I liken it to my experience as a child going to the store and wall after wall of toys marketed to me and other girls are understated and demure while toys for boys are adventurous and scientific. What’s the microaggressive message sent to girls? “Painting your nails is what you’re good at. Science is what boys are good at.”

      The constant microinstults and microinvalidations add up. They send a bad message that gets absorbed by these young children and young adoptees. It impacts how you feel about yourself. The microaggression here is “adoptees are always the evil characters” sends the message “there’s something wrong with being adopted.”

      I do not believe that speaking out against “othering” is surrendering to victimhood. I would feel like I was surrendering to the status of a “victim” if I accepted that “othering” is a fact of life–when it shouldn’t be. The burden to end “othering” should be placed on the power-holding majority who are going the “othering,” not those being “othered.”

  4. Y’know, reading your entry, it’s struck me that one of the things that NO-ONE appears to’ve picked up on yet is the way Joss works.

    Watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Angel, or Firefly, or any of his stuff… and you’ll see that Joss has ALWAYS struck straight at the heart of a problem. Even when he’s being light, such as in the early Buffy’s, he’s always still managed to make the things he does cut to the core. ‘S just the nature of what Joss does. It’s why he’s so damn bloody good (heh, initially typoed as god ;)) at it. This link (no idea if the html’ll work in comments, but http://tinyurl.com/78fcab7 is a more paste-able version for if not) gives a reminder of ten BtVS episodes; 10 chosen by Joss as his favourites.

    Of course, being a massive Joss fan from way-back-when may colour my perspective, but so does being adopted, and so does being Lokean. Loki’s another point that people seem to’ve missed – both in Norse mythology and Marvel (both film and comic) mythology. Loki IS adopted. Okay, so he doesn’t have the fake paperwork to contend with, but he still lives the life we live. He’s still going to suffer the same psychological traumas that we suffer, because it’s what happens.

    I typed all^^that out ages ago, and have since got incredibly side-tracked in the research I’ve been doing trying to construct this reply. In one of my side-tracks, I wound up reading an article written by Tom Hiddleston {http://tinyurl.com/cc3hakg} for the Guardian, in which he says, “superhero films offer a shared, faithless, modern mythology, through which these truths can be explored”. It strikes me that this is part of the perceived problem with the “he’s adopted” line in The Avengers – and entails some of what mindfuladoptees was referring to in their earlier reply to this post, too. It is cruel, and that is why it got so many laughs in the cinemas, but that is only because it reflects reality. Adoptees, much as the pro-adoption movement may strive to pretend otherwise, are maligned from the outset. We are faced with the dual reality of being ourselves (even though we may not have a clue who ourself is due to a lack of genetic reflection), whilst also attempting match the image society expects of us. Not that the image is at all clear itself. On the one hand, we are expected to be grateful for being saved from a fate worse than death, but all of the time we are bombarded with images of how adoptees are awful, and full of bad blood, and can’t be trusted. Heck, even governments buy into this stereotyping by denying legal adults access to their own records – especially those governments that insist on “permission” from the adoptive parents before sharing such things.

    Another interesting post on the subject I tripped over, and one that raised another issue I hadn’t encountered anywhere else until then was from this post at Family Ties {http://tinyurl.com/d9bhsjl}, in which Susan (an adoptee) takes a look at whose voice is (or is not) being heard in the media hype over the petition.

    The final link I’d like to share is an article over at Big Shiny Robot, as I think it gives a relatively ‘normal’ reaction to the petition from someone who is not an adoptee. My reaction to the article is linked to in my reply to the article, since I ended up writing two blog posts about it because I couldn’t fit the first reply in the space available.

    Of course, now I’ve gotta hope this posts, since I have no clue as to whether I can get away with HTML in the reply. If not, I’ll have to go reply back on my blog, and come here ‘n’ link you to it instead.

    Thanks for sharing a nicely balanced perspective; it was refreshing to read. :}

    1. First and foremost, Joss is god…er…I mean “bloody good” ;) Thanks for taking the time to respond with such grace and candor. Love it! And your points are well taken, especially since you’re a Joss fan, who is, after all, god to geeks like me…

  5. Declassifiedadoptee: Thank you for giving me more information. I did not explain myself as well as I could have in my original posting. I also do not believe that we or our children should not stand up to this “othering”. I believe and try to teach my children by example to speak up about offenses when the offenses are perceived to hurt someone. This being said, it is my job as a parent to teach my children to think critically. When they listen to music that has lyrics that demean women, they have a choice — they can listen to this music and take the words to heart thereby supporting this artist to continue writing songs like that … or they can chose to not purchase that music. This small economic hit may not harm the artist, but it gives the purchaser the right to voice their opinions and beliefs that this type of music/lyrics are not for them. Also, by not purchasing this type of music, we teach to our children how to value themselves, and to look at themselves in a positive light. They do not have to believe what these artists are selling.

    The same thing occurs when our kids watch Disney movies. The female lead characters are never real life type of girls. As our kids get older and stop watching these types of Disney movies, that’s when it’s important to talk about the portrayal of these female characters — when they have the ability to think critically about these types of character portrayals. Some parents have even chosen to not expose their children to Disney films because of this type of negative character portrayal.

    We, as a-parents, do have a responsibility and a duty to teach our children to think critically of these aspects of adoption. It is only by doing this that this new generation of adopted kids will grow into people like Kevin who can lead the way in bringing more adult adoptees into leadership positions to change society.

    Everytime Disney puts out a movie that some of the “renegade parents” do not like Disney hears from these parents. Unfortunately, that has not changed them too much. But as parents we can teach our children think critically when they hear these one-liners in movies that negatively portray adoption. Our kids do not have to take on this mantel that society may inadvertently hand to them. It is our job as the parents to help them understand that.

    We may not be able to change society and societal beliefs, but as a-parents we have the ability to teach our children to be strong by becoming critical thinkers, to believe in themselves and speak up against “othering” when they see the harm in it.

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