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Was 'Avengers' joke cruel to adoption community?


Thor of "The Avengers" attempts to disassociate himself from adopted brother Loki in a joke that has some in the adoption community upset.

Disney’s “The Avengers” has earned almost universally positive reviews and made $200 million in its first weekend. Yet for some in the adoption community, a joke in the film goes too far.

The joke is at the expense of Loki, the film's villain and adopted son of the god, Odin. Loki's brother Thor defends him to fellow Avenger Black Widow, who then points out that Loki’s “killed 80 people in two days.” Thor then replies, “he’s adopted.”  

As noted in a petition created by Jamie Berke on Change.org, “According to your scriptwriter, the fact (Loki) was adopted is the reason he is a bad guy!...Being adopted is not something to use for the butt of jokes! Marvel, immediately cease using adoption as the butt of jokes AND issue a public apology to the adoption community!”

Berke points out that she is not asking for a boycott of the film, though others have suggested it. Instead, she is requesting an apology.

In an interview with MovieFanatic, actor Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor, admits he didn't get the joke at first.

"The line where I say, “He’s adopted.” I had no idea that would be funny," Hemsworth told the site. "When we shot that, I went, “Is this really funny?” But, that’s the thing. Joss is hilarious. The whole film, I was surprised how the comedy in it played so well."

But did the joke go too far? Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of the National Council for Adoption, says it's not clear-cut.

"I understand both sides. I think we do need to have a sense of humor about these things, but at the same time there are jokes that can hurt feelings,” Johnson told msnbc.com. “People who make movies are trying to be funny and I don’t think they realize how it will be perceived.”

Johnson, who is father to an adopted son, observes that adoption has been a recurring trend in comic book tales -- Superman, for one, was adopted -- and perhaps the line should be analyzed in a larger context.

“The adoption element is brought in a lot, it’s become a common theme in comic books and fantasy, and it’s usually portrayed very well,” he says. “The only problem I would have is that (the joke) feeds into the stereotype that adopted children have a pathos that turns them bad or hurts people. In that sense, I don’t like the joke, but I would use it as an opportunity to talk to children about stereotypes.”

Matthew Rodriguez, a writer for the Sundance Channel and an "Avengers" fan tweeted after the film, “My mind is still blown over how MARVEL-ous The Avengers was ... although I DID NOT APPRECIATE THAT ADOPTION JOKE, THOR.”

He later tells msnbc.com he did laugh at the line, but it's still a cause for concern.

“As an adoptee, I didn't have a problem and chuckled at Thor's line. However, at one point in my life as a younger person struggling with identity issues, I probably would've felt some discomfort with it,” the writer explains. “Being adopted is a complication that can come, varying from person to person of course, with a baggage of additional issues that non-adopted people never have to worry or think about. ... While I personally wasn't offended by the joke, at the same time, as an adoptee, I also deeply understand why some would (be).”

Nevertheless, he agrees that humor shouldn't have limits.

“Comics have the right to poke fun at whoever they want and I don't think adopted people should be off-limits, he adds. “I say this both as a minority (Korean-American) and adoptee.”

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