Thor Ragnarok: fanart and thoughts

Hello all!

So, recently I went to see Thor: Ragnarok at the cinema. And it was glorious, and I have a great deal of thoughts about it. So naturally, I thought I would share. BEWARE SPOILERS! If you just want to look at the fanart, scroll to the bottom of the post. It’s all of Valkyrie/Scrapper 142.

A little background: I was, for a long time, very much a fan of the Marvel Avengers films. I watched all of them, even the Edward Norton Hulk film. I watched season one of Agents of Shield and season one of Agent Carter. I had a party with friends where we watched all the Avengers films back to back and got pretty much no sleep. And then I stopped watching them. The reason being, I got to Guardians of the Galaxy and looked at what the next few films were. And none of them were women centric. We still didn’t get a Black Widow film. All the main superheroes were still white (I nearly went back to watch Civil War because of T’challa, but in the end decided I couldn’t quite handle everyone getting screwed over because Steve and Tony can’t make friends). And there was not a queer in sight (there’s a whole other rant to be had about Agent Carter and queerbaiting and DAMNIT JUST GIVE ME STYLISH FORTIES QUEERS OKAY I PROMISE YOU THEY EXIST) and I was tired and bored. I love superhero films, and films that are big and daft and have explosions and implausible science. But it’s tiring to have to just expect the sexism and the exclusion of anyone who’s  not white and male and cis. And being disappointed is also tiring: I went back for Deadpool, and I love that film for a great many reasons but it was also disappointing because all the publicity had pushed the fact that Deadpool was pansexual, and in the story for the film they gave him a single love/lust interest, who is a woman. And yeah, there was reference in among his lines about attraction to blokes, but personally I thought they could have done better.

So it was a big deal for me, going back to the MCU and watching Thor: Ragnarok. Mainly I did it because of the director. Taika Waititi (sometimes known as Taika Cohen) is someone I know of as a director. I love What we do in the Shadows, his comedy about four vampires living in a flatshare in New Zealand. I want to see more of his work. And he’s of Jewish and Te-Whanau-a-Apanui descent and I thought: ok, maybe he’ll bring something different to this.

And he did, and it was FANTASTIC. Thor: Ragnarok is funny in a way that none of the other Marvel Avengers films are. Thor is the butt of a lot of the jokes. A lot of fun is poked at the superhero genre. It was big, and colourful and silly and majestic. I still have criticisms (we’ll get to those later), but damn it felt good to go to the cinema and watch it and not feel completely grumpy.

I loved the fact that this film did not take itself seriously. I loved that we got a woman as a main villain (and personally I’m hoping that Hela is not dead and we get her returning in all her gloriously OTT villainy. I want to watch the awkward family dynamics of Thor and Loki and Hela). Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster was perfect in every line, and I loved Topaz (played by Rachel House) who was a fantastic deadpan to his flamboyance.

There was a wonderful mixture of quiet humour, slapstick, and then suddenly deeper feelings. Odin dies in this film. And I’ve always really disliked him because I thought he was an epic hypocrite, but the way it was handled in this film meant I actually had feelings about it. It felt like the end of an era – that he was this bastard wizened king who was just ready to die.

And throughout the whole film there was a theme that went along the lines of “who are you if you have no home to go to?” It was varying levels of subtle. It was there when Thor returned to Asgard to find that Asgard is not how he left it (big statues of Loki all over the place). It was there when we meet Korg and Miek, who are gladiators imprisoned on Sakaar, there when Hulk talks about not wanting to go back to Earth. It’s been around for a while in Loki’s character, who  points out to Thor that Thor is only going through what Loki has already had to: finding out that his life and family are a lie. It was there in Valkyrie/Scrapper 142, the drinking fighting badarse who is the only surviving valkyrie with no home to go to. The whole of Sakaar embodied this in a way: it’s a planet full of the lost and found ruled over by a cheerful despot. Even Hela, who helped build Asgard and was then written out of the history. And it got less and less subtle, so that by the end of the film all of Asgard is destroyed and its people are flying off into the sky on a ship (I cried).

There is so much I want to say about this film – I thought it worked on so many levels and it did so many things that are really so easy to do but which so many films fail it. Some examples are:

  • the background cast was not entirely white.
  • In the mass fight scenes, there were women. There were Asgardian women with swords and shields fighting on the rainbow bridge, just in the background, and it made me very happy.
  • THIS IS SO EASY PEOPLE! THIS IS TWO REALLY STRAIGHTFORWARD THINGS THAT YOU CAN DO THAT MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE TO HOW PEOPLE VIEW YOUR FILMS!

Also Heimdall being an epic sneaky badarse, with his flowing dreads and his awesome fighting and the fact that he was actually looking after all the Asgardians while Thor and Loki were prancing around the galaxy.

And now, criticisms. I have two that I want to talk about.

The first is the failure to pass the Bechdel test. To be fair, I’m pretty sure that none of the Avengers films pass the Bechdel test. Which is super depressing. Of course, the Bechdel test is a blunt instrument with no finesse, so you do get films that fail to pass and are still pretty good representation (Pacific Rim is the one that comes to mind) and films that do pass and are still crappy representation. So in the context of the greater Avengers filmverse, this film not passing is just sort of a resigned shrug. We did have a better variety of women than we have in previous Avengers films, with Cate Blanchett playing the baddie, Rachel House as the epically deadpan Topaz and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, so hooray to that.

And criticism two, which is about the representation of Valkyrie. Let me be really really super clear that this criticism has nothing to do with Tessa Thompson’s portrayal or anything like that – I absolutely loved her and she was my favourite character walking out of the film. I hope we get more of her because she was pure awesome, and Tessa Thompson actually FOUGHT for the thing that was cut that I’m grumpy about. What upsets me is that Valkyrie/Scrapper 142 is bisexual, her being bisexual was mentioned in pre-film interviews, there was originally a scene filmed with a woman leaving her bedroom making it super clear that she was bisexual and in the film we get……… Nothing. Not a blip. Not the scene, which could have been all of thirty seconds. Not a throwaway line, which could have been easily inserted. Nope. Nothing. And this pisses me off because it would have taken so little effort and it would have meant SO MUCH to have this mixed-race, kickarse, fighting angry awesome funny woman be openly bisexual. Bisexual people are so often erased from narratives, and it’s tiring and damaging and terrible, and to have had this hope that there was going to be this AWESOME superhero, and then not get it is crap.

Valkyrie/Scrapper 142 was a brilliant character, and she’s supposed to appear again in Infinity War, so maybe hopefully Marvel will stop being such epic cowards and give us properly bisexual representation. I kinda doubt this will happen, but fingers crossed. Either way, I’m sure Tessa Thompson will continue to be utter perfection in this role.

And that’s it! I’ve had a far longer rant than I meant to – leave me comments if you want, and enjoy the fanart!

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