Thor: Ragnarok: Anti-Patriarchial Action Adventure


 

 

I knew going in what I wanted fromThor: Ragnarok going in–And I got it.  But it also had some excellent surprises.  First let’s go over the good stuff we expected:

I wanted humor. The very first Thor film had a lot of excellent humor–and who doesn’t love a hero–and a franchise–that doesn’t take itself too seriously? Who doesn’t love riffs on anti-cool-ness? (I do!)

I wanted Hela! I was excited to see an all-powerful villainess with the most-est.

As played by Kate Blanchet, Hela in all her glory is a lot of Goth eye make-up and a lot of scorching fury. Her tortured, slinky self was magnificent. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: her antler horns are ridiculous–almost as ridiculous as Loki’s–which is saying a lot. It takes quite a good actor to wear it well, and Blanchett did.

I wanted Loki – Hiddlesbum, you hot thing you.  He was expected, even needed in the film every bit as much as Thor was. Always elegant, and in this film not given particularly much to do. He nevertheless did a good job of portraying his own skewed agenda throughout. Sometimes a reluctant part of the team, Loki’s never one of the mob. He’s an independent thinker, with his own perspective, and that’s why I like him so much. 

Idris Elba as Heimdall, alas, has never pleased me in the Thor franchise. Three reasons why:

  • They loaded him down with some crazy eye contacts
  • and about five tons of too much sincerity
  • in too small a role. Sigh.

What I wasn’t expecting was:

Valkyrie! Tessa Thompson got to play the reluctant hero role as a POC side-kick. YAY!  I found her arresting.

Thor gets a make-over! He gets a haircut. (Yay!) There is also some gratuitous shirtless Hemsworth time. (Was that abdomen CGI? I don’t think it was, but day-am!) Hemsworth, really is at his best as an actor playing a frank, yet dumb warrior dude. He doesn’t deserve his role because of pure acting skill; there is no denying the man’s super-human arms. Whew! In a way, I’m glad his shirtless moment didn’t go on and on, because I have no idea what was being said in that scene, and wouldn’t have been able to follow the movie’s plot had such shocking Hemsworth shirtlessness continued.

WHAT YOU DIDN’T SEE IN THE FILM BUT I COULD TOTALLY IMAGINE:

I think the creators of Thor know us by this point, ladies. That Thor ending—where there’s a bit of a singular moment between Thor and Loki when they’re alone. Full of emotive unspoken feelings. Full of pauses.

This is what I said to my sweetie on the way back to the car afterwards:

In my version of the film that’s where they would have started having sex.

Sweetie said: No way! They’re brothers.

Adopted!

Please.

Look it’s been a hard year for us women. We need Thor & Loki sex.

META-NARRATIVE ABOUT THE DEATH OF OLD SKOOL PATRIARCHY, ANYONE? (!!!)

It was a surprise to see Karl Urban with a bald head and heavy make up at the beginning of the film, yet he was there purely as a representation of Old skool masculinity.

A sop to a certain kind of gun-loving guy, Karl Urban has babes and guns at the beginning of the film. But the film really deflects that. An instant later, some creature spits up all over the babes, and things go to hell in a handbasket. Poor Karl really just wants to have his one true warrior moment. At the very end, he gets to have that moment—along with all the gun-toting idiot dudes out there–as he go down in a blaze of old skool masculine glory, seemingly selfish at first, but sacrificing himself for the good of others.

LET’S GO DEEPER PEOPLE: That’s one layer of the film–and it’s thin.

I would posit that the rest of Thor is attempting to shift Action Movies in a new direction—make them more progressive. (Shocking, I know.) How did THOR: RAGNAROK mark a profound shift in action adventure movies of the future? Many critics are buzzing about the different meaningful aspects of this new directorial vision – the first POC director in the franchise. I want to argue that the film is (as much as it is anything else) literaly dismantling patriarchy, as well as creating space for women as active players in the Thor Universe.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!

First the women: Hela is a great villain. She could have been more clever, could have gotten deeper, but her role involved a shocker—see below.

There’s also the Valkyrie. No more Thor’s mother and sister sitting around at home while all the action was happening elsewhere. The Valkyrie is right up in it. She is the female Karl Urban, taking up far more space in the film.  She also fights in the end, knowing she’s gonna die.

No women need to be saved because they’re the weaker sex in this movie—on Valhalla the entire population needs saving. Nor are the women reserved for romantic interest fodder. There are no romantic interests at all in Thor: Ragnarok (unless you buy my Loki & Thor m/m fantasy. ;>) Women are included as players, pure and simple. Hela kicks ass, and the Valkyrie—full of doom and foreboding–wads into a losing battle, then pounds away at it just like the men.  Why not, right? They’re all gods–it’s not like their physical forms really matter.

Credit:Jasin_Boland/Marvel Studios 2017

But what was even better and more riveting to me—was this fabulous tearing down of Odin—Thor’s father (played by Anthony Hopkins.)

The back story in this movie is that Odin had a daughter, named Hela – and they ravaged 9 kingdoms together, raking in the booty. That is, until one day Odin seemed to grow a conscience about all the plundering and decided to go in another direction. So Odin’s solution was to cast his daughter out of Valhalla. Her very history was written over, with other remnants and symbols from that time buried and forgotten. Until Odin’s death. As he’s dying, he tells his two sons about their lost sister—and once he’s dead, she’s back, with a big old chip on her shoulder and some major daddy issues.

The first thing she does is go and uncover all this erased history in Valhalla, (I couldn’t find pictures of the cool moving ceiling mural–but it was really well done) staking her claim as first born to rule all of Odins 9 realms. And what the hell—she wants to go out and conquer all the remaining realms as well.

The picture of Valhalla literally crumbles to reveal a hidden truth underneath.

So as a villain, her major lasting strike is that she complicates the idea of Odin as a good guy. Nor is he ever vindicated in the end. There’s no rolling back from her revelations once she’s vanquished.  The upshot: Valhalla, built upon ill-gotten, illicit colonialist wealth, is destroyed.

Buh-bye patriarchal kingdom.

In the end, yes, Hela is displaced by Thor. It’s not done with a “the man’s supposed to rule” kind of presumption. Thor acknowledges that as eldest born Hela has a legitimate claim to the throne.

But then Thor points out that she’s the worst. True. Hela has an unquenched desire for conquest, totalitarian rule, and a cavalier disregard for the death and destruction of her subjects. That’s what they say, but that’s not how actions play out.  At the very end, Hela **is** left to rule Valhalla–and to destroy it. A world born out of multiple sins is pulled down into flames and destruction, while Thor and his people seek a new place to start fresh.

Want to read more interesting discussion about the film?  Here’s a Mashable blog post on Thor’s themes of colonialism.

and a blog post about the deliberate use of Maori humor in Thor:

Thor and his magic patu: notes on a very Māori Marvel movie

 

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Lady Smut – our Black Friday giveaway that starts tomorrow, Nov 24, 2017. Check it out!

Madeline Iva is the twisted sister you always wish you had.  She’s also the author of the fantasy romance Wicked Apprentice.  Check out her other Lady Smut postsJoin her newsletter or follow her on Facebooktwitter, and Pinterest

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2 Comments

  • K
    November 26, 2017 at 12:07 am

    Look, I love your site, but that adoption joke was really inappropriate and has very much put me off reading more. Adopted individuals constantly deal with people thinking that our families are not real. It’s really hurtful to imply that our relationships with our siblings are not the same as non-adopted people since we don’t share blood – which is exactly what you did. How would you feel if someone told you that you should fuck your brother? Pretty gross, right? That’s exactly the same as saying it about someone who’s adopted. Our siblings are our real siblings, end of story. Adoption narratives in the media are incredibly problematic much of the time and Marvel has been no exception, but I hope that in the future, you won’t continue to perpetuate the stigma, too.

    • admin
      November 26, 2017 at 10:27 am

      It *was* a really awful joke — especially in these times. Thank you for responding and thank you for also being really generous and even though you were not happy–still saying you love our site.

      I mean, we live in such strange times. When I made that joke I was thinking of two things — and not sure how I feel about either of them. They are both problematic and complex and in some ways great — mainly, I was thinking of queer-baiting and fan fic.

      On one hand — do I think there’s some queer baiting going on with the whole Thor – Loki thing — and that it’s done deliberately by the Marvel comics movie folks? I most certainly do. On the other hand, by putting in the queer baiting, I think that the Thor creators are at least implicitly admitting that there are queer folk out there who want their own narratives in a movie, and offering them a suggestion if not the actual thing. Is it progress? Maybe? But not enough. I mean, why not just have some queer folk in the Thor Universe, right?

      On the other hand, fan fic has developed a robust culture around manipulating pop icons in all kinds of transgressive ways–including torture, BDSM, and incest. Is this a good thing? I dunno, but I find the transgressiveness fascinating. I can see where fan fic folk (the majority of which are queer) are coming from in their desire to submit cultural narratives that don’t acknowledge their existence to their own inner frustrations via imaginary narratives full of torment and taboos for their characters.

      That said — I will vow never to reference the whole Thor-Loki thing in an incestuous way Ever Again. Promise. However—just giving you a heads up, we will be discussing some “illicit” reads in the future and discussing a subject we’ve never talked about on Lady Smut before–the whole sub-genre of Step-brother erom. Not sure where *that* discussion is going to go. But I’m really interested to hear your opinion if you happen to catch that blog post. And if you’re not happy–by all means, please let us know!

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