Thor is about to do a very bad, bad, thing.
WARNING 1: IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN AVENGERS: ENDGAME YET, MOVE ON. THERE ARE CHARACTER SPECIFIC SPOILERS IN THIS VERY PERSONAL COMMENTARY.
I have body dysmorphia.
For years I was pushing 280lbs.
Most of that was due to a pain and depression medication I was taking for seven years. Cymbalta can cause extreme weight gain and its not something you can just stop taking without the risk of seizures. It took me five months of sweats and night terrors to get off of it. Within those five months, I dropped from 275lbs to 196lbs. A few months later I was down to 185lbs. I went from XXL to a Medium.
I looked in the mirror after dropping all that weight and saw a whale. Keep in mind I have overweight friends and don’t look at them that way. I don’t take lightly to people fat-shaming people and I can tell you I would be devastated if someone did it to me. But this was different. This was me, and all I saw was fat.
I fat-shamed myself.
I didn’t register the weight loss. l thought I looked terrible. I didn’t. It took me a while to adjust to that. It took other people telling me all the time for me to finally see it.
Since then I’ve fluctuated a little. At 196lbs I feel my best—but would sometimes still see a fat person in the mirror.
Since moving to St. Louis from Pensacola and having, to quote Captain Kirk, “no beach to walk on,” (points if you get the double meaning of the reference), I’ve moved back up to 220lbs. Something to do with being in an office setting and there being donuts. Lots and lots of donuts. I’m now somewhere between a large and a medium, with a Large looking a little too big and a Medium making me look like a plump sausage.
Damn you, Unicorn Donuts. Damn you all to hell.
People tell me I still look great, but I don’t feel my best, and long to see that 196 on the scale again. It’s something I am very sensitive about.
WARNING 2: HERE COME THE SPOILERS
Now, for Avengers: Endgame. In the film, Thor can’t accept that he failed to stop Thanos from wiping out half the life in the universe. He then kills the man in cold blood, gives up on being a superhero and on leading his people, sinks into depression, and becomes an alcoholic.
Oh, and he gets fat.
He gets very, very, fat.
Recently I read an article or two accusing Endgame of fat-shaming Thor. These reviewers accused the audience of mocking Thor for being overweight and went as far as to say Marvel encouraged this with lingering shots of Thor’s belly.
I’m going to go with no on this one.
What we saw with Thor wasn’t fat-shaming. Quite simply, Thor—someone who prides himself for being at the height of physical fitness—had let himself go.
In many ways, it is simply a ‘fish out of water’ scenario. Facebook friend Patrick Izzo says, “It’s finding humor in seeing our character the opposite of what we know him to be. It’s a little like Ant-Man in Civil War. No one laughed when he shrunk, but when he became Giant-Man it was pretty funny because it was the opposite of what we were used to.”
Size-shaming. Also, yes, I know this isn’t a shot from Civil War. Thank you for pointing that out.
While Thor’s problems run a bit deeper, the Ant-Man comparison is a good call. The goofy but lovable Scott Lang is often in over his head and outside of his element. We laugh at his ineptness—but we aren’t incompetence-shaming. Scott is us in a superhero world. He’s relatable. He is a regular dude who is going to pull through anyway and we love seeing heroes with flaws.
That’s what it was about. We aren’t used to seeing Thor like he is in Endgame. Even though his role in both Ragnarok and Infinity War have shown that Marvel wants to break the status quo and take the character in new directions, we never would have expected them to take Thor this far. He is now more relatable than ever before. It was funny to think of a superhero—a god, no less—who usually keeps himself at peak performance no longer caring about that and living a sedentary life.
THE TIP OF THE SCALE
As I stated above, Thor was also in the depths of depression, something myself and many close to me suffer from. He couldn’t handle his failures. Was this depression-shaming, and were his drinking binges alcoholic-shaming?
All this was only funny because it was Thor not being the god of thunder we were used to—someone who was cocky and arrogant about his looks, powers, and physique. He was at a crossroads. It was funny because we knew he was going to overcome what was plaguing him. And interestingly enough, in the end, he stayed overweight except for when he transformed into his super-self. After that, he went back to his out-of-shape self, something that was a bold and welcome move on Marvel’s part.
Thor struggled to be what the others wanted him to be and couldn’t handle that. He was accepted by his mother regardless of his appearance and redeemed when he realized he didn’t need to be anything but himself, whatever that entailed. She didn’t even draw attention to his weight (which I assure you is atypical for someone’s mother when facing her unexpectantly expanding offspring). The Thor who joins the Guardians of the Galaxy at the end of the film is an amalgam of the god who let himself go and the hero who craves a new adventure. He is a changed man.
WHO’S SHAMING WHO?
I am a self-proclaimed social justice warrior. Comic books and sci-fi taught me diversity, honor, and to do the right thing. Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Larry Hama, and Dennis O’Neil were amongst my guides. I believe we must fight for people to be accepted for their character and who they are rather than judging them by sex, race, creed, preference, or appearance.
But part of me has to wonder if some of us are taking things too personally. Conversely, part of me has to wonder if we are being taken advantage of here. I wonder if articles accusing popular films of insensitivity are simply designed to rile us up and to bait clicks.
The movie was made by Disney, people. They are sensitive to inclusiveness. I have to believe that very few in the audience would have laughed at an overweight character just for being overweight. Certainly, no character in the film was laughing at Thor for being fat. They were shocked to find him as he was, felt pity for his despair and downward spiral to the bottom of the bottle, and tried to rally him to become a hero once more. They also gave him a few steady doses of reality. Dealing with all these flaws, comical or not, worked because it was someone we knew this wasn’t the norm for.
Someone like Thor.
Maybe I’m wrong, but to me, it showed that these heroes are human as well—even if they are gods. It was funny, it was heartfelt, and it was a highlight of the character’s journey.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a box of donuts to throw out.
—Andrew E. C. Gaska
An author, designer, game-writer, and graphic novelist with twenty years of industry experience, Gaska has worked as a freelance consultant to 20th Century Fox and Rockstar Games. In addition to being the Senior Development Editor for Lion Forge comics and animation, he is a contributor to both their Quillion gaming department and their licensing team.
All images are ©2019 Marvel Studios and are used for the purposes of commentary or review only unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.