Hear me out, hear me out. I don’t have a problem with a female Thor for those reasons. I’ve had this issue for years but with the recent news at San Diego Comic Con it’s time to finally address it. Marvel Studios announced their Phase 4 plans and I’m very very excited. Marhershala Ali as Blade? Yes. The Eternals coming to the big screen? Yes yes yes. A Black Widow film with David Harbour involved? Perfect. And whilst I am very excited to see Thor 4 (or Thor: Love and Thunder, which is a bit silly even by Waititi standards) one piece of news has left me apprehensive. Natalie Portman is set to return as Jane Foster and take on the role of Thor, just like her character in the comics. But here’s my problem- Thor. Is. A. Character. Not. A. Title.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear– I am not one of those “oh no, women and minority characters taking over” types. Quite the opposite, and if you’re a regular reader you’ll know this. I’m the first to call out ridiculous reactions by corners of the Internet to the Thirteenth Doctor casting or Captain Marvel’s existence or the news that “007” (NOT the Bond character, who is still Daniel Craig as of now) will be played by a black woman in Bond 25. I am all for diversity in media and have no problem with female, black, Muslim or LGBT and other minority characters as long as they’re well written. My issue with Thor being a woman is… well, he’s Thor. This isn’t an alien with a fluid sense of gender who constantly changes face or a character with a codename. Thor is the actual name of a character. Calling anyone- be it a woman, man or frog- that isn’t Thor “Thor” to me is very ridiculous.
Thor Odinson has- in mythology, comic books, films and countless interpretations- been the name of a character. This character just so happens to be male. The inscription on Mjolnir is “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” Not be Thor. Otherwise Captain America would have become Thor in the final act of Endgame. In the comics, in a series of events too convoluted to get into, Thor becomes unworthy. OK, that’s a fascinating premise. A terminally ill Jane Foster then proves herself worthy to hold the hammer and becomes Thor.
Now let me just say that I have zero issue with this premise and no problem with Jane Foster getting the powers of Thor. My problem is calling her Thor. Thor is not a codename that can be passed on, it’s a name of a character. Thor’s identity is built on his name- he is Thor Odinson, and that is him. Calling Jane Foster “Thor” makes both characters seem less important- Thor can lose his name for silly reasons whilst Jane can only get significance by inheriting the name of a male character. Seeing the problem here? It’s a problem comics have always had with the perception that female superheroes can only be important when linked with a male character- Supergirl, Batgirl, Batwoman, Carol Danvers when she was Ms Marvel, She-Hulk etc. All those characters are great and have mostly shrugged off the association with their male counterparts but Jane Foster as “Thor” is by far the most egrigious example. She can’t be a great character without having to literally have the name of a male hero? Awkward.
So, let’s see what Taika Waititi can do to avoid this issue in the MCU. Once again, I have no problem with having Jane Foster in a Thor-like role in the future MCU, especially if Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is going to join the Guardians of the Galaxy. My problem is strictly the terminology involved and with Ragnarok establishing that Thor’s powers are natural this opens another issue. Ragnarok has him lose Mjolnir but still retain his powers. Thor 4 is going to have him lose everything in order for an ordinary human to gain the powers of Thor. The films risk getting very confusing if two Thors are running around. The comics avoided this by having Thor name himself “Odinson” but that still implies he’s an Asgardian, which Jane is not. Personally, I would have Thor retire from his duties as the God of Lightning and hand the mantle over to Jane who is given another name. Thor then joins the Guardians as Thor whilst a new franchise can be created with Jane Foster as the Thor equivalant but not called Thor. She’ll be a unique, great character in her own right without having to rely on the name of a male character. Problem solved. Two superheroes with two distinct identities.
In the comics I would have suggested Valkyrie or Sif as a female Asgardian who can headline their own title and the point stands for the films to but Natalie Portman is a big name so I understand wanting to give Jane Foster a franchise and again, I have no issue with her being a super-powered human being welding Mjolnir. I just don’t think she or any other character should be Thor when that is a pre-established character. We may as well call Korg “Thor” and give him a franchise. Actually, give Korg a franchise Feige. And to keep things fair, I would have just as much of a problem if a male hero suddenly became Diana Prince or Carol Danvers. Marvel Comics has in the past done this well with Miles Morales, Kamala Khan and X-23 but female Thor was not one of the better replacements, especially when it clear it was only temporary. Having both Thor and Jane as equals with equal power will be the best approach for the MCU.
BUT, would I have this problem if “Thor” was a codename, title or secret identity? Absolutely not. My problem with anyone being Thor is it misses the point of the character, whose identity is vital to him and him alone. I have no problems with Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel-Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash or any other codename based superhero being replaced. In some cases, the original characters are still around. For example, we have both Captain Marvel and Ms Marvel in the comics whilst DC always has multiple Green Lanterns. The brilliant Matt Faction Hawkeye run had both Clint Barton and Kate Bishop co-ordinate as Hawkeye.
For anyone still on the fence on this issue, imagine if Marvel were to announce we would have a female Luke Cage? Same problem. Whilst I think having a female James Bond is a bad idea for similar reasons, 007 is clearly the codename in the Craig continuity so it’s perfectly reasonable for anyone to have the title in Bond 25. And once again for balance’s sake, if a male Ellen Ripley was to be introduced in an Alien reboot then it would be just as bad. You can’t just walk around with the name of someone else, but you can inherit the moniker of another. It’s like a President or Prime Minister in real life. The next British PM will not be called Theresa May, they will be called *insert whoever is PM tomorrow here*. Same with comic book codenames.
So, if you’ve actually read the article and not jumped to conclusions based on the title I hope you see my viewpoint here. I may be slightly bias as I love Thor but to me he is unique because his name is also his superhero name and to change that is demeaning to both the character and his replacement. Jane Foster is a great character and I love the concept of her having Asgardian powers due to wielding Mjlonir, I just don’t think she should be called Thor. We’ll wait and see.