- Warning: Spoilers ahead for “Avengers: Endgame.”
- After the major time jump in “Endgame,” it was revealed that Thor’s mental health seriously suffered in the five years since Thanos snapped his fingers.
- In addition to exhibiting symptoms of depression, alcoholism, and post-traumatic stress disorder, Thor had gained a noticeable amount of weight.
- Though weight gain is a symptom of some mental illnesses, there were multiple jokes specifically about his weight gain, which could easily be read as fat-shaming.
- Instead of Thor’s traumatic story line being treated with respect and understanding, it was played for laughs.
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“Avengers: Infinity War” introduced us to a darker side of Thor – but “Endgame” undid that work by trivializing his tragic story line.
Understandably, Thor’s mental and physical health seriously suffered in the years after Thanos snapped his fingers, decimating half of all life in the galaxy.
Trailers and teaser images for “Endgame” showed only the Avengers before the five-year time jump, so it’s a big surprise for audiences when Thor finally reappears on screen: shirtless, drunk, and noticeably heavier, with long, dirty hair and an unruly beard.
His new demeanour and shabby appearance could’ve been used to show how people might externalize survivor’s guilt, and how even godlike heroes can deteriorate – but instead, the changes came across as problematic and disappointing. Here’s why.
Thor clearly exhibits symptoms of depression, alcoholism, and PTSD
In the five years after the “Snappening,” Thor has become a grief-stricken recluse. Valkyrie says the remaining Asgardians see their king only once a month, when he emerges for “supplies” (beer).
Thor’s habits point toward addiction, as he remains viciously drunk throughout the majority of the film. He even tries to bail on Rocket during their mission for the Reality Stone so he can find more alcohol.
After failing to stop Thanos in “Infinity War” – and then confronting Thanos again, only to discover the Infinity Stones had been destroyed – Thor is clearly struggling to cope with his defeat and the deaths of his loved ones.
It’s not just about Thanos, and Thor has been through a lot, so let’s recap: In “The Dark World,” he lost his mother, who was protecting his girlfriend, who eventually dumped him. In “Ragnarok,” he lost his father, his beloved hammer, and an eye. Then he was forced to destroy his home planet.
After all that came Thor’s first meeting with Thanos in “Infinity War.” Thanos slaughtered half of Asgard’s remaining population and murdered Thor’s brother, Loki, as well as his best friend, Heimdall, right in front of him.
Thor’s quest for vengeance in “Infinity War” brought him back to Thanos. He managed to bury an ax in the villain’s chest, but when Thor was mere moments away from killing him and saving the universe, Thanos snapped his fingers.
“He thinks he failed – which, of course, he did. But there’s a lot of that going around,” Rocket explains in the beginning of “Endgame.”
Thor’s realistic response to his trauma gave filmmakers an opportunity to add depth to his character
During Thor’s time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, much has been made of his divinity. He’s the mythical King of Asgard, the God of Thunder. And as Drax said in “Infinity War,” he typically looks like “a pirate had a baby with an angel.”
Both “Ragnarok” and “Infinity War” saw him bounce back from horrific personal tragedies, reinforcing the image of Thor as a strong, righteous, unwavering hero.
But then he failed again, largely because of his own ego. It’s understandable why the “Endgame” filmmakers would want to reveal a darker layer beneath Thor’s shiny exterior.
“When we were spitballing for ‘Endgame,’ we started with, Thor’s on a mission of vengeance,” Christopher Markus, a screenwriter,told The New York Times. “And then we were like, he was on a mission of vengeance in the last movie. This is all this guy ever does! And fails, all the time. Let’s drive him into a wall and see what happens.”
His cowriter Stephen McFeely added: “He just got drunk and fat.”
Instead of exploring his arc with respect and understanding, the film played it for laughs
ENDGAME SPOILERS FOLLOW:
Thor: *watched most people he loves die in Infinity War, starts showing signs of PTSD*
Marvel: “Is this… a comedy device?”
— ????ℴ ☻ (@pixie__hippie) April 26, 2019
It makes perfect sense why Thor would become self-destructive, even self-pitying, after losing to Thanos. He could see no other way forward, no way to fix his mistakes.
Studies have found that people with post-traumatic stress disorder are more likely to develop a drinking problem, and having both at the same time can make the symptoms of each illness worse.
But rather than exploring Thor’s existential pain, instead of treating his deteriorating mental health with respect and understanding, the film turned Thor’s struggles and body into comedic devices. He was the butt of numerous weight-focused jokes, including War Machine’s “Twinkies” jab and his own mother telling him to “eat a salad.”
It’s not an issue that Thor gained weight, but rather it’s the way his weight gain was presented onscreen. His scenes include everything from comedic pauses to jaunty music and ridiculously slobby outfits. The problem lies in the film’s willingness to use a person’s body for cheap laughter.
This perpetuates the harmful, fatphobic belief that weight gain is tantamount to weakness and should be pitied.
It also reads as a lazy way to make sure the film didn’t feel too serious or tragic: “We’ve stripped our strongest hero down to his barest, most vulnerable state – but let’s give him a fat suit so people won’t get too bummed out.”
The worst thing about the fat jokes in #AvengersEndgame is that they come in one of the most emotional plots. Which is probably why they’re there, so it didn’t get too “heavy,” but actually it just SUCKS to hear a room full of people laugh at them.
— Victoria Edel (@victoriaedel) April 27, 2019
some ppl rly misunderstand why we’re mad abt endgame’s portrayal of thor. i personally dont have the slighest issue with him becoming depressed. its not that we wanted him to be strong and perfect we just didnt want to see fatphobia and mockery of trauma ????
— riin ???????? (@riinkanei) April 29, 2019
Some people believe the film redeemed itself by subverting a fatphobic trope at the end of the film
When the Avengers get their final face-off with Thanos, Thor steps up to the plate without going through a dramatic redemption arc first. He doesn’t cut his hair or trim his beard, nor does he make a stirring declaration about getting sober or train to face his nemesis again.
Most notably, he doesn’t magically snap back to his previous weight, as is common in other films that use fatness as a punch line.
I will acknowledge that it's nice they didn't have the "magic fix" where he reverts back to his original body. It was also nice that he was still a badass fighter in his new shape anyway.
That doesn't mean it wasn't constantly played as a punchline, which is gross.
— EowynOakheart (@EowynOakheart) April 27, 2019
Indeed, this was a refreshing surprise and a progressive aspect of Thor’s character arc.
But it’s also hard to believe this was done consciously, especially since Thor is likely to be back to his slim and toned body – “back to normal” – for his next appearance in a Marvel film.
Although I know that the next instalment will inevitably have him toned as fuck and will wave it off with some dialogue about how he ate a salad or whatever; I’m just glad we got to the end of this films’ arc without his weight being ‘solved’
— Lil Impact Font (@riontweets) April 27, 2019
It’s possible that the “Endgame” filmmakers needed to impair Thor in some way, as they often do. He wasn’t able to easily overpower Thanos in the final battle, which doesn’t make much sense, considering he did in “Infinity War” when Thanos already had all six stones. So they explain this by presenting him as traumatized, out of practice, and out of shape.
But there’s a way to make that story line work without giving Chris Hemsworth a fat suit and expecting us to laugh at his body.
To give a character PTSD is inherently tragic, especially when it’s a “golden boy” character like Thor. We’ve come to know him as someone who’s endlessly resilient, who always overcomes obstacles for the sake of others.
Trivializing this rupture in Thor’s psyche, this dramatic departure from his sense of self, did a disservice to a beloved character who was at his most vulnerable.
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