Saturday, May 05, 2012

Why, Joss? Why? (Avengers spoilers)

Dear Joss,

 I went in, wanting to love your movie so much. I got in early because of a middle-aged bladder. Stood outside the theater door, as they cleaned up after the show that preceded mine. I was the first one seated in the theater, midway up, center seat. I didn't even buy a Cherry Coke because I didn't want to have to get up and miss anything in a movie with a 155-minute running time. Great scenes. Funny scenes. Black Widow's interrogation was brilliant. Superheroes meet and they fight. That's pure Marvel. You so completely got the spirit of Marvel comics as directors and writers seldom do! I was along for the ride, and enjoying every minute, and then you dropped the bomb on me:
Thor: He’s my brother.
Natasha Romanoff: He killed 80 people in 2 days!
Thor: …He’s adopted.
From that moment on, I was outside the movie, looking in. My daughter's adopted, Joss. I love her more than comic books. I love her more than Firefly. I love her more than my own life. To imagine having to explain that line to my six-year old daughter and why everyone in the audience is laughing at Thor while he distances himself from his brother, as if he is somehow less connected because Loki's adopted, took me outside the movie. I was now a viewer; a critic. I was no longer an active, willing participant in what I thought was otherwise a great, great film.

 From that point, I was more critical in my viewing. I was less forgiving of the flaws. The funny moments, and there were many classic Whedonesque moments, weren't as funny to me. I struggled to get back in; to let the line go. It probably wasn't meant with malice, I thought. I don't think you meant it that way. But I just couldn't move past the fact that it was there.

 I've read from other sources that some oversensitive adoptive parents have a problem with that line. I'll take that hit. I may be oversensitive about it, but you know what? As an adoptive parent, it's my job to be sensitive to it. It's part of the gig. I was prepared beforehand and remain prepared to deal with comments about my multiracial family. I have stood up for my family on numerous occasions because of unthinking comments that have been made about the fact that my daughter's Chinese. It's not easy sometimes, and it has cost me personally, but it's a price that I am more than willing to pay.

So now I have to play the role of the single dissenting voice in a sea of mass approval for the Avengers. I've played this role before. Some people even expect it of me. But for the one throwaway line that was not important to the advancement of the plot, it was a great movie, and I'd be among them. But, as it stands, I'm not. I'm sorry, Joss, but I just don't see why that line was necessary, and it ruined the rest of the movie for me. I don't expect anyone who's not an adoptive parent to understand. But I am one, and I have to stand up for this principle. If I don't, then I am not the father I want to be, and I am not the man I want to be. I'm certainly not perfect, but I hope I'm at least consistent.

 I read in an interview this very telling anecdote by Thor actor Chris Hemsworth:
The line where I say, “He’s adopted.” I had no idea that would be funny [laughs]. When we shot that, I went, “Is this really funny?” But, that’s the thing. Joss is hilarious.
No, Mr. Hemsworth. Your instincts were correct. It's not funny at all, at least to me.

Addendum: After sleeping on this, I decided to go back and see it again with my wife, who I warned about it. Except for that line, it IS a great movie. I was able to look past the line, but I still wish it wasn't there.


Lowell Francis said...

I've not always agreed with your opinions on things- movies and comic books. But unlike many who I've had those honest differences in opinion with, I've always been certain that your opinion is principled, based on thought, and consistent with your passions. That's the kind of opinion I can respect in disagreement.

I have to say I don't think I would have caught that line. I hadn't considered that issue, but I'll be thinking about it. It bothers me on another level, that I don't remember the question of adoption being a point in the comics. Loki was always Thor's brother, period regardless of adoption. Those bonds were more important than the circumstances.

Jim McClain said...

They handled it better in Thor. Loki screams, "WHAT AM I?" and Odin calmly replies, "You're my son."

Unknown said...

You're not understanding the comment.

Look at the context:
Thor's line was meant to (humorously) distance himself from Loki. Yes. An adopted brother. But a bitter, half-brother who comes from a line of creatures known to be evil (as detailed in the movie THOR). Thor, just prior to this joke, is trying to take Loki home, bring him back into the family, b/c he still believes the evil Loki can be saved.

The line isn't about's about the Marvel version of Loki. And it is NOT indicative of how the character of Thor feels.

Even in the film's climax, after we the audience have witnessed Loki commit crime after crime, Thor is STILL trying to explain to Loki that they are "brothers" (he does not say "half-brothers" or in any way disparage him) and that Loki should come back home and be part of the family. Thor's love of Loki, who he considers a BROTHER is VERY apparent.

See the film. Understand the context. And if you're going to point out one negative aspect, point out the positive aspects of the half-brother relationship. You can't pick and choose. It's stupid.

Jim McClain said...

"Thor's line was meant to (humorously) distance himself from Loki."

Oh, good. Then I did get it.

"But a bitter, half-brother who comes from a line of creatures known to be evil (as detailed in the movie THOR)."

Half-brothers share a biological parent. They're not half-brothers.

"The line isn't about's about the Marvel version of Loki. And it is NOT indicative of how the character of Thor feels."

So, it's a throwaway line not consistent with Thor's character that just happens to take a slap at adoption. That's what I object to.

"See the film. Understand the context. And if you're going to point out one negative aspect, point out the positive aspects of the half-brother relationship. You can't pick and choose. It's stupid."

No, what's stupid is making an anonymous comment calling me or my interpretation stupid while making my very point for me. Well done.

Chris said...

I am adopted, as is my wife, whom I saw the movie with, and my brother.

I personally am against the adoption of inherently evil creatures such as frost giants (even the smaller ones that have similar heights to humans) by Norse deities from another universe. It's a personal opinion, but that's my view.

I am 100% supportive of humans adopting humans though.

One of these has nothing to do with the other. No child with a loving family is going to think less of themselves over this. No person is going to turn their car around and head to the abortion clinic instead over that joke.

We laughed our butts off at that joke in the movie, because we educated ourselves on the context of the situation.

And of course if you keep watching the movie you can see that Thor really does care a LOT for his brother throughout it, even though his brother has done nothing but commit atrocities and killed thousands of people and his own race.

Stephen Parkes said...

I noticed you also posted on the site where someone who hadn't seen the film sumed it up thusly: "It seems that the character Thor explains his brother Loki's violent killing spree with the flip comment, "He's adopted.""

Except, he doesn't. In context, there's no way a person, being reasonable, could conclude that the intent of that line was to say Loki is evil because he's adopted. Some children might misunderstand, but that's where parental guidance comes in.

Jim McClain said...

"No child with a loving family is going to think less of themselves over this. "

Chris, evidence from my inbox says differently. I have received emails from other adoptees thanking me for my viewpoint, and agreeing that they had been made to feel "less" by relatives in a similar statement. though the relatives were caring. They, like Thor, made a careless statement.

Jim McClain said...

Stephen, I was not addressing the interpretation that the article's author had made. I was answering the question that was asked: "What do you think? Is this a 'great line' or is it offensive to adoptees?"

My interpretation was that Thor was using Loki's status as an adoptee to distance himself from his brother in front of strangers. It was a cowardly act, and not at all in Thor's character.

Tammie said...

I'm so glad that Magi directed me to your blog Jim. My husband & I are also BIG fans of both The Avengers & Joss Whedon (me being a HUGE Buffy & Angel fan). I'm sure you've seen me on Magi's FB page making comments. I'm Erin's mom. You know. The adopted girl from China. The one who sees the line the same way you do.

Erin has been raised watching cool movies like LOR, Harry Potter, Star Trek & the like. Sera just wouldn't get that Erin doesn't do the princess thing. ;-)

One of the people in my FCC chapter made mention of the line. I'm sure she was horrified. From what I've read, the line was totally unnecessary & there just for the humor of it. Why is it that I can't see any humor in it though?

Erin was told during Thor that Loki was adopted, & she instantly realized that there was a similarity between both Loki & herself.

We will be seeing this movie. We will be discussing "the line." I hope that we are raising her to know that people can be foolish in their comments & even mean at times.

And again, why is that line in the movie? I don't know. It wasn't necessary. Comic value? I don't see any.