Avengers Vs. Adoptees: Is This What The Science Fiction Community Has Become?

Yes, the Avengers adoption “joke” controversy continues. I’m sure many people would be delighted if those of us who were offended would shut up already. Unfortunately, weeks later we’re still fielding the same sort of inflammatory remarks and personal attacks I mentioned before. Plus, there is something that is still bothering me about the whole thing. For those who haven’t seen the movie, the infamous scene in question is on YouTube in all its glory.

In my post An Angry Adoptee Fangirl Responds To Avengers Adoption “Joke”, I wrote:

Quite frankly I am ashamed at the sf fan community. I thought we were the genre that welcomes “cripples, bastards, and broken things.”

And I am still ashamed.

I remember the first time I met someone who loved science fiction as much as I did. I’ll call her Mary. She and I became fast friends, united in our love of all things Star Trek. This was back in the 1980s, so no TNG or DS9, just good old fashioned classic Trek. We analyzed the episodes together. We went to the movies on opening night. We went to conventions. We were total Trekkers.

My friend Mary was visually impaired — legally blind. And science fiction was one of the few outlets where that didn’t matter.

I saw how she was treated elsewhere. In school the kids made fun of “the girl with the funny eyes”. In public people snickered or looked away. Or, worse, they tried to “help”. Mary was perfectly capable of getting around by herself but people would grab her arm to assist. They thought she was less intelligent because she couldn’t see. If we were out somewhere, people would often ask me questions to ask her, such as, “Does your friend need an extra napkin?”

But when we went to cons there were all sorts of people, many of whom were “different” in some way. Some, like Mary, had physical disabilities. Others, like me, were otherwise deemed “different” by our society — Tyrion’s “cripples, bastards, and broken things.” My adopted status had always set me apart but here, in this one place, that didn’t matter. We could be sitting around a table: a bastard, a blind girl, a guy in a wheelchair, a transgendered woman — and the only thing that mattered was whether you were into Star Trek or Doctor Who or both. (And if the dealer’s room was going to be open late.)

Did things suddenly change while I wasn’t looking? Are we, the community of fandom, so caught up in ourselves now that science fiction is “popular” that we are driving away the very people who have been the lifeblood of the genre?

Because I was APPALLED at the reaction of Avengers fans to the notion that the “He’s adopted” joke was offensive. And, bear in mind, this is based on hundreds of comments just on my blog alone. Others received similar responses.

“This is why the world hates adopted people.”

“No wonder your mother gave you up.”

“You’re a fucking bitch!”

“Avengers was the best superhero movie ever. How dare you try to ruin it!”

“You have no right to call yourself a Marvel fan.”

… and so forth. If you’d like a full dose of the vitriol, read my previous post: An Angry Adoptee Fangirl Responds To Avengers Adoption “Joke”.

Many fans wrote to criticize me on the basis of Thor and Loki’s relationship in the comics. This isn’t about Marvel continuity. It’s not even about comics, or science fiction. It’s about one stupid line in a popular movie that was highly offensive to the minority group to which it referred, and the real-world effects it had on real people — who are also your fellow science fiction fans.

What shocked me the most was the apparent inability of most fans to put themselves in our shoes. I guess I missed the memo that said bastards aren’t allowed in the geek club anymore. Which is funny, considering how much everybody adores Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. If you consider him an admirable protagonist, yet thought the Avengers joke was funny, I’d like to ask what you think it’s like to be a real bastard. Because it’s pretty much like being sent to the Wall.

We adoptees are used to having our viewpoints ignored or negated. Amid all those hundreds of nastygrams, shall I tell you two of the few nice comments I received?

“Thank you. Because I’m a fangirl too, and I was totally hurt too.”

“I could have typed this with my own tearstained fingers. Thanks.”

And that’s why I wrote it. Because I knew, from the fact that the joke was in there to begin with, that fandom was not going to be there for us this time.

One of the most recent entries into the Avengers adoption controversy is this post from Psychology Today, which attempts to address adoptee discrimination… until it doesn’t. Like every other conversation it degenerated into a shouting match in which the adult adoptees and first (“birth”) parents were told to shut up and go away because we don’t know what we’re talking about.

As I commented on the post:

The original author’s comment says it all:

“This particular blog post was aimed more at the experiences of adoptive parents than adopted individuals themselves because of the fact that my research (which I cite in the post) has focused primarily on the experiences of adoptive parents.”

You cannot assess adoption in a vacuum. To study adoption with an exclusive focus on adoptive parents negates the experiences of the first parents and adoptees who are just as vital, if not more so, to the process. And it exacerbates the emphasis on adoptive parents and adoption professionals in the adoption constellation or pentagon or whatever you want to call it. Adoptees and first parents are relegated, once again, to the background.

So we’re useless, unless we speak out, then we should shut up and let the professionals handle it. Aaaand… round we come full circle to the discrimination in Avengers and the irate comments directed at those who had the temerity to express their outrage.

Yup. Adoptee discrimination, alive and well.

I would have thought the science fiction fans would be all over that like Replicators on an Asgard mothership. (No, the other Asgard.) But instead, adult adoptees and others who spoke out suddenly became prime targets. Why? Because we dared to criticize a blockbuster superhero movie that everybody (including most of us) loved? Because that movie took a moment to stab open a wound that will never heal, and we complained about it?

The science fiction community I used to know would rally around this sort of thing. These are the people who would welcome the bastards and blind girls without a second thought. Or, used to. So much for infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

I don’t think this intolerance is widespread. I feel more welcome as a female geek today than I used to in the 1980s. But, after this, I’m not sure I feel welcome as an adult adoptee. And that saddens me, because where are all the weird people going to go?

I guess Marvel fans are too busy celebrating Northstar’s gay marriage to notice the bastards being kicked around on their doorsteps. Ironic, that. (And, yes, I’ve read my copy of Astonishing X-Men #50. I picked it up from my local comics store just like the rest of the comics I buy.)

I call upon you, science fiction fans. Stand up for the cripples, bastards, and broken things in our world. Isn’t that why we’re all here, because we want a better future? How are we going to achieve that if we can’t even manage it amongst ourselves?

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  1. Isn’t it taking it a little far? It wasn’t “He’s evil because he’s adopted.”

    It was “My loyalty to this being is diminished because he killed all those people. I am wrong to support someone who performed those actions.”

    This is a far cry from bashing on someone because they’re adopted.

  2. Oh, for pity’s sake, here we go again. B.C. – have you even read my first two blogs on this? Yes, it was saying “he’s evil because he’s adopted.” That’s the problem.

  3. In my opinion: No, it was not saying “he’s evil because he’s adopted.” That doesn’t mean one does not have a right to be sensitive about the joke and have their feelings respected. But the joke did not imply what you say. Here’s my analysis:


  4. Shorter BC: Feels I don’t feel are dumb.

    Not cool.

    Fandom as I know it does rally around “this SORT of thing,” but not around this PARTICULAR thing. Adoptees are not seen in the same light that other minority/marginalized groups are, in fandom or elsewhere.

    I don’t know how I feel about the line because I still haven’t seen the film. I suspect I will laugh at it, just as other adoptees have surely laughed at things I found hurtful. That’s fine. What isn’t fine is responding to “This hurts my feelings” with “No it doesn’t,” “Let me tell you why the thing that hurt you is not hurtful” or “Shut up/get over it/you have no sense of humor.”

    I think adoptees need a word that signifies in discussions about adoption what “mansplaining” signifies in discussions of feminism. (Legitsplaining? Keptsplaining? I dunno.)

  5. valeen says:

    I had no idea that line had offended people. I’m adopted and personally thought it was funny. But I respect that others might feel differently.

  6. I loved the movie, but I do agree that was a tasteless joke on Joss Whedon’s part. But don’t let that make you feel like you’re not welcome in the sci-fi community. If you belong here, then you belong here regardless of what anyone says. Much love to you.

  7. I’m on the same strain as Valeen– I’m adopted, and I didn’t take any offense in the joke. I was adopted at birth, and I’ve lived all over the world in different communities, and everywhere I went, friends knew I was adopted, and I’ve never felt marginalized or discriminated against for being adopted. Being other things, sure, but adopted? Maybe it was my own attitude about it– if I kid decided that was the easiest way to pick on me (happened maybe twice my whole childhood), they quickly realized that I would laugh and say “Is that all you’ve got? That I’m adopted?” In fact, I had a friend who called me “FedEx” as a term of absolute endearment. So it might be the attitudes and experiences of those feeling “marginalized” about adoption. I did not see the line as “he is evil because he’s adopted.” It was more saddening and unfortunate that it was implying that he was less a part of the family because of his adoption, but it was not implying inherent maleficence due to adoption. “He’s my brother, he’s family” going to “He’s adopted” is saying “He’s family, but he’s less so because he isn’t blood.” Which is unfortunate, but the joke was not meant as offensive. I don’t see anyone who took offense to this as not true fans, “bitches” (what someone called you according to your post), or too easily bruised– what I think it shows was that there was some negativity around adoption in your experience which I was so very fortunate not to have. I’m really sorry if that’s the case, and I’m really glad that you’re able to totally own it now to the point of standing up for all us adoptees. I think we’re in pretty good hands.

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