Thoughts On Thor

I live for watching super hero movies. I love the aesthetics of the otherworldly, fantastic, heroic. I don’t care about normal people, so I don’t want to watch them in movies. I like to imagine there’s somewhere better than this place, and that we can someday get there.

During Thor, I felt something I rarely feel. It might have been joy. Not an easy thing to accomplish, because I don’t “enjoy” much of anything in life. I get called negative a lot. It’s because I’m on a constant search for That Which is Meaningful. I believe in growth and change and progress. Entertainment — consumer relief that keeps us docile so we’ll keep working and buying things and making CEOs rich — is the opposite. I don’t have much tolerance for a system that shuns our critical thinking skills. (Because if we really peel away all the superfluities and find The Truth, will there be anything left? I like to think there is.)

You might have noticed by now… the imaginary entity known as Hollywood collectively generates a lot of bad movies. You could call them “cheaply-made” but they’re not cheap. The standards are so low, it’s like the people who made them are Professional Amateurs.

Against all odds, with so many creative and unemployed filmmakers available (I’ve met them), Hollywood spends zillions of dollars a year on duct-taping together trite, meaningless, low-class nonsense that panders to the worst within us. Poorly written, poorly acted, poorly directed, poorly edited, breaking every single rule taught in Good Moviemaking 101.

It’s because they (The Shadow Industry) assume we’re really, really stupid.

So what do they do? They hire filmmakers who are equally as stupid. That way, the stupid audiences will be attracted to and identify with their stupid storytelling. Because that’s the way the stupid audience would make the stupid movie, too. It requires a form of stupidity that is so deep and primal that it can’t be faked by an intelligent person.

‎”All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach.” -Hitler

When movie studios churn out potboilers like Fast Five, they’re after the cash. Period. 125 Million in, 250 Million out. Who wouldn’t want to double their money? It’s Banking disguised as Art.

Thor was different. In a way.

At the core, the movie was heroic. Thor was a direct, no-bullshit character, fighting for the cause of good, trying his best to do the right thing. There were plenty of scenes where Thor triumphs by his own virtues. All of the Gods of Asgard, aside from Loki, were like Thor. Heimdall? My favorite character in the movie. No sense of humor. Loyal to the death. Awesome.

And here come the Earthlings: silly, flawed, stupid. Small-minded. Something the audience can identify with!

Darcy Lewis (played by Kat Dennings) was the “whoa, dude, this guy is totally freaking me out” comic relief. The sarcastic teenager sidekick that’s required in every movie these days. Because it wouldn’t be acceptable to see Thor’s story told through Thor’s own eyes, would it? It would be too lofty. He had to be “brought down to Earth” with slapstick and “Doh!” moments. His adventure had to be told by the average, non-intellectual human on Earth that doesn’t take life seriously, has no clue how big the universe really is, a character written in for cutesy-ass trailer moments.

The original Clash of the Titans didn’t need that shit, and neither did Thor.

Have you ever noticed that non-human races (Vulcans, Goblins, Hutts) are written as being somehow inferior to humans? They always lack some element, whether it’s technology, hygiene, emotion. To create an alien, just think of a human and remove something. The subtext is, “they haven’t figured it out like we have.” Humans are always just right, aren’t they? The perfect balance. The entire universe should emulate us. (Sounds like every religion, doesn’t it?)

The subtext of “Thor gives up on his life as a deity and makes breakfast with a dish towel over his shoulder” is no exception. That he was able to somehow become greater by not being great anymore was the moral of Act 2. “Aw, even a God realizes that Humans are the superior race.”

You ask: “Oh, come on, Carl. It’s just a movie. Why take it so seriously?”

Because that’s the cop-out that results in the low standards we have today. There’s very little high art in our culture to “worship.” It’s all just escape: to cure anxiety and boredom. Consume, consume, consume. Alcohol, TV, sports, comedy. Fun, fun, fun. Irony, sarcasm, parody. Constant, constant joking. About everything.

Try to be direct for a day and see where it gets you. See if it makes people uncomfortable. Surprise! Better run back to the humor. Make sure everyone feels safe.

There was a solid foundation in Thor that I can’t deny: the hero that is an authentic hero — devoted to nothing else. He wasn’t an alcoholic, a playboy, a loser who bumbled his way into defeating the bad guy. He was honest, strong, brave, healthy, and he didn’t even use slang!

Why has our culture devolved to such a degree that we can’t respect Thor for what he is, without all the wise-cracks? Why do we have to juxtapose him with modern (temporary) culture for him to be relevant? I imagine the movie studio telling the writers: “do another joke pass. Okay, now do another one. It’s still too heroic and classic.”

Look at the other “hero” movies being made these days. Lazy fuck-ups, wimps, losers.

Out of all this, I’m happy with one thing: Thor was such a mighty and invincible character, he even survived our culture’s fear of sincerity.

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5 Responses to “Thoughts On Thor”

  1. LOL went to the beach and complained:

    “You ask:’It’s just a movie. Why take it so seriously?’
    …MOVIES ARE SERIOUS BUSINESS! IF SOME MOVIES ARE SHITTY THEN ALL MOVIES WILL BE SHITTY! MEDIOCRITY IS CONTAGIOUS!”

  2. mistercrispy went to the beach and complained:

    This sounds like a lot of hot air to me. Some of the most creative, innovative, unique, interesting people I know also revel in being funny, sardonic and pop-culture obsessed. It is a terrible mistake to correlate insincerity with humor, and entertainment with mindlessness.

    Some of the most hilarious comedians are absolutely sincere in their desire to convey a strongly-held, serious beliefs to the audience. That they come at an issue or topic from an oblique angle that results in laughter is not a denigration of the creative act, it’s a validation of it. George Carlin was extremely creative and harnessed his talents to put out more comedy albums that anyone else in history; he was probably more “direct” in expressing his opinions through comedy than your precious fictional Heimdall or Thor could muster in all their empty platitudes and pompous “sincerity.” Steve Martin has utilized humor as a nucleus to emit stellar creative work in fields as diverse as stage plays, acting, stand-up comedy, short stories, novels and even bluegrass music. Shakespeare was wildly “entertaining” for his time, and if performed correctly today still can be. And yet much of his prose is riddled with dick jokes and dirty humor. So this lofty talk of ruing the decay of “high art” comes across as mere pretension and elitist babble.

    I think a core problem with your argument is that you are conflating utilization of humor with the degradation of the creative quality of the end product. This isn’t substantiated by your examples in the slightest. Bad humor might be insincere, bad entertainment might lower the standard of creative discourse, but what is “good” and “bad” is subjective. We need a uniform, collectively agreed upon set of definitions of what elements constitute quality in order to have a cogent discussion about whether or not your examples of “humor” in Thor are counter to the elevation of the material.

  3. notascrispy went to the beach and complained:

    I’m sorry, I have to defend this– because you’re whole argument just points out that Thor was one big joke; case in point, was made to make us laugh if your referencing only from what he has said in reference to comedy.. Mistercripy, you come off as an elitist babbler yourself; we all know good and bad are subjective; and seemingly pointless as my own, why bother even summing up your thoughts, who gives a crap. Cause ultimately I gaurentee you that you haven’t even begun to fulfill your so and so wishes of “we need a uniform, collectively agreed upon set of definitions…” like wtf.. are you gonna make an elite council just to throw this man’s opinions astray. This is all you said, this is all you will ever say, Thor is a terrible movie and I agree with every point this dude has made for the reasons as given. I also would like to apologize for this attack, i just felt like saying something.

  4. Justcallmedude went to the beach and complained:

    All things must be taken in context. First Thor was an excellent movie for its genre. the movie accurately portrayed the unabashed heroism of the alien Thor. The Character development that took decades to acheive in the Marvel world had to be forwarded to an unknowing and uninformed populationin just 2 hours. that’s a lot left on the cutting room floor. The humor in the story reflects the humor in the origonal text. and it has to be there in order to show how humans still have a long way to go to reach the evolution of the people in Thor’s world. There is no thor is not quite human element. There is instead a reflective surface on which we see the Thor character. the reflection is then transmuted on to ourselves where we as humans interpret what we see. We only have our own humanity to base our opinion on and no other foil from which to gleen a different perspective. Stan Lee an Company have thought through much of this already in the story line. humor has to be there or else its just Flash Gordon, and who really wants to see that again!

  5. Andre went to the beach and complained:

    I realize I’m a little late to this party, but this article felt misplaced to me.

    I know what you mean about non-human characters often seeming like they’re missing something essentially human, but I’ve rarely interpreted that as a statement of “human superiority.” I mean, as a kid I always identified more with Spock than with Kirk or Bones, for example, and never felt like there was anything wrong with that. (Although Spock was really more of an exaggerated Stoic Philosopher than a full-blown “alien,” but still).

    As for Thor… Well, sure he’s honest, sincere, strong, and courageous–admirable qualities that do seem to be woefully lacking in the Capitalist monoculture that currently dominates the globe–but he’s not real.

    Thor is a God. He’s a walking ideal; a metaphor; like Jesus or Buddha; distilled from the ocean of human experience into the rarefied essence of virtue.

    Gods, while they might make great emotional touch-stones, are not practical role models. Normal people might seem boring to you, but we’re all normal people. Our lives aren’t neat the way they would be if we’d all been born in Asgard; they’re messy and confusing, and full of anguish. Human beings are defined by vulnerability and imperfection. And that’s not a moral failing (despite what Ayn Rand might say); it’s just a condition of existence.

    That vulnerability gives us an opportunity to practice honesty and courage and strength–to emulate Thor, in effect–and that’s a great and admirable thing. But it’s damn hard to do, given our messy, confusing, scary lives. Even if we practice for a lifetime, we might get okay at it, but we can never BE Thor (or Jesus/Buddha/whoever), and in fact trying to live up to an artificial ideal is usually what gets us into the most trouble… like so many failed Utopias of the last century.

    So at the end of the day, whatever you might learn from Thor, it’s unrealistic to expect people to be much like him.

    Likewise, it would be very boring if all our heroes were like Thor. Sometimes the best hero is the one who IS an alcoholic, or a reformed criminal, or an emotionally scarred teenager. Frankly, I’d be happy if some Hollywood heroes had MORE flaws–in particular, I’m sick of billionaire playboy superheroes whose fortunes are less realistic than their crime fighting abilities–but I digress. The point is, a well-adjusted superhero like Thor, or Superman (for ex.) can be fun, but at the end of the day, real heroes have problems.
    Overcoming those problems to save the day is what makes the adventure worthwhile.

    At least, that’s my two cents worth.

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