I don’t like the new female Thor.
There, I said it.
Now, before you start measuring me for my fedora and Men’s Right Activist decoder ring, allow me to explain.
I’m not against it because I think it violates the history of the character. You won’t hear me touting the tired idea that Thor is, was and always should be a white man. And I totally agree that for too long comics have focused too heavily on making stories for young white males at the exclusion of women and minorities. Marvel and DC Comics built vast universes with alternate dimensions and different galaxies. There’s no reason for the majority of the faces you see in comic books to be white and male.
So I’m all for some diversity. And I’m fully in support of having a new prominent female member of The Avengers, especially one that is an all-powerful god. I just think having a female Thor is really lazy.
This move is easy. Announcing that Thor will be a woman is guaranteed to get you headlines. It’s been a big story this week, picked up by mainstream news sources. It was even announced first on The View, for cripes’ sake. It’s a flashy headline that gets feminists nodding their head in approval. It sounds like a big step in the right direction. But really, it’s a cop out.
First and foremost, it’s a cop out because there’s zero chance this is a permanent change. Marvel has had the character for too long and Chris Hemsworth is too man-pretty to keep Thor a woman forever. Besides, comics have a long history of returning to the status quo. Characters like Batman and Superman and Captain America and Spider-man (and so many countless others) may “die,” but they always come back. Things never stray too far from their origins.
My guess is that somehow the Thor we know and love will lose his beloved hammer. This new female Thor will find it, be deemed worthy and will pick it up, getting Thor’s powers bestowed upon her. But in six months or a year (or maybe two), the old Thor will show back up and reclaim his mantle. Maybe she gets to stick around in her own title at that point, but most likely she’ll just fade into obscurity.
So it’s a cop out for that reason. But it’s also a cop out because it’s a flashy move designed to trick you into thinking Marvel is being progressive while distracting you from the fact that they could be doing more.
It’s easy to just make Thor a woman and to call it a day. What is harder, but would have ultimately been more impressive and rewarding would be for Marvel to either a) create a brand new high profile female character or b) take a pre-existing female character and make her more prominent.
I realize that creating an iconic character from scratch is incredibly difficult. But that should be the goal. The Marvel and DC universes should add more female characters and people of color. (And not just a black Spider-man in the “Ultimate” line of comics, which isn’t considered canon.)
But even if you can’t create new characters, there are established ones that could easily be given more prominent roles in your comics. For example, there’s Sif, the Asgardian warrior played by Jaimie Alexander in the Marvel films. Like Thor, Sif is a god. She has powers comparable to Thor and fights alongside him in most of his battles. Why not give her her own comic and make her a member of The Avengers?
Or Jane Foster? Or Thor’s mother Frigga? And that’s just in the Thor comics. There are plenty of other female characters in your other titles who are being underutilized.
I’m not saying having a female Thor is a bad thing. But I’m also not saying it’s really a good thing. It’s really just a publicity stunt designed to get headlines and pats on the back without actually solving the root problem.
When female Thor goes away and the old Thor comes back (which, I promise, will happen), the same problem will still exist. We need to do better than “black Spider-man” and “female Thor.” We need real change. Marvel, you have the power to make a difference instead of simply making headlines.
And, as one of your comics taught me when I was a kid, with great power comes great responsibility.
Update – I wrote this article yesterday and had it set to auto-post at midnight. Obviously, since I wrote it, news has come out that the black character Falcon (played by Anthony Mackie in Winter Soldier) will be replacing Captain America in the comics as well.
While I applaud Marvel for at least giving the mantle to an established black character (giving him a more prominent role, like I argued for above), to me this announcement only further proves this is all a publicity stunt. Why couldn’t Falcon simply take over for Captain America without having to become him? Why not just give Falcon an increased role as an Avenger without the gimmick of having him don the iconic red, white and blue? To me, that would have been a more lasting and impactful change since inevitable, like with Thor, the original Captain will end up reclaiming the role.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.