Friday, November 7, 2014

One Badass Adoptee (I heart Loki) ... (#flipthescript on the bad guy)

Am I cursed? 
What am I?  
You're my son.  
What more than that...?
conversation between Loki and adoptive father, Odin, in Thor...

Warning - this post is filled with spoilers from not only from Thor but also from The Avengers and Thor: the Dark World. That said...

Recently, I watched Thor: The Dark World. If the first Thor movie and The Avengers hadn't already settled my crush on Loki, it is now firmly fixed. Loki rocks. And not just because his irresistible wit and disarming smile make Thor look like an oafish dope, but because he is one badass adoptee. 

Loki grows up being different from everyone around him (sound familiar?). The community he grows up in doesn't value his strengths (intelligence, cunning, sorcery) but rather the strengths inherent in their people (strength, big blonde buffishness).

He finds out he is adopted as an adult in the first Thor movie. The above quote at the beginning of this post is from that conversation with his adoptive father, Odin (who is kind of a jerk). He finds out not only that he is adopted, but that he's from the race of people (Frost Giants) that are the arch-enemy of his adoptive race. So, basically, he was taught to hate the people that he is from, essentially being taught to hate himself.

"Why didn't you tell me?... 
Because I'm the monster that grownups tell their children about at night?" 

Not cool.


So, I couldn't help but sympathize with Loki from the start. From that moment, I was on his side. I no longer saw Odin and Thor as the good guys and Loki as the bad guy - quite the opposite.

His reunion takes a turn towards the destruction of his adoptive race, but he's justifiably upset. He's been taught by his adoptive family that his people are evil, so ... you need to find out who you are. Besides, I'm sure if the Frost Giants had won the war, it would be the Asgardians who were seen as evil (history, after all, is written by the victors - so are comics).

And when Loki tries to overtake earth, his adoptive brother, Thor, tries to defend him at first, "He's my brother." But when someone points out he killed 80 people in two days, he retorts, "He's adopted."

There was actually a lot of backlash about that joke from the adoption community, which impressed me. Yes, a lot of people outside of adoption complained that we were taking it too seriously, that it was a joke and we should "get over it," but I'll admit it was a little like a punch in the gut when I heard it. I tried to shake it off. Then I read this on another website made it me realize why it struck a chord...

One parent, EricQelDroma, wrote on the Disney Boards that his daughter, who is adopted, was not old enough to discern the humor behind the line.
"I almost laughed, too; the line is well played. But the laughter stuck in my throat when all of the joke's implications crashed down on me. My daughter never got for a second that it was supposed to be a joke. 
"'Are people laughing because they think adopted kids are bad? Am I bad?'"
It was an uncanny echo of Loki from the first Thor movie. It's the feeling that comes from trying to pretend you're part of the family that adopted you rather than you birthfamily - what's so bad about me and the people I came from that we have to hide it? One of our Lost Daughters, Lynn Steinberg, wrote a great post about this a couple weeks back, Are Adoptive Parents Modeling Enough Adoption Language for Their Children?

In Thor the Dark World, Loki has fully taken on the role as the angry adoptee, yelling that Odin is not his father, and telling his adopted mom that she's not his mother (yet, he loves her dearly). Who can blame him? Who can blame any of us? Being separated from our birthfamilies and put in a foreign family - we have a right to get pissed off about it once in a while.

A while ago I wrote about adoptee heroes in comics on my personal blog. Superman, Spiderman and Luke Skywalker were all adoptees, after all. While there's a lot to like about the adoptee superhero, I think there's also a lot to learn from the adoptee supervillian. They're angry. They're righteous. They are accepted as family when they're good and pointed out as adopted when they're bad. They have a lot to deal with. They have a point.

Sometimes you're not the "good adoptee" trying to pretend adoption is all honky-dory. Sometimes you get pissed off about it. Sometimes it makes you mad.

Sometimes you gotta be the baddass adoptee.


Cathy Heslin is a reunited adult adoptee of closed domestic adoption in New Jersey. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two boys. She met her birthmother when she was just 18 and moved out to Portland after graduating college to live with her birthmother. She has been in reunion with her birthmother for nearly 25 years, and with her birthfather for 15 and has a complicated extended family that includes all sides. 

She writes about adoption with a focus on long-term reunion. She has written a memoir in partnership with her birthmother called Kathleen-Cathleen — A True Story of Adoption and Reunion, where she and her birthmother write alternating chapters sharing their experience of reunion from both the perspective of the adoptee and the birthmother (not yet published). They also write parallel blogs on shared themes: Cathy's blog is Follow Cathy on Twitter @CathyHeslin.