Sunday, July 20, 2014

Do We Really Need a Female Thor?

Autumn, it seems, is becoming the season of change for the Marvel Universe, and (as is geek nature) not everyone is happy about it. One of the most controversial changes is that Thor, The God of Thunder, will soon be a woman. 

Apparently, the current Thor will somehow be deemed unworthy to wield his famously picky hammer, Mjolnir, and a woman will be stepping in to take his place. This is not like any of the numerous alternate realities in which a woman ends up with Mjolnir (like the “What if” issue when Jane Smith kicked some ass as Thordis), or in the current reality when Storm was able to use the real Mjolnir to destroy the fake hammer that Loki gave her several decades before (because that wasn’t convoluted at all). No, we are being assured that this is the real deal; she will be Thor. According to writer, Jason Aaron,

“This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel Universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.”

Here is where my first issue with this announcement crops up (which my friend, Dave, of The Week in Geek, will probably be surprised to hear): What Aaron has essentially implied is that ‘Thor’ is not a name, but a title. Thing is, much like Superman, Thor was born Thor. He is the son of Odin. He is the God of Thunder. He is Thor. It’s going to take some damn fine writing to make this fundamental concept change work, in my opinion.

Now, we don’t yet know the identity of this woman. In fact, the whole of what we do know can be summed up in this snippet from the announcement:

“The story behind her is that she created herself. She was saved by Thor, and she came down from Earth – followed him – and made herself look like Thor. And now she’s taking over.”

What is even more confusing than the sentence structure of that announcement, is that it was delivered by Jenny McCarthy (yes, that Jenny McCarthy) on ‘The View’. No, that’s not a typo. Marvel decided to make the announcement that Thor will now be a woman, on ‘The View’. The only way they could have made this a more obvious marketing stunt is if they paired the announcement with the arrival of new ‘Thor’ brand tampons. I would be genuinely shocked if there has ever been another segment on ‘The View’ about a comic book. Ever. Their choice to announce that one of the oldest Marvel superheroes is suddenly going to be a woman, on a daytime talk show aimed at housewives and stay at home moms, screams pandering to me. This doesn’t seem like a groundbreaking, well thought out decision. No, this seems more like a cheap, easy way for Marvel to throw a pair of tits on an established character that is already earning them tons of money (thanks to the popular movies which will likely not follow suit with the gender swap), and point to it as proof of their progressive thinking and general support of women everywhere. The most disturbing reaction I’m hearing from a lot of women is that we should be thanking Marvel for taking such a daring step towards gender equality. I think that’s crap. If Marvel is truly interested in equally representing women in comics, they can either start seriously promoting any of the female superheroes they’ve already got, or they can work to create a new dynamic female superhero that is representative of women without being a flying sex symbol (pants, people, women can wear pants). Sorry, guys, but I don’t feel the need to thank Marvel simply for throwing womankind a bone.

All that being said, I am willing to give Aaron and the rest of the creative team the chance to come up with some sort of epic storyline in which this all makes sense. I really would like to believe that perhaps they are trying to do this for all the right reasons. At the end of the day, though, I worry that this is going to alienate more readers than it draws in.

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