Adoption Jokes are Not Funny to Me

It upsets me when I see films poke fun at adopted children.  

I’m a big Marvel fan, so I was sadly disappointed by that scene in the Avengers movie.  Remember it?  This was the dialogue while the Avengers were on the helicarrier.

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 is my brother!

Natasha Romanoff : He killed eighty people in two days.

Thor : He’s adopted.

Jokes like this seem so commonplace, that it causes audiences to laugh and then people move on, not having given a thought to what they were laughing at.  But if we paused to think, it only takes a second to realize the degrading meaning behind the joke.  Jokes like this imply adopted children are less than biological children.  Less than what?  Less than everything.  Less valued compared to biological children.  Less significant.  Less wanted.  Less rights.  The worst is less of a member of the family compared to biological children.

Recently, I saw the trailer for What If on Pureflix, starring Kevin Sorbo.  I discovered this is not a new film, but was released in 2010.  The official synopsis of the film is this: 

Fifteen years ago, Ben Walker (Sorbo) made a decision to leave his college sweetheart Wendy (Swanson), and ultimately his faith, in order to pursue a lucrative business opportunity. Now on the verge of marriage to an equally materialistic fiancé, he is visited by an angelic mechanic (Ratzenberger) who tells him that he needs to see what his life would have been like had he followed Gods calling. Suddenly, Ben finds himself married to Wendy with two daughters, including a rebellious teen (Ryan), getting ready for church on a Sunday morning, where he’s scheduled to give his first sermon as the new pastor.

The trailer showed Ben having a breakdown moment in his alternate life while in front of his wife and two daughters.  In that moment, here was a dialogue.

Father: “I’m not your husband and I’m not their father.”

Daughter [whining]: “I knew I was adopted.”

The implication behind this joke is: adoptive fathers are not real fathers to an adopted child.  On one hand, the premise of the joke is horrible.  On the other hand, the fact that we find jokes like this still funny – that these jokes can still make audiences laugh – is horrible.  

What If is a “Christian Film” on a Christian network, a Christian film that makes a joke about adopted children.  And yet, Christianity at its core is about adoption.  Those of us who belong to God’s family by faith in Jesus are only in His family by adoption (John 1:12, Romans 8:15-17, Galatians 4:4-7, Ephesians 1:5, 13-14).   The only true sons and daughters of God are adopted ones.  Jesus is our adoption agent.  The Father is the judge who declared our sonship and daughtership.  The Holy Spirit is the seal that affirms and secures our adoption with all the rights, value and significance that sons and daughters would have for eternity.

My son is adopted.  He’s known he is adopted since he was one-and-half years old.  He grew up with that knowledge and his understanding of what being adopted meant grew with him until now he is eight years old.  I remember the adoption day in the courtroom when the judge officially read to us our parental rights.  My son just being two-years-and-a-month old, suddenly cheered and raised his hands up in the air, yelling, “Yay!”  The judge, startled, paused and smiled at him with delight.  Then when he was three-and-half years old, we were at a diner having a conversation with him about being adopted.  He had some questions.  Then he stood up on his seat and shouted in the middle of the crowded diner, “Thank you, mommy and daddy, for adopting me!”  He repeated that two more times.  Once again, everyone around paused to look at him and smile.  My son knows no other mom or dad.  We are his mom and dad, and we are not less than and neither is he.   

What saddens me with these jokes we see in scripts, media and films is my son growing up in a world that makes fun of adopted children.  My son has been asked by other kids, “Do you want to know your real mommy and daddy?”  Unfazed by their question, he answers them, “I have great mommy and daddy,” followed by an eloquent and honest explanation of his story and who his mom and dad are.  I’m proud and moved to see how he is grounded in who he is, his understanding about his life story, his sense of family, and he is not pushed to feel less than other kids because he is adopted.As his dad, I never want him to feel anything less than my son.  So, when I come across this kind of humor, I feel protective of him.  I feel like guarding him from these jokes against adopted children.  I know I can’t protect him forever or from everything.  I can only pray that my wife and I are doing a good enough job to raise him in knowing who he is, who his family is, where he belongs, and how to stand proud in being adopted.

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