Thor Vs. Two Cunts in a Kitchen

Let’s continue on a theme from the last post.  Thor might be the most progressive Marvel movie yet in terms of gender politics.  Yes, I think a movie about a viking warrior god who smashes things with a hammer might be more feminist than the rest of the Marvel lot.

Let’s start with a fairly well established litmus test, the Bechdel Test.  Alison Bechdel, writer and artists of a comic called Dykes to Watch Out For, wrote a comic strip in which an unnamed character states she won’t see a movie unless 1) It has two female characters 2) who talk to each other 3) about something other than a man.  In Thor, Jane Foster and Darcy talk about Jane’s research on wormholes (and a missing ipod).  Now, it may be debatable how well this actually passes the rule — does it count, for example, if their discussion is largely technobabble and therefore meaningless in a literal sense?

I think the rule is not to be interpreted as a strict algorithm for choosing movies (even though it is stated as one).  Consider the tv commercial type known as “Two Cunts in a Kitchen.”    An ad of this sort will, by definition, contain two women, who talk to each other, about a product (which is not a man).  Of course the characters are, in the eyes of the ad execs, literally consumer whores.  One can of course also imagine a film about one woman, say, which managed to be a fine feminist film.

So what’s the point of a rule that doesn’t work?  Well, it gives us something to think about, and I think its point number three which is important.  Female characters should have their own driving wants and desires.  Even though the whole wormhole discussion in Thor might be nonsense from a literal perspective it has character meaning.  Jane’s driving want is to complete her research and this is abundantly clear.  Through the middle section of the movie Jane tries to retrieve her research while Thor tries to retrieve his hammer.  When it comes right down to it, they’re essentially the same.  Now, think of Lois Lane in Superman: the Movie, she may be a hard-nosed tough as nails reporter but everything she does has to do with Superman, she doesn’t really have any driving force of her own.

There is one unfortunate matter about Thor, in that by  the end of the movie Jane is explicitly searching for a way to get back in contact with Thor.  He’s more or less hijacked her through-action.  This happens because every Hollywood movie must have a romance subplot.  Now, even though the romance subplot ruins Jane’s character and is one of the cheesiest ever on film, it has its charms.  It’s main charm being, actually, its cheesiness.  Thor and Jane more or less fall in love at first sight and from then on its all rainbow( bridge)s and unicorns.  They spend all night just talking under the stars.  There’s something very adolescent about it.  But, somehow, it’s a lot more mature than the program of stalking and psychological reconditioning that most romantic comedies seem to advocate.  The grand romantic gesture of Thor  is that Thor steals back Jane’s notebook.  If you look to movies for romantic advice (and please don’t), you could do worse than “if you like someone (like, like them like them), you should do something that you know is important to them.”

The final thing which must be adressed is Chris Hemsworth’s hawt bod.  There is only one character in Thor that the camera points a voyeuristic eye toward and that’s Thor himself.  Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings are only eye candy to the extent that you were attracted to them coming in to the film (which admittedly for a large segment of the audience was very, very much).

There’s no doubt in my mind that all the people involved in making the film considered it a “boys’ night” kind of a movie.  Again, the main character’s schtick is to smash things with a hammer.  And the overarching plot is about two brothers’ rivalry for a father’s attention.  So its a credit to Kenneth Brannagh that it didn’t come out totally meatheaded, but if this is the most feminist superhero movie we can get, then there’s a lot of work to do.

Next time: The American Gods tv show and why The Hobbit is a better book than The Lord of the Rings.

Published in: on June 16, 2011 at 3:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

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