Marvel Comics has announced that its superhero Thor—you know, the Norse god?—is getting a sex change. Well, not exactly. First off, it is no longer Marvel Comics, it is Disney’s Marvel Comics. Which obviously explains a lot, here. The House of Mouse decided years ago that it would be happy to be the House of Louse if that would help the bottom line and keep its liberal critics happy. As for the sex change, that is more or less true. Except that there will be no actual procedure, just the decision of some craven, empty suits that they might get “more female readers” if they make one of their most popular heroes a poster girl for feminism.
Many of our readers no doubt have little or no interest in comic book characters, and I confess to having only a limited interest in them myself. But comic books and especially their movie and television spinoffs have had a massive role in popular culture for a century or so, which means that their reshaping by the “progressive” left is not unimportant.
Stan Lee, who was the moving force behind Marvel Comics for more than half a century, has devoted his career to making that influence a positive one. He has made a point of presenting believable (we say “flawed,” now) characters whose heroism continues to shine through. From Spider Man to the Fantastic Four to The Avengers, and many, many more, his characters and those he helped develop have become a mainstay of American popular culture. And they have also been decent, good people devoted, not to pushing any kind of political agenda, but rather to protecting the public and especially those who cannot protect themselves. What is more, until recently Marvel refused to follow its rival DC Comics in openly deriding the middle American values on which its fortunes were based. (DC’s Superman years ago declared that he was for “Truth, Justice, and yada yada yada,” pointedly dismissing that character’s previous devotion to “the American Way.”) Mr. Lee’s movies in particular have remained unabashedly friendly toward America and its traditional norms.
Having read this much, some readers relatively unaware of Mr. Lee’s work might sympathize with the decision announced by Jason Aaron, who will be writing the sex change Thor series, in his desire to appeal to a female demographic—and, of course, bring us yet more patronizing “girl power.” Disney suits want money and good press. Geeky writers and artists no doubt want the approval of the few women who will actually speak to them, and probably believe the sex change will get that for them. One part of the demographic they have missed: my own daughter, who told me about this “change” in horrified terms. My son was horrified as well, be we all know by now that the opinion of a thirteen-year-old boy regarding images in popular culture counts for less than nothing in public discourse. My daughter could not believe that 1) people do not remember the many strong female characters already populating the Marvel universe, 2) people would be so stupid as to accept that a Norse god known for at least a couple of thousand years is suddenly female, and 3) women would not feel patronized by this latest bit of self-serving, ultimately empty political correctness.
As to point one, I feel soiled even having to justify an aversion to Thor’s sex change on the basis of nose counting. Obviously, there are fewer female than male superheroes, and most of those, especially in the Marvel universe, are not the fake men called for by today’s “girl power” standards. Black Widow is an assassin, the Invisible Woman is, well, invisible. And the various female “X-Men” (horrors! “MEN?!”) rely more on powers and brains than brawn. But they are there, they are strong, and they are popular.
Point Two is the one that particularly incensed my somewhat precocious daughter. And it is a fair point, I think, that it is particularly disrespectful toward history, common sense, and those with even something less than her ninth–grade education to pretend that Thor can just “be” a woman. The move shows remarkable contempt for readers and any conception of the truth. Of course, Disney/Marvel might have chosen to portray Loki as a female, given that there is actual historical precedent for such a characterization, but then she would be a villain who gets beat up, and the whole point appears to be that of feminizing brawn. Apparently, then, the sex change Thor will be a female who touches Thor’s Hammer and is “found worthy” to become a Norse god. Found worthy by whom? Whoopi Goldberg? Disney’s reptilian suits and/or their focus groups?
Finally, there is the fact of Thor’s sex change being openly patronizing of women. Of course, that mental giant Whoopi Goldberg, who announced the sex change with such glee, will not notice this fact, but many women will. Then again, most women (and girls) really do not have any interest in the world of comic books. And picturing some gal in metal armor carrying a big hammer, while it might interest teenage boys, really is not likely to appeal to girls who are not into that sort of thing. But that is much of the point. Comics, apparently, are “too male” and so must be feminized for the greater good. And if you do not find that creepy, well, I just hope you never get hold of real power because you have the mindset of a tyrant.
The question arises, of course, as to what is going to happen with the Avengers movies that are planned for the next several years. I highly doubt that we are going to see Chris Hemsworth undergo a sex change operation for the role, or that his character will either. Disney/Marvel probably will try to have it both ways by making Thor female for a series of comics, leaving the movies as they are, and perhaps even keeping the actual, male Thor for other comics—particularly when the girl Thor flops as she almost certainly will. Still, Disney/Marvel will have gotten a lot of free publicity from the stunt, along with some goodwill in a place (Hollywood) and a time (the Obama years) of incredible bigotry and hostility toward traditional male role models. So, no doubt the suits see this as a win-win situation, with no downside.
Sadly, they probably are right. My kids have sworn to ONLY buy t-shirts with the male Thor on them, and to ONLY see Marvel movies with the male Thor in them. That “protest” will, of course, continue filling the suits’ pockets. Shall we, then, boycott all things Disney/Marvel? I have some sympathy for that response but find it unrealistic. Thank goodness most of my kids’ entertainment is set at a somewhat higher level than superhero movies. Their instinctive position at least puts them on the right side of the popular culture debate, such as it is. And, while I do not want them fully engaged in those debates, or that culture, I am convinced that as a parent I have a duty to expose them to popular culture, in a measured way, while they are still at home and my wife and I are there to guide them through it and help them put it in proper perspective. I am pretty sure, given their response, that they have done that.
What about you, Stan? For lo, these many decades, you have stood up for decent values and a clear respect for your audience. Does not Thor’s sex change strike you as a betrayal of the folks who helped you build the Marvel empire? Are you really okay with this kind of patronizing stupidity—this attack on the myths and legends that helped shape our culture? Or are you on board with the DC-ization of Marvel?
Say it ain’t so, Stan, say it ain’t so.
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