Thor is Definitely a Movie for Girls

1 12 2012

kidlokiGrowing up, I never read comics, because I always had this idea that they were written for boys. While I never had anything against “boy” stuff – after all, I was all for footy and cricket and movies with lots of explosions in them – but fort some reason or other, superhero comics always struck me as something that was not only for boys, but also the kind of boys stuff that was of no interest to me. Even my high school addiction to the X-Men and Spider-Man cartoon series, and the fact that I enjoyed most every superhero movie that I saw did nothing to change my mind about the fundamental truth that I had internalized – that comics are for boys, and thus not for me.

This is mainly because, while I enjoyed superhero cartoons and superhero movies well enough, they were still ultimately aimed at boys. The way I saw it, the producers wanted boys to watch these movies, and any girls watching would just be a bonus. The source material, I figured, was probably aimed even more exclusively at the young male demographic, and so despite loving superheroes enough that I watched Spider-Man­ instead of ­Buffy when they were both on tv at the same time, I never ended up making the leap to comics. After all, I’d never really seen the comic book industry make an effort to connect with female lovers of science fiction and fantasy like myself.

My view on comics changed when I watched Thor. See, unlike all of the superhero movies that preceded it, Thor is a superhero movie made for girls. In retrospect, I suppose that shouldn’t have surprised me. After all, Thor is directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also directed Much Ado About Nothing, which is one of the greatest girls’ movies of all time. Nonetheless, I was absolutely blown away by how much the Thor movie seemed to be aimed not at a male audience, but rather at a female audience. I’ve already discussed how Thor is very much a feminist movie, but it was also made in order to appeal to girls beyond that. Allow me to use pictographic evidence:

Thornoshirt1

Exhibit A: Chris Hemsworth’s abs. Note how beautiful he is, and how his abs are put on display purely for the enjoyment of the women who are watching. Also note how this exhibition of his beautiful abs takes place in a home environment. While Thor may be a god, this scene brings him into a place where women feel comfortable and safe. This is also the only instance of overt sexualisation of any of the characters that we see in this movie. It’s not that the women in the movie aren’t portrayed as sexual beings – Darcy and Jane certainly both have a good time appreciating Thor’s appearance – but rather that the sexuality of the women in the movie is portrayed as belonging to the women themselves, rather than to the men. It’s such a welcome change from the usual fare we get, where women’s bodies are put on display to highlight how they are attractive to men, and men’s bodies are put on display to highlight how powerful the male owner of the body is.

lokicrying

Exhibit B: Tom Hiddleston’s face. Tom Hiddleston’s face just happens to be inordinately beautiful. More beautiful than Thor’s even. I have no idea what his abs look like, but to be honest, I don’t really care. I could be satisfied just looking at his face all day. He also manages to cry and be seen as a serious villain at the same time. Which brings us to…

thorcrying

Exhibit C: Thor crying. All the men cry in this movie! Loki cries, Thor cries, even Odin cries. Normally this is a job given to women, but here we get to see that displays of emotion are not solely the domain of villains and women. Even the Norse Gods are allowed to shed some tears when they is upset. As woman who’s been told that being upset somehow invalidates any point she might be trying to make, I feel warm and validated knowing that Thor himself feels no shame in crying.

sifrollingeyes

Exhibit D: Sif. Sif is awesome, and I just love her expression here. This also happens to be the first time the camera focuses on anyone reacting to Thor, and Branagh chooses to show us the female reaction to his attitude. Right from the beginning, he is saying to all the women in the audience, “Yes, I know what you’re thinking, and I’m going to acknowledge that.”

thordoingdishes

Exhibit E: Thor doing dishes. See, this is just the movie engaging in wanton wish-fulfilment here. He’s nice, respectful, sexy, helps you with your physics research and  he does the housework. Really, the whole “can summon lightning, fly, and is heir to the throne of the Asgard” thing is just the icing on the cake at this point. The only thing that would make this better would be if he had his shirt off.

On top of all these perfectly fine pieces of pictographic evidence, there is also the plot to consider. Unlike the vast majority of superhero movies, where there is the major conflict is physical in nature, Thor focuses instead on the conflict between two siblings, which is a story much more common in films specifically marketed towards women than those marketed towards men or a more general audience. At the same time, Thor has all the elements that I love about superhero movies: grandiose villains who represent the darker aspects of our natures, heroes who represent our better selves, superpowered fights and intricate plots. Being able to enjoy these things in a movie that was aimed at women makes me feel like I matter. I imagine that this is how male theatre-goers feel all the time.

The upshot of all of this is that after I watched Thor, I felt for the first time in my life that a superhero movie was reaching out to me, rather than viewing me as a mere side-audience. And because of this, for the first time in my life, I felt inspired to make the move from watching a superhero movie to reading the associated superhero comic. While I still think the older Thor comics are aimed at more at boys than girls, I found myself enjoying the genre, and began branching out into other comics. Thanks to Thor, I discovered Ms Marvel, whose comics very much are aimed at women, and it’s been great. A whole new form of media has been opened up to me, and I never would have realized it existed, had not Thor been a movie for girls.

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3 responses

4 12 2012
Emma

Here from the Feministe link. 99% fantastic article, and I agree with virtually everything you’re saying, as well as the lovely pictures you’re using to say it.

Just a couple of niggles:
– not all girls like topless men. Some of us like topless women too! I realise that “Thor is definitely a movie for hetero- or bisexual girls” makes your title a bit long-winded so I’m not going to be that picky, but a little acknowledgment that not all girls are straight would go a long way.

– “While Thor may be a god, this scene brings him into a place where women feel comfortable and safe.” I have serious issues with this. It comes a little too close to dodgy two-spheres theory where men are all comfortable outside the home (like at work) and women should stay comfortable and safe inside the home. I’m sure that wasn’t your intention, but that’s how it comes across. Chris Hemsworth doesn’t need to be shirtless specifically in the home for me to enjoy the view.

Otherwise, though, I really did enjoy this, and I’m off to explore more of your blog!

4 12 2012
Lusy

Regarding your two points: with point one, you’re absolutely correct. I’m also certain there are plenty of gay guys who would appreciate Thor’s shirtlessness.

Regarding point two: He certainly doesn’t need to be specifically in the home to enjoy the view. What I meant, was that Thor’s shirtlessness was specifically shown in a non-violent place, where the God of Thunder (and his marvellous abs) were being brought into the women’s daily lives, as opposed to being used in a more violent and, for want of a better way to describe it, “masculine-coded” situation as is more often the case. It shows that Thor is there for us women, as opposed to being there for men. I have this whole plan for a blog post which will expand on that point, actually comparing Thor’s shirtlessness with Captain America’s shirtlessness. It shall also involve pictures.

4 12 2012
Emma

Ah, I see what you mean! Maybe phrasing it as “non-violent” rather than the more loaded idea of “in the home” would have done the trick there? But yeah, I see, it’s the difference between Thor being topless because he’s just come out of the shower and Thor being topless because his shirt has been ripped off in MANLY COMBAT or the like. The former is for the ladies… the latter, not so much.

I look forward to the blog post!

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