The “He’s Adopted” Line in Avengers Is Not Funny

Since I’ve mentioned the wonderful movie “The Avengers” on this blog, I’ve been getting e-mails about a certain exchange in the movie that has cause some consternation in the adoption community.  Since we are a family that grew through adoption, we’ve been asked how we dealt with this questionable dialogue:

Thor: He is of Asgard and he is my brother!

Black Widow: He killed 80 people in 2 days.

Thor [deadpan]: He’s adopted.

Honestly, I had no idea this was in the movie.  As I have mentioned before, I’m not a part of The French Movie Club (which includes my husband and two older kids) because our adoptive daughter Naomi is too little to see movies without talking animals.  Most of the time, I stay home with her to let the others enjoy their films.

But it does seem that many people were taken aback by this dialogue.  In the New York Times Motherlode blog, Jessica Crowell, an adoptee, writes about her experience with the film:

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.

She goes on to say, “No doubt, some will think adoptees are overreacting. But what does this mean for adoptees, and perpetuating the stigma surrounding adoptee status?”  Read the rest here, and be aware of the line if you are attending this very popular film. Whether you have adoptive kids or not, it’s a thoughtless line that might be a good conversation starter on the way home from the theater.

UPDATE: A different take on that line, as well as other adoption themes in movies!

Nancy also writes for The Home Front blog, where this first appeared.

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About Nancy French

Nancy French is a three time New York Times Best Selling Author.

  • J. Morales

    Umm, I hate to seem insensitive but I have to disagree. One of the other funniest spots in the movie comes at the end when Hulk ground-pounds Loki. I would argue that is a bigger laugh, but regardless, should we really find that funny? Is it funny to slam someone repeatedly into the ground? Why do we find violence funny at all?

    I’m trying to make the point that a movie is a movie. If you’re going to take the tack that the adoption line isn’t funny, then it seems there are a whole host of other things you have to find also un-amusing. There’s a remove from the kind of behavior in movies made for entertainment and real life. Sorry if I’m not being 100% clear, but hopefully my point is getting across.

  • Nancy French

    No, J, I get it! Thanks for the comment…

    I haven’t seen the movie, but everyone LOVES it — including my family! I was just pointing out that it might be a conversation that people need to have, especially if they have kids who are adopted who might be taken aback by that line.

  • Pingback: Avengers Adoption Blunder?()

  • Bill

    I can definitely see how people who are already sensitive to adoption stigma would find that line very unfunny. However, on reflection, I think the humor primarily worked on the idea that Mighty Thor was so suddenly backing down & making an excuse, and perhaps also because the excuse was a not-very-good one (which may be points in the writer’s favor, on this issue).

    It’s a bit like when Homer Simpson makes fun of someone else but does so very stupidly.

    I realize not everyone saw it this way, but I think the joke was really on Thor.

  • Charles Anthony

    I will never understand you… Seriously, you get offended for a line of a movie because you have adopted kids…
    Let me explain the joke to you so that you and your “brain” understands it.

    Thor is defending his brother, but its surprised by the fact that “He killed 80 people”, and the most unexpected reaction was taken saying “But he has no blood relation to me, eh?” backing down.

    There are worse movies and you get offended by a simple line, you havent lived at all since as far as I know the United States (You are not the only “Americans”) is one of the countries with MOST RACISM, DRUGS etc… They offend entire races by yelling to them “Die ***” and such! And you get offended by a line? Come on

  • Antonio Suarez

    The joke was if you didnt get it:

    “I’m defending him, he’s family!”

    “He’s a mass-murderer!”

    (not even a beat of hesitation)

    “Oh. We’re not really related after all.”

    Get it?

    But since you are blindly raged and offended I doubt you will pay attention to common jokes.

  • Mel G.

    As the mother of an adopted child, I cringed when I heard the line, just like I cringe when I see humor at someone’s expense because of a physical trait.The comment does open a door for further discussion and also reinforces the fact that as fallen men, (and writers for movies), we fall short of God’s mark. It also leaves room for discussion of God’s redemptive power, and the grace that adoption brings to so many.

  • Camassia

    I agree with Bill that the joke was really on Thor. It was established in the Thor movie that he comes from a hereditary monarchy and both he and Loki grew up expecting deference because of who their father is. So he only leaped to Loki’s defense in the first place because he didn’t like hearing the lowly mortals trash-talking an Asgardian. But Black Widow’s reaction wasn’t deference, which threw him back on his heels a bit.

  • tusco

    While I agree that the joke was not about adopted children per se and the intent was entirely innocent, I can see how adopted children who are young enough not to get the joke would think it was totally aimed at them. Then again, any time I take my pre-teens to a PG-13 movie I expect that I will probably have to have to a conversation with them afterwards about something or other….

  • Rob

    Thanks for drawing attention to this. I was glad my adopted son did not hear the line. I think it would be very hurtful to him. I cringed also and was surprised to hear how loud the audience laughed. I think you need to be IN an adoptive situation to understand how hurtful the words could be.

  • Chuck Norton

    I have an adopted special needs daughter. We saw The Avengers twice and she laughed at that line as well. Respectfully, there is no joy or humor in life if we are constantly walking on egg shells. I am a red head and how many red head jokes were there in the 60′s and 70′s? Sometimes we all need to laugh at ourselves a little.

  • Dangerous Sidekick

    I wish people would stop saying as adoptee or as parent of an adoptee I found this to be offensive. If you read comments in NYTIMES there other adoptees who don’t find that one liner to be offensive. Adoptees like everyone else are individuals and as individual will have their own views on what is or is not offensive. When people say “as an adoptee I such and such” it gives offs the impression that they’re speaking for most people who are adopted which they’re not. If some adopted people found this to be offensive I’m sorry but that doesn’t mean they speak for the entire adopted community. Nor does it mean that you’re right.