Thursday, 17 July 2014
Female Thor And Fan Shaming
If you've been keeping track of news from Marvel recently you'll know that Thor is about to undergo some unusual changes. Specifically that Thor, one of Marvel's big three heroes, is about to be changed into a woman.
There have been mixed messages as to whether this is a new character or Thor himself undergoing this change thanks to comments from Marvel itself and new writer Jason Aaron. In an article on Marvel's website announcing this change, it was stated that "No longer is the classic Thunder God able to hold the mighty hammer, Mjölnir, and a brand new female hero will emerge worthy of the name THOR." However, the article itself soon moved on to state that "This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel Universe." More importantly, it suggests that this is a permanent change rather than something temporary.
Now, to be completely honest I could personally go either way on this.
I don't read Marvel as a rule anymore thanks to the company going to the other extreme of DC Comics and allowing authors to apparently run rampant without any oversight or ruling; the works of Mark Millar, Brian Bendis and Jason Aaron himself all come to mind as examples of how bad this is. As such this seems like it could be an author tangent steamrolling all prior characterisation and trying to make what he thinks the character should be like (we saw this previously with his irrational hatred of Scott Summers). Well, that or a blatant publicity stunt, which is equally likely.
What's more is that I am personally very worried that if it does prove to be a new Thor replacing the old one, it will be Angela. A character from Spawn who was moved into the Marvel universe due to Neil Gaiman winning a legal battle with Tod McFarlane to own the character.
Since then Marvel has desperately been trying to deeply integrate her completely into the universe. First by lumbering her on the Guardians of the Galaxy, then shoving her into the Thor mythos and trying to make her popular by aping cinematic universe's Loki's basic elements in reverse. AKA she was Thor's sister, taken by the tenth realm during a war with Asgard as a child, provoking Odin to sever all connections with it. This might be interesting were it not for the fact that she has all the depth and complexity of the early 90s x-treme character that she is. Seriously, pre-Fabian Nicieza Cable has more interesting character traits than her, and all he did is scowl.
On the other hand though, we have seen Thor undergo a lot of changes over the years. Some for worse some for better, but they have usually been quite interesting. A lot of the more bold ones such as JMS' run did prove to be a move for the better, as have a lot of ones in recent years. What's more is that we've seen many different incarnations from being King of Asgard to a frog at one point, and other characters have been briefly gender-swapped in the series (Loki for those interested, depicted right).
What's more is that Thor has been fully replaced by other characters like Beta Ray Bill and Thunderstrike for a time in his own comic. In both those cases neither was entirely bad and it was at least interesting to read. In addition to this we have also seen plenty of decent characters wielding Mjolnir from Captain America to Storm, Lady Sif and even Superman at one point. If it proves to be written well and Aaron has a good plan behind this, there's no reason to stop him.
So yeah, so far as I am concerned this could go either way in terms of quality. However, this isn't the problem here. The problem is how supporters of this comic have been treating fans of Thor and trying to shame them. I'll be very blunt here and just give the most obvious example. In his coverage of this development, writer Devin Faraci gave an extremely short excuse for this and then followed it up with this statement: "anyone complaining about this change is either a) ignorant of the character history (and thus sort of in no position to complain) or b) a misogynist."
I'd like to say that this was an isolated incident, but it's an attitude i've seen on forums and plenty of places. It's the sort of thing which turns any debate into "You oppose Thor being turned into a woman, thus you hate all women you lowlife scum!" Not only is this insulting to fans of the character, but it's an incredibly cheap ploy. People who use this are attempting to brush over any possible alternatives which have not been covered, and are wielding this accusation as a cudgel to try and shame them into shutting up. It's things like this as to why feminism is so often derided or not taken seriously within many science fiction groups, or is treated with animosity. It's brought up so often, used against so many elements to try and justify someone's opinion rather than push for actual equality, that others stop taking it seriously.
Now, let's just be clear here: if someone's argument is based purely upon the character being a woman it might be a relevant accusation to make. It's definitely a relevant one to make if they show open hostility or dislike to female characters in general, using slanderous terms. Beyond that though, there are a hell of a lot of reasons why fans of Thor might object to this change which are entirely relevant.
The first one is if this is Thor being turned into a woman. Now, despite coming from a largely patriarchal society, Thor has never shown any misogynistic traits when he's been written properly. He treats Sif as an equal, when he got into a major argument with Firebird over immortality (The Kang Dynasty) he was arguing less about her gender and more about thinking of things in the long run because he will outlive everyone. He also didn't treat Loki any differently as a woman.
So, while all these websites are making a big thing about a macho character being turned into a female, why is it needed? Unless Aaron resorts to big time character assassination, it's not going to turn Thor into learning some lesson or anything, as he's pretty much treating everyone equally as it is. There are no obvious reasons in support of this, and the way people argue really makes it seem like an arbitrary change to try and please feminists or female readers. I'm not saying that the case, though it is certainly a big publicity stunt, but that's how it can appear.
Then there is the second one, with Thor himself being replaced by another character. Now, as mentioned before other figures have taken over from Thor in the past and it has resulted in interesting developments. Yet this isn't offering fans something they might want, like Lady Sif taking up Mjolnir, a possible redemption story for Amora or even pulling an interesting twist like bringing back Tess Black. Perhaps this could even offer Brunnhilde some much deserved focus and respect.
Instead we supposedly have this new character coming out of the blue and just up and replacing Thor entirely, and this is being praised as an improvement. Not because of any great potential like a legendary writer like Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore behind this, but because she has a different gender. It's this last point which is being focused upon the most, and it's with this that it's receiving the most praise. As if bumping off a male character and replacing him with someone with the opposite gender is immediately an improvement and a step towards equality.
Furthermore, this new Thor is just up and kicking the out old out of his new comic and outright replacing him. So it's not only the fact that a new character is being added to the mythos. There's also the fact that this one is effectively wiping out a decades old established character and throwing him away as if he's not needed any more. As if the fans still invested in him and reading his comic don't matter and don't have any right to complain when their favourite hero is up and replaced without any reason.
All of this is also without getting into some extremely problematic suggestions (one piece of art) that Thor is suddenly unworthy of wielding Mjolnir and only female Thor can do so. If it's a gender change which immediately allows the thunder god to pick it up again, it's insulting beyond reason. Putting morality and dignity not down to individual actions, but because a person has a different chromosome. If it's a new character doing this, that's even worse. It's insulting to Thor himself and is forcing him to suddenly become unworthy purely to make way for someone else, despite carrying the hammer for decades and proving himself worthy countless times over.
I'm sorry, but random accusations of sexism do not immediately render all arguments against this null and void. Anyone who doesn't like a long and lauded character being shoved to one side in favour of an alternative with breasts do have legitimate ground to stand on. The same would go for any character. If Captain Marvel, Jenny Sparks or Wonder Woman were unceremoniously removed, purely to have a male version of them take their place, trying to claim the original's fans are misandrists would not fly.
Again: This isn't some argument against the comic. This is pointing out that yelling anyone who objects either doesn't know what they are talking or are misogynists is crass and simply disrespectful. If they want to argue in favour of this new version of Thor, they should be able to do so without throwing about blind jabs insulting any who do not agree with them.
Though, whatever the quality of the upcoming comic, i'm expecting to see this panel a lot more often on forums after it is released: