As Natalie Portman gears up to hold Thor’s hammer in the upcoming- film, Thor: Love and Thunder, we look back at the character’s polarising past. The film hits cinemas on July 7.
On July 7, the wait for a new Asgardian adventure is over as Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder comes to Indian theaters. Compared to Thor’s first standalone movie in 2011, the character and his mythos in the MCU have gone through a lot of changes.
This time, Thor has lost his ability to wield his iconic hammer Mjolnir, as his former lover Jane Foster is the “worthy one” in this movie. This plot twist is a direct reference to the comics that started featuring Jane as the new Thor following Jason Aaron’s run on Thor Volume 4 (2014-2015).
THE COMIC BOOK ORIGIN OF LADY THOR
Not to give much away to the ones still wanting to read the comics, Thor basically loses his ability to wield the hammer and even gives up his name, simply referring to himself as ‘Odinson’. By this time, he still harbours romantic feelings for Dr Jane Foster, who is unfortunately suffering from cancer.
However, as the story unfolds, Jane turns out to be the new warrior to take up the mantle of Thor and become Mjolnir’s new owner. How the MCU will play around this lore is yet to be seen. But the costume design for Natalie Portman’s character in the trailers seems to be pretty comic-accurate.
TOXIC FANS MOCK LADY THOR
Much like other comic book fandoms, a considerable number of Thor fans (mostly male) were unimpressed with this change in storyline. Referred to as Lady Thor or She Thor, Jane Foster became the subject of ridicule in 2014.
Most of the backlash was rooted in misogyny, much like the racist reactions targeted against other new-age Marvel characters like the African-American Spider-Man, Miles Morales, or the Pakistani-origin Ms Marvel, Kamala Khan.
Comments ranging from “Whoever came up with this should be fired for stupidity” to “So what are they gonna call her noww****?” became common on the toxic corners of the Internet. Similar comments also popped up when it was decided that the films would also incorporate the same storyline.
THOR WRITER IS UNAFFECTED BY THE BACKLASH
Jason Aaron expected to garner such backlash but he seemed to be unfettered. Reacting to the controversy, Aaron told Kansas-based publication The Pitch, “There was a lot of knee-jerk online reaction with people who don’t seem to understand what we we’re doing, or thinking we were giving Thor a sex change. People saying, ‘Well, you can’t change Norse mythology,’ but they clearly haven’t read Thor because we’ve been changing Norse mythology since 1962.”
WHEN JANE FOSTER REACTED TO TROLLS
In fact, as the chapters progressed, Aaron’s writing did generate some positive reviews from critics and fans. Mostly relegated to a supporting character or a mere love interest, Jane Foster finally received the gift of character depth. Odinson, on the other hand, was still relevant, uniting with the new Thor on several mythical adventures. In fact, the latter even got his standalone series The Unworthy Thor that explored his life after losing the hammer.
The comic book’s 2015 issue specifically mocked the hateful fans by using a villain as a metaphor. In the issue, as the new Thor battles the Absorbing Man, the antagonist remarks, “You wanna be a chick superhero? Fine, who the hell cares? But get your own identity. Thor’s a dude. One of the last manly dudes still left.”
Jane simply punches him in response, saying, “The kind who just broke your jaw.”
The scene could draw polarising reactions, but it is obvious that the writers were not ready to surrender to the toxic fandom. Given that the young readership of comics is including more and more women, this also seemed like a reassurance to such fans.
IS A NEW THOR ENOUGH?
While events like Jane’s transformation into Thor marked a significant change in Marvel comics, some argue whether it is mere tokenism.
Writing for The University of Southampton’s entertainment magazine The Edge, Rebecca James appreciated the move but added that there is more scope to develop the character further. An interesting argument on her part was the addition of a breastplate in Jane’s armour.
“[the character’s] armour also comes fitted with a breastplate which is moulded to the shape of the character’s bust. This is obviously a choice to make the character overtly, significantly, female, but all it does is sexualise something which should not be sexualised, and is highly impractical. In fact, it would likely kill her. You can read more here about the science of why this kind of armour would place the character in danger, rather than protecting her,” she wrote.
As of 2017, only 12 per cent of mainstream comics are led by female protagonists. Compared with 2011, the proportion of female DC and Marvel comic book writers rose from 10 per cent to 16-17 per cent. So, definitely a change is coming to make “superhero” fiction more inclusive and diverse. But given the divisive fandoms, the change still seems slow.
WHAT TO EXPECT NOW?
Whether Thor: Love and Thunder will do justice to Jane Foster’s new persona or not can only be decided when the film hits cinemas. But writer and director Taika Waititi is unabashedly ready to take on the fans who are blindly hating his work just because of Jane.
When a fan tweeted how Waititi has ruined the Thor mythos for him and added how he doesn’t want to see Love and Thunder “if we are truly getting a Jane Foster Thor”, the director was quick to respond (in a now deleted tweet), “I’ll ruin your mythos in a minute, baby.”