Big week for women, this one. The cabinet reshuffle brought more women into prominent roles (yeah but they’re still Tories though, aren’t they?), the CofE voted in favour of women being allowed to become bishops, and Marvel announced that Thor is going to be a woman in new comics. Guess which one I’m going to talk about.
You’re right! It’s a politics blog again! Oh wait, no. *shuffles notes* So, Thor.
Haven’t heard about this recasting, or think it’s a joke? The BBC, the Guardian, Time, the Verge, and Newsarama wrote about it…. and that’s just the first handful of Google results. I’m not here to summarise the announcement, so check one or more of those out if you haven’t heard about it. But I’ll quickly say that we’re talking comic!Thor, not movie!Thor … yet.
Now, I’m a member of YAvengers, a blog that gives writing advice and talks about fiction through the personae of the Avengers. I’m Iron Man, by the way, if you didn’t already know. Despite the characters being almost exclusively male, the team is currently entirely female (although may not be soon…), so hey, we’ve technically got a female Thor already. On your left, Marvel.
I told my parents about this announcement, and they had very different reactions. Dad asked, “How can Thor be a woman?” (The short answer is that Thor is fictional and therefore can be anything, you know.) Then, after googling it and reading the articles, he said, “Well, you wait until all your heroines get turned into men.” Yeah, er, think you missed the part where male heroes drastically outnumber their female counterparts…
Mum, on the other hand, said, “Oh, well, there’s all that gender fluidity in Norse mythology, isn’t there?” But then, she did read several drafts of my Extended Project which discussed that very topic, so I guess that’s not that surprising.
As you can probably guess, I’m delighted by this news. I’m not quite so delighted by the boob plate armour in the concept art, since everybody with half a brain can figure out that if you fell on your front wearing that, you’d have a cracked sternum in seconds, but hey, nothing’s perfect, and I guess they’ve gotta keep the dudebros happy.
This announcement shows that Marvel’s writers and artists are aware that their audience wants female characters, and they even mentioned that they’re aware of a large proportion of female readers. It shows that they’re not afraid to do something like this, even though some people on the internet think it’s stupid — mostly men whose comments border on sexist but not explicitly enough that they can get called out on it without them getting defensive.
I also think Thor, as a choice of hero to reinvent in this manner, makes perfect sense in terms of breaking down stereotypes.
Remember my massive essay about gender presentation on Asgard in Thor: The Dark World? Of course you do. That post gets more hits than the rest of my blog put together, I swear. I talked about Sif’s ‘masculine’ armour, and the fact that Thor’s only ‘feminine’ clothing was when he was in a non-fighting capability, aka when he’s not being a superhero. Thor is coded as typically masculine, aggressive — a fighter. Placing a woman in that role is dismantling this idea, and forcing readers to approach it from a different perspective.
I’m still holding out that this’ll open up the possibility of Thor/Sif as lesbians, too, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
It’s great news for comic fans everywhere. Thor’s a really well-known and popular hero, not least because of his major role in the Avengers, and a move like this sets a precedent. If such a beloved character can become female (or be replaced by a female), why shouldn’t others? Moreover, taking a central Marvel character instead of introducing a new and completely unknown one means the experiment is more likely to be a success.
You see, a lot of companies who don’t actually want to write female protagonists tend to relegate them to a corner and not publicise them properly. When the book / game / film doesn’t sell, they blame it on having a woman in a central role, because clearly no one wants that, right? And they’re hard to animate, so maybe we should just not have women even though that in itself is historically inaccurate. But look, we’re not sexist, we already made that game and it didn’t sell! (Because we released it on a tiny platform that no one uses and didn’t tell anyone when we released it properly, but let’s ignore that part: clearly it was the female protagonist.)
Not that I’m directing these comments at Ubisoft or anything. Noooooo. Not at all. /heavy sarcasm
That’s the complete opposite of what Marvel’s doing. They’re taking a famous character who is central to their comics and they’re replacing him with a female version of himself. It can’t be ignored. If it doesn’t sell, then they probably can blame that on the fact that people didn’t like the idea of a female Thor. But honestly, I’ve seen so many people say, “Huh, maybe I should start reading comics,” that I don’t think that’ll be the case.
Honestly, I love this idea. I recently read my first Marvel graphic novel: Neil Gaiman’s 1602, which was utterly hilarious, featuring Sir Nicholas Fury, Peter Parquah, and other historical variations of our favourites. I’ve never been a major comic reader because that didn’t feature in my childhood, and when you don’t grow up with it, it’s pretty intimidating to approach however many decades of Marvel with no idea where to start. Also, comics can be pretty expensive, and the nearest comic store is a forty-minute bus ride away (though the employees were nice when I was in there before).
This announcement makes me want to start reading. I’m happy to give my money, when I’ve actually got some, to a company that recognises the importance of developed and well-written female characters. They deserve my support — and I’d urge any of you who can to take a similar approach. We can change the face of comics and superhero movies by proving that we want a female Thor, that we want female characters generally. We can make this genre, so often male-dominated, into a more equal place.
Put your money where your ideology is. I’m welcoming this female Thor with open arms.
Oh, and female bishops and more women in government’s good too, I guess.