Female Thor Coming to the Big Screen, Is This a Problem?
Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor
Is a female Thor really a problem?
Marvel's Thor is one of their most popular characters of all time, making him an obvious choice for early inclusion into the cinematic universe. His movies have sold well, and his comics have long been well received. So what about the female Thor?
This was, per sales and media reception, a low point in the comic's sales history. Some attribute this to poor advertising, others to sexism, and still others to a general dislike of major change in canon. There is, however, yet another camp that think that this move constituted an attack on heathen faith. It is to this that I direct this article.
In my humble opinion it was not and is not an attack of any sort on anyone so far as faith is concerned.
Let us begin with Marvel's cosmology in our dissection of the cultural appropriation avenue of criticism. Thor and Loki bear little semblance of the Thor in ancient myth. The stories are quite explicit in their description of Thor as a redhead for one, and wasn't Loki's father Farbauti? If the Jotnar were truly offended, I would tremble at the fate of whomever decided to portray Laufey as a king and completely edit Farbauti out of the story. (yes, I realize that giants are shapeshifters but this fruit hangs too low to be ignored ;) ) Then there is the matter that Mjolnir wasn't the only mighty artifact that Thor wielded, yet this is the only one we are ever treated to in the films.
So there is already little worry about semblance to original source in any large sense.
Speaking of cultural appropriation, what does that even mean? In past generations, it was seen as a good thing for someone to do artwork inspired by other cultures or to learn how to cook in the style of various nations. This is how a culture thrived and came to prominence. Yes, on the world scene cultures do compete. How many have come to learn of the Norse faith simply due to curiosity after realizing that Thor is not only a comic book superhero but also a God from an actual faith? This is how advertisement works, after all.
Now that we have glossed over the divergence between popular media and myth, we come to the meat of the subject: Can pop culture influence faith?
The short answer is yes. We bore witness to this with the explosion of popularity surrounding Wicca resulting from the TV show Charmed, so a better phrasing of the question might be...should it? Should pop culture have influence over YOUR faith?
Thor is often thought of as sort of a paragon of all that it means to be a man. Is this truly the case, or is this symptomatic of a shallow grasp of the nature of divinity? The conflation of myth and reality? Youtuber Arith Harger did an excellent breakdown on this very subject a couple days ago, full disclosure, and it is on his explanation that I am endeavoring to build and expand from my own viewpoint. I agree that there are masculine and feminine energies in the universe, but it is ultimately our finite and potentially feeble grasp of the underlying concepts that describe masculine and feminine that have led to our attribution of them to male and female in a biological sense. Hence, our anthropomorphization of the God Thor as a mighty hammer wielding redhead beefcake of a man. Culturally, there is nothing wrong with this whatsoever in my humble opinion. These pictures and descriptions have withstood the test of time in a very positive manner in providing people with images to aspire to in personal emulation, particularly in the body building community. The important thing to remember is that these images are symbols, and not reflections of reality. They describe, not portray. This is why the gods are thought of and described as shapeshifters: they are sentient energy, unrestrained by physical form.
As Arith Harger diagnosed, the real issue being revealed by outrage of a character like Thor being portrayed as female is personal insecurity, not religious. There needs to be more discussions of concepts, not rules, where the masculine and feminine are concerned. The media has done yeoman's work in propagating hypersexualized images of how women should look, men should act, and vice versa so it is little wonder that the West is so confused going into the 21st century.
In short, this is the great problem with organized faiths and why I am personally grateful that heathenry does not fall under this umbrella. There is no generic image for how deities should appear, therefore there is no lens proscribing how we should think about the divine. Let us avoid letting the media rectify this situation and simply recognize that our gods are not comic book characters.