A couple of weeks ago I added a new blog to my blogroll. It’s called Beyond Blood and it appears in the on-line version of Psychology Today. The author is Abbie Goldberg. It’s worth a look.
This week’s entry (I think it is on a once a week schedule) is about stigma and adoption, which ties into a discussion we had here a little while ago. It’s also tied to an incredibly popular movie–The Avengers. There’s an exchange in the movie about Loki, who I gather is the villain of the piece. In explaining how he can at once be Thor’s (one of the heroes) brother and evil, Thor says “He’s adopted.” This is apparently a laugh line–I assume intended as such, apparently received as such.
I think Goldberg’s comments here–which echo many other comments around the web–are right on target. How would you feel sitting in the audience when the line was read if you were adopted? How would you feel when everyone in the theater around you laughed?
I’m not sure I’m capable of completing picking apart what is going on here. Is it that Loki is a bad seed–of some unknown origin that is clearly tainted? Is it that Loki and Thor aren’t really brothers? And I’m not sure why it is funny, or why it strikes people as funny. Suffice it to say I’ve been unable to construct some understanding that would make an adopted child feel good.
Now it may seem like this is making an awfully big deal out of a passing line in a movie. But my guess is that this line will be heard differently by those who are adopted or who have adopted and those who are not/have not. I’m not an expert but in my experience you listen more closely when the topic at hand is your own identity. It’s not because you’re over-sensitive–it’s because it’s about something close to you and so you naturally pay more attention. Thus a line a not-adopted child might not pay much attention to (except perhaps to fleetingly laugh) will be more carefully considered by an adopted child. And what will that child hear? I worry that it is that an adopted child can be expected to be a bad child or a lesser child or at least an alien child.
This is how stigma works, I’m afraid. And you can see how it might lead to secrecy/concealment and a host or related problems some of which were discussed in that earlier post. But as Goldberg makes clear, you can also see moments like this as teachable moments. That’s not an easy route, but it’s a possible one and it makes the most of the opportunity presented, however unwelcome the opportunity is.