Arts

Marvel Upsets Comic Fans With Thor Sex Change

Thor Gets A Shocking Makeover

By Jeremy Pasker

Given the subtle (read: rampant) misogyny of my beloved US of A, it is only natural that the first person to comment, for the Banner, on the newest gender alterations for the Norse God would be a writer with a penis.

The female Thor has seen a fair share of criticism from feminists and non feminists alike. Feminists write that it’s only an appeasement to avoid more substantial gender equity in comic books. Non feminists indignantly harp about authenticity and staying true to comic book roots.

Whether or not Marvel is copping out is interesting in particular. For sure, this move is definitely the easy way out, certainly easier than inventing a brand new character from scratch and hoping audiences latch onto her. Or highlight a less popular (read: mainstream) already female character within the marvel Universe. The argument against that is, of course, with a character already established there’s no need to promote the character from scratch and that there is already a bulk audience waiting to buy copies of the newest issue.

But in a way, choosing the easier of the two options, they’ve shackled themselves to a pre written narrative. How far will the writers be willing to sway from the essential properties inherent to to a character? A gender change, no matter how innocuous, is still a radical change.

It’s the same with the shift to a Black Captain America or a Muslim Ms. Marvel. As a woman, Thor would experience, see, and interact with the world differently than a man would.

Will there be references to societal misogyny and sexism? Will there be realistic lady banter, and or hobbies when Thor isn’t slaying villains? How often will they illustrate issues specific to women?

Female identity is very complex like all identity is, male, Black, Italian, Greek, Iraqi, or whatever. The tropes and clichès shown on the Hollywood projector are but the tip of a Titanic sinking iceberg. There is so much still drifting beneath the surface, more dynamics waiting to rise, be seen and be heard. Not exploring the abundance of other issues that explain what it is to be female during modern times would do the character a disservice. It shouldn’t be a female Thor that just punches ice giants.

From my vantage point, that is exactly what this next wielder of Mjölnir will wind up becoming, simply a male Thor with breasts rather than a female Thor with a female personality and female traits.

Jason Aaron, the writer for the newest Nordic thunder God, commented after breaking the news to the public that “This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is Thor.”

I can picture him grunt and scratch himself as he said it. No offense to Marvel and the new artists that will continue the story as it evolves for a more diverse audience but that was so condescending. Thor won’t have a beard or a chiseled square jaw but don’t worry fellas, Thor will still be masculine. Wink. Wink.

Not everyone is as cynical as me though when it comes to the newest addition to Marvels leading lady protagonists.

“Changes like the one being made to Thor are not about creating new exclusionary measures that erase older models,” wrote Samantha Langsdale for a piece in the Guardian. “Rather they are about broadening our field of observation. Geek culture is made up of, and enjoyed by, all kinds of people and our norms should reflect that.”

The prominence of a diverse comic nerd culture is illustrated by a recent Graphic Policy study. It showed that 47% of comic fans are female, and women made up 62% of the Facebook fans of female comic characters (including Black Widow, Elektra and She-Hulk). Not a scientific sample size but informative none the less.

The transition from male to female genitalia on Thor may have a bigger impact on readers regardless of the impression some may have that it’s disingenuous. If nothing else comic books will need to adjust or fear the ire of organized feminists, which won’t help sales.

During promotions for the new character, Marvel cryptically posed the rhetorical questions: “Who is she? Where did she come from and what is her connection to Asgard and the Marvel universe?” The audience were left to ponder amongst themselves.

I guess we will have to buy the comic when it comes out in October to find out.  Or read the spoilers on twitter.

 

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2 replies »

  1. “easier than inventing a brand new character from scratch” This is happening, though. You even mention the new Ms. Marvel – currently Marvel’s highest-selling female solo title. There’s also been new characters created in several team books. Marvel’s also been highlighting existing female characters. Right now, this month, the female solo titles include Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, She-Hulk, Elektra and Storm. Coming up are the new Thor, along with Angela, Spider-Woman and I think a couple others. Along with THAT, there’s the all-female X-Men title, Jean Grey has been the primary lead in All-New X-Men (and may soon be getting her own solo title), Polaris is one of three primary leads in All-New X-Factor (and serves as the leader of the group), and Monica Rambeau’s played a major role in Mighty Avengers as field leader and powerhouse.

    So when people complain that Marvel should be creating new characters and pushing existing ones, those people are ignoring that Marvel is doing exactly that. They’re also going to temporarily replace Thor with a female because Jason Aaron thought it would make for a neat story.

    And for the record, can we stop calling this a “sex change,” or saying Thor’s been “turned into” a woman. That’s false. Thor Odinson is still going to be a man. But there will temporarily be a woman using his hammer, and who will also call herself Thor.

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