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Pen

Adoption in popular culture?

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I was just watching an Avengers movie (possibly the earliest when Chitauri arrive in NYC and Avengers as a group get formed) with my son. 

In discussion with Thor about bad guy Loki, some character says something negative about Loki. Thor says something about watch what you say, he’s my brother and Asgardian.  A character says Loki just killed 80 people.  Thor says, something close to if not exact quote:  “Well, he is adopted.” 

My son is adopted.  I wonder how that sort of thing affects him.  I don’t want to make too much of it, but does anyone have ideas about discussing this ?  

Are there recent popular movies with better messages about adopted people? 

TIA! 

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I don't know the name of the group but there is a group out there that reviews movies (and maybe books) for adoption related issues.  This is often discussed on my adoption FB groups.

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I think it just depends on the kid.  My adopted son doesn't really think a whole lot about comments like that, and I was adopted and don't think much of them either.  

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There are a number of movies/shows that include that line in as a joke.  It's stupid and insensitive, yes.  But not worth getting upset. 

When I first saw something like that with my daughters, I just mentioned that it is a stupid joke that some people outside the adoption world say.  It is supposed to mean adopted people don't think or act quite like the rest of their family, but the writers know that isn't actually true. Just one of many dumb things you will see in "comedy" - they put down men, women, white people, ethnic people, old people, young people, bald people, parents, children, just about everyone, and you aren't supposed to take it seriously.

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Knowing the historical context is helpful, as is understanding that the line was inserted for a reason other than insulting adopted persons.

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My guess is that jokes like that are less harmful than plots like the Stuart Little movie, where he goes to "find his real family" at the end.

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Beyond it being a joke, the bad guy is the adopted child.  Sort of like in some of Shakespeare where bad guys are bastard children.

It isn’t just a throw away line.  He might be a bad guy because he is a trickster god and it just Is that way.  But in the movies he is given motivation of feeling like he’s a misfit. 

 

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Anne of Green Gables.   I just thought of as more positive. 

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As far as positive movies about adopted people ... if you think about it, a very high % of stories and movies are about adopted people.  Most of them positive, though some older ones rather insensitive.  (Superman was adopted!)

Two recent movies I saw with my girls this year were Breakthrough and Overcomer.  I thought they were both wonderful.  My kids liked them too.

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45 minutes ago, Pen said:

Beyond it being a joke, the bad guy is the adopted child.  Sort of like in some of Shakespeare where bad guys are bastard children.

It isn’t just a throw away line.  He might be a bad guy because he is a trickster god and it just Is that way.  But in the movies he is given motivation of feeling like he’s a misfit. 

 

I didn't see the movie, but from how you described the scene in the OP, I got the impression he was saying "well although he is my brother, the fact that he killed xx people doesn't mean I will do the same; we don't share the same genetic traits."  I wouldn't take it to mean "the reason he kills people is that he's adopted."

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24 minutes ago, SKL said:

I didn't see the movie, but from how you described the scene in the OP, I got the impression he was saying "well although he is my brother, the fact that he killed xx people doesn't mean I will do the same; we don't share the same genetic traits."  I wouldn't take it to mean "the reason he kills people is that he's adopted."

Yes, it's more this.  But also, if you watch all the Thor movies, the "adoption" is a lot more complicated, as is the relationship between Thor and Loki.

 

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49 minutes ago, SKL said:

I didn't see the movie, but from how you described the scene in the OP, I got the impression he was saying "well although he is my brother, the fact that he killed xx people doesn't mean I will do the same; we don't share the same genetic traits."  I wouldn't take it to mean "the reason he kills people is that he's adopted."

I've seen the movie (a lot) and that line always bothers me.  I agree that it's certainly not saying "the reason he kills people is that he's adopted", and it's understandable that Thor would feel the need to distance himself from his brother's actions at that point for lots of reasons (to confirm his support in the fight against Loki, to confirm he's against mass murder). 

But to use *adoption* as the means to place distance between Thor and Loki?  It was a funny one-liner, as intended - but wow! the (probably unintentional) things the movie said about adoption with that line!  I feel the need to comment on that line just about every time the kids watch it - in the "what *were* the movie people thinking!?!" sense - and my take is that the movie people just didn't *think*.  All it was to them was a zingy one-liner, and they neither intended nor even considered the wider implications of what they were saying (that an adopted brother is less close than a biological brother).  I don't think the line says anything terribly deep about what people think about adoption - other than most people simply *don't think* about adoption one way or another.  I still don't like the line, though.

Edited by forty-two
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Yeah, I don't like it either, but it was a running joke for some time.  I am not sure if they still do that.

Kids are going to see this kind of line sooner or later.  My preference as a mom of adopted kids is to just name it for what it is, and move on.  If my kids decide to be outraged, then we can take that into account in researching future movies.

(I do consider the adoption aspect of movies before we go see them.  Sometimes I will warn my kids in advance.  Usually the concern ends up being quite unnecessary.)

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3 hours ago, SKL said:

Yeah, I don't like it either, but it was a running joke for some time.  I am not sure if they still do that.

Kids are going to see this kind of line sooner or later.  My preference as a mom of adopted kids is to just name it for what it is, and move on.  If my kids decide to be outraged, then we can take that into account in researching future movies.

(I do consider the adoption aspect of movies before we go see them.  Sometimes I will warn my kids in advance.  Usually the concern ends up being quite unnecessary.)

 

I think my concern isn’t so much outrage but rather something more quiet.  

 

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I have a friend that deliberately avoids certain books and movies with orphans because they trigger issues in her adopted children.

For example, The Mysterious Benedict Society would be off the list (they are all orphans), 

The movie "Shaazam" (sp???) features a boy who thinks he was lost by his mom and put in the foster system but finds out at the end of the movie (spoilers!!) she left him on purpose.

I don't have adopted kids, but I can see why avoiding media like the ones I mentioned would be wise.  

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If you don't watch/read any children's media with orphans, you're out a lot of children's books. Harry Potter, Boxcar Children, Cinderella, Snow White, Mysterious Benedict, Pollyanna, Series of Unfortunate Events, Hugo Cabret, all the shoes books... and that's just a small list. I would think that you'd need to address it more than avoid it (what kid isn't going to hear about Harry Potter or the majority of fairy tales!), though obviously it would depend on the specific situation.

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I think it would be more of an issue for adoptees with behavioral issues related to childhood trauma from abuse/neglect or adoptees old enough to have been aware of discrimination from their birth culture. Some adoptees have serious behavioral issues that they are aware of and struggle with constantly, and the Loki story line could be an issue for them. Peers using Loki as a way to tease or insult a child like that could have serious emotional and psychological effects.

Adoption involves a huge array of factors and issues, so each adoptee has to be given individual consideration.

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What media handle it fairly well? I'm thinking that SuperGirl and The Flash TV series both seem to do a decent job (trying to think of shows where adoption/foster care is part of a character's backstory). 

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2 hours ago, dmmetler said:

What media handle it fairly well? I'm thinking that SuperGirl and The Flash TV series both seem to do a decent job (trying to think of shows where adoption/foster care is part of a character's backstory). 

This Is Us handles the complexities quite well....but it is not a show for younger kids.

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I always took the Loki line in context as part of their relationship development, especially by the final movie where the loss of his brother affected Thor in a way he never recovered from, though finally grew beyond with help and care from friends.

But yeah, the adopted brother relationship with Thor and Loki is a lot more complex than that one line would bely, and arguably very positive by the end.  It probably depends on the sensitivity level of the individual child, of course.

And YES to Anne of Green Gables and subsequent books.  Families of choice shown in a very wonderful light, I’d say.

Edited by Arctic Mama

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13 hours ago, Arctic Mama said:

And YES to Anne of Green Gables and subsequent books.  Families of choice shown in a very wonderful light, I’d say.

The original Anne of Green Gables (book and series with Megan Fallowes) is actually problematic for many adoptive families.  It creates a shockingly unrealistic perception of many adoptees.  It over-simplifies adoptee feelings, completely ignores childhood trauma and its real life-long effects on adoptees, and builds irritating assumptions in non-adoptive families that we have to deal with in the form of clueless comments. Society is actually worse off for it's sugarcoated portrayal.  A high percentage of current adoptees have histories of childhood trauma, something misunderstood at the time of writing that book, and usually intentionally ignored in novels then. Society needs an update, but society doesn't want to hear it.  People are weirdly sentimental about Anne of Green Gables. (I haven't seen the most recent one, but I hear it's a little more realistic.)

One of my current concerns is the portrayal of social workers.  I was disturbed by the Despicable Me version.  The social worker was portrayed as a bad person trying to ruin it for the kids, and their placement in the home of the main character, a single man and "bad guy with a heart of gold" is mind numbingly stupid.  I have a close friend that runs an agency doing fostercare placement.  Sometimes she needs to vent because she knows the details of why those children were removed. I let her.  What most people don't realize is the media doesn't release all the details of stories that end up on the news.  It's too stigmatizing and a violation of privacy to give those details.  Anything you see on the news is nowhere near the horror of what actually happened. Often, it was far worse than anything you've ever heard of. Removing children and placing them in foster care is a good and merciful thing.  Social workers should be respected, not vilified.

People insist they know it's just fiction, but based on clueless comments adoptive families hear, it's the foundation of most people's  perceptions of adoption. Seriously, you can't have it both ways claiming stories (written or in movie/tv form) are a transmission of culture: a reflection of who we are or what we want to be, and then turn around and say it's just entertainment and no one should complain about something as frivolous as entertainment. Even if we avoid or address it in our own adoptive families (my kid is one who is able to handle addressing it, others take a much longer time to get there because there are other, more urgent issues to deal with)  our kids still have to deal with it when people from non-adoptive families who are far less capable of assessing these underlying issues and are using them as reference points. Even people in adoption situations involving no trauma can occasionally be clueless. It can be a problem for families that do deal with trauma histories. Fortunately now, adoptive parent training is covering a wider range of these difficult issues for all adoptive parents, even parents who aren't likely to deal with the hardest issues. They'll be in the adoptive community and they prepping.

Just like the church cannot claim to be the loving community of those who follow Jesus and turn around and refuse to adapt to special needs issues in the families of congregants (a very high percentage of whom are adopted or in fostercare.) Currently it's estimated 90+ of believers with special needs kids don't attend church because church is unintentionally hurtful and destructive to special needs kids. It's an crisis, and most churches don't even want to hear about it because they would have to change their perceptions, their attitudes, and their behaviors.

My daughter is S. Korean.  There is a support group of Korean adoptees called The Gathering that meets annually.  In the meeting discussions they have a very hard and fast rule: if you are not an adoptee, you are not allowed to speak. You may attend and listen if you are an adoption worker of the family member of an adoptee, but speaking during the discussion is not allowed. They understand that adoptee voices carry the most weight on adoptee issues.  Adoptive family member voices carry the most weight on adoptive family issues.  Most people in the US (I don't know how it is other places) don't know how much weight to give to different voices-that's the root of the problem.

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23 hours ago, SKL said:

As far as positive movies about adopted people ... if you think about it, a very high % of stories and movies are about adopted people.  Most of them positive, though some older ones rather insensitive.  (Superman was adopted!)

 

 

Thanks.  Superman, Supergirl, Spider-Man, are all good “antidotes”. 

 

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On the Social worker thing, I actually thought Cobra Bubbles in Lilo and Stitch handled it fairly well-that he understood that Nani was doing her best, but just might not have been up to dealing with a very traumatized young child with behavioral issues (especially since she would have been grieving the loss of her parents herself, as well as suddenly being pushed into a parental role as a young adult). But I'm not sure that a child would take anything from it but that this scary looking guy is threatening to take Lilo away. 

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