Tuesday 22 May 2012

The Avengers, Adoption and an Asgardian Firestorm

I'm sure we have all at one time or another committed a faux pas, a momentary lapse of good judgement. However, I'm also sure that said faux pas was committed in front of a small group of family or friends. An apology is delivered sincerely and immediately and we have quickly defused a potentially ugly situation. But what if you were given a budget of two hundred and twenty million dollars and your lapse of good judgement found itself forever committed to film and distributed across the planet in what critics have lauded with a 93% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes? Oh great, you'll be offending people for years to come and future generations will be likewise calling you a dunderhead.

In the recently released film "The Avengers", wunderkind Joss Whedon did double duty as screenwriter and director to bring us the following memorable slash questionable scene.

Bruce Banner: I don't think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy's brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.

Thor: Have care how you speak. Loki is beyond reason but he is of Asgard. And he's my brother.

Black Widow: He killed 80 people in 2 days.

Thor: He's adopted?

Avengers - Thor "He's Adopted" scene
Published on May 18, 2012 by amarevivereridere

I recently saw the film (my blog: Movie Review: The Avengers) however two days before seeing the film, I ran across criticism of the above line about adoption. I had forgotten about it until the moment I saw the scene for myself. It is interesting how this one line consisting of what? 5 seconds out of a complete running time of 143 minutes (2 hours and 23 minutes) has generated quite an on-line discussion from Facebook to the major news outlets like MSNBC and the New York Times. I'm sure that Mr. Whedon has had more than one uncomfortable moment sitting with representatives of both Marvel Studios and Walt Disney listening to the litany of complaints from the public over his insensitivity. Gosh Joss, I bet you'd pay ten grand right about now to edit that one out of the film.

When I first heard the line, there were only a few titters in the theatre. I had read that some audiences had laughed quite a bit at this line but mine didn't. Actually, I have to admit to being perplexed by the line. I didn't laugh as I couldn't figure out what it meant. Did Thor mean because Loki wasn't of the family, Loki killed 80 people or did Thor mean that if Loki had been of the family he would have killed 180 people?

In reviewing the above clip of the scene, I clearly see that Thor is demanding others to treat Loki with respect because Loki is Thor's brother. However as soon as Black Widow points out that Loki has done something bad, Thor attempts to distance himself from his brother by explaining he's adopted. What's funny in any of this? While I can now see how any mention of adoption may be up for interpretation and anybody could be potentially offended, I now see that the joke Joss Whedon was after had nothing to do with adoption.

Thor is being a tad pompous about his royal blood demanding that everyone treat a member of his family with respect. But when confronted with the nefarious actions of this member of his family, Thor immediately disavows his own brother. How Judas Iscariot can you get? On top of it, in trying to disavow his own brother he stoops in desperation to the most despicable ways of doing so. Blood or no blood, Loki is Thor's brother and Thor ain't gunna escape that one!

I am convinced that this was what Joss Whedon had originally meant in the script. Think about it. Somebody behaves like a snob then gets shown up that they are not so superior. That idea can make for a funny scene. Unfortunately, it would seem that others missed that interpretation. Joss Whedon wasn't saying that adopted children are evil or have more potential for evil than birth children. Joss Whedon wasn't suggesting that there is anything to distinguish birth children from adopted children. He was trying to show Thor as being pompous then being knocked down a peg.

But, but, but this was not the way to do it. Joss Whedon, I would hazard a guess, got so focused on his joke he missed how his joke could be open to interpretation. A good joke is clear, concise and comprehensible. A good joke doesn't need to be explained. A good joke isn't open to interpretation.

The Substitution Game
Andrea Poe of The Washington Times wrote about this story by explaining how she likes to play the substitution game. To verify if a line is acceptable or not, she substitutes the words "Jewish" or "African American" for anything she's not sure about and sees whether the line still works. (The Avengers attack on adopted children is mean and unfunny by Andrea Poe)

The Black Widow character says, "[Loki] killed 80 people in two days." Then Thor, Loki's brother, replies, "He's Jewish."

Ugh…awkward, isn’t it? Doesn’t seem quite so funny.

OK, let’s try again:

The Black Widow character says, "[Loki] killed 80 people in two days." Then Thor, Loki's brother, replies, "He's African American."

Thud. Not funny, right?

Ms. Poe goes on to point out that no studio would ever have allowed either of the above two versions. They certainly don't pass the smell test, do they?

Final Word
I love my sister dearly. We have spent all of her 48 years together minus the first 9 months of her life. She's adopted. But I have never, ever once in my entire life introduced her as my adopted sister. She's my sister period. You will never, ever catch me disavowing my sister like Thor did or in any way for that matter. She's my sister come hell or high water. (Sorry sis, you ain't gettin' rid of me that easy! Ha ha ha.)

Joss Whedon has quite the career: the creator of such shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly. However, unlike me who makes his faux pas in front of friends who don't have their cellphones recording my stupidity for posterity, Mr. Whedon has slipped his into a major motion picture seen by zillions of people including parents supervising their children, sometimes their adopted children. Joss, I think I know what you meant but next time maybe we can come up with a better way of expressing it. You're a talented guy. I know you can write for kids as well as adults.


Wikipedia: Joss Whedon
Joseph Hill "Joss" Whedon (born June 23, 1964) is an American screenwriter, executive producer, director, comic book writer, occasional composer and actor, founder of Mutant Enemy Productions and co-creator of Bellwether Pictures. He is best known as the creator and showrunner of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003), Angel (1999–2004), Firefly (2002) and Dollhouse (2009–2010), as well as the short film Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008). Whedon co-wrote and produced the horror film The Cabin in the Woods (2012), and wrote and directed the film adaptation of Marvel's The Avengers (2012).

The Backfire - May 6/2012
Joss Whedon's Avengers: Thor, Loki, and Adoption by Eric Teall
I'd really like to thank Joss and company for including the "[Loki's] adopted" joke in the Avengers movie. It was really fun having my [adopted] daughter in tears in the theater while the audience laughed at the fact that one of the big heroes basically said that Loki wasn't really part of his family because he's adopted.

The Backfire - May 15/2012
The Avengers and Adoption: My Official Take by Eric Teall
Amanda said: Epic post! Thank you for writing this. If you don't mind my asking, are you adopted?
Eric Teall said: I'm not, but my children are.

MSNBC - May 11/2012
Was 'Avengers' joke cruel to adoption community? by Courtney Garcia
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.
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.”

Facebook: msnbc.com Entertainment
Should Marvel apologize for the joke, or are people being too sensitive?
Eddy Jose: People are too darn sensitive, its a joke

Dorothy Abernathy: Normally I'd say, don't be so sensitive, but because this could effect children who are struggling with a sense of belonging, maybe Disney/Marvel could do something besides apologize. Maybe a PSA where Superman talks about being adopted or something. Some kind of short that's aimed at the youngest Avenger fans,that we might want to be a little more sensitive too.

NY Times - May 16/2012
That ‘He’s Adopted’ One-Liner in ‘The Avengers’? Not Funny. By Jessica Crowell
I have never walked out of a movie before. But last weekend, I walked out of “The Avengers.”
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.

The Washington Times - May 17/2012
The Avengers attack on adopted children is mean and unfunny by Andrea Poe
I like to do something I call “the substitution game,” whereby if I want to check whether or not a line is acceptable I simple swap out whatever word I have questions about with either the words “Jewish” or “African American.” If the line sits well using both of these, the line passes the test.


Site Map - William Quincy BelleFollow me on Twitter

No comments: