What We Can Learn From Thicc Thor

Danielle Radford
Movies Marvel
Movies Marvel MCU

Avengers: Endgame was all about change. Some died, others came back to life, and one found love. We all had an idea that some of these were going to happen. But there was one change that no one saw coming, and that was Thicc Thor.

After the five-year time jump, Thor’s beefier body was revealed to the world. Reactions to His Royal Thigh-ness were mixed; the Big Boy Energy also came with the kind of fat jokes that are just now starting to become passe in modern entertainment. But, lots of folks were thrilled to finally have a hero who looked like them and were willing to look past the body shaming for a small taste of representation. Television has been nailing it for years, with Steven Universe and She-Ra ’s casual use of diverse body types. But movies are still lagging behind.

I’m not thrilled with Endgame’s fat jokes, but they didn’t take away from how much I loved the movie. After a childhood spent dealing with bullies and a career filled with hecklers and internet commenters, there’s no fat joke in the world that can hurt me. That being said, no matter which side of the argument you fall on, this is an opportunity for growth for blockbuster films.

Who’s Worthy?

Thor wasn’t the only recent hero to get an “X” before the “L” on his costume’s label. Last year’s Oscar-winning animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse featured Peter B. Parker. This Pete is older and dad-bodier than any Peter we’ve seen on screen so far. There were some jokes made at his expense, but most of them were visual jokes or made by the character himself. Peter B. and Thor have a few things in common, like battling depression after losing loved ones. The most important thing for this piece is that by the end of their respective movies, both have gone through an experience that proves that they are still badass at any size.

When we meet Petey B. in Spider-Verse, he’s at his lowest ebb. Aunt May has passed away, he’s lost all of his money, his fear of fatherhood has broken up his marriage and he lives alone in a filthy studio apartment recovering from a spinal injury. He then becomes the leader of a team of Spider-Folk, helps defeat the Big Bad and takes on a mentorship role. In the end, he goes back home with renewed confidence in his abilities as a crime fighter, husband and future father.

Back in Endgame, Thor spends most of his time blaming himself for the Snap. This is on top of his considerable personal losses. Over the course of events in the MCU, he witnessed the murder of his mother, the love of his life left him, his father died right in front of him, he had to destroy his home in order to save his people, and his brother and most of the people he was trying to save were killed as he looked on, helpless. Oh, and Mjolnir, the mystical weapon he worked all of the first Thor film to prove himself worthy of wielding, was broken by Hela, the evil sister he’d never heard of. He’s had the worst decade of any of the original Avengers — and it’s not even close. He self-medicates with alcohol and finds an escape in video games. He struggles throughout the adventure with his losses until he is once again reunited with Mjolnir — and proves he is still worthy.

Fat people are told through media and marketing that the only path to self-respect, love, and success is losing weight. It’s hammered into us from childhood that being thin is the key to unlocking a happy life. Entire industries make millions of dollars reinforcing the idea that we have to earn the right to be treated like people. When Mjolnir came back to Thor, it wasn’t jacked-up, GQ-model Thor. It was Thicc Thor. A fat person being considered worthy flies in the face of every message we’ve received since birth.

During the last battle, when wielding Mjolnir and Stormbreaker at the same time resulted in the ultimate Viking makeover, he wasn’t transformed into suddenly being thin. He was kicking all kinds of alien ass on that battlefield, as chunkalicious as ever, in what will probably be the highest-grossing movie of all time.

Take the Leap of Faith

If there is anything that Pete B. and Thor Odinson have taught us, it’s that the audience will go where you lead them. Everyone bought that these two big men were more than capable of saving the day. The writing, directing and performances told us all we needed to know; we didn’t need any other explanation. In a world where ancient gods call down lightning, and nerds can get bitten by a radioactive spider and not die painfully, we can believe that someone who shops in the plus-sized section can save the world. It also proved that people want to see body diversity on screen. Much like with Black Panther ’s M’Baku , the Thicc Thor thirst tweets started as soon as the first showings let out.

Speaking of Black Panther, there was a time not long ago when experts refused to believe that a superhero movie starring a predominantly black cast could be profitable. It went on to become what was at that time the highest grossing first-week MCU movie. Similarly, Wonder Woman opened huge, with some calling it the savior of the DCEU. And Captain Marvel was at one time one of the top ten biggest comic releases of all time.

Now, of course, Endgame has taken a Mjolnir to all of those stats, but the lesson is clear. Audiences will pay cash money to see new kinds of stories being told. Kids were finally able to buy costumes of movie characters who looked like them. It wasn’t just kids, everyone wants to see themselves on screen. That is an undeniable part of the appeal, but one look at those numbers shows that these movies resonated with everyone, it didn’t matter who they were.

I’m not naive enough to believe we’ll get a big-bodied solo superhero film any time soon. A movie based on popular Valiant Comic character Faith is in development with Sony. Faith is consistently one of the best books on the shelves for its humor, heart and consistently great writing.

Unfortunately, I know too much about how the movie making process works to get my hopes up. I’ll believe it when I see a trailer. Women have a longer row to hoe when it comes to how we’re presented on screen. If showing bigger men is surprising and new, heroic big women are revolutionary. We’ve barely begun to show women like The Wasp and  Pepper Potts’ Rescue, who dare to be over 30. A plus-sized female hero seems out of the realm of possibility.

But, this is a lesson to the big studios. Both Thor and Peter B. are practically guaranteed to show up again. When they do, let their character growth be about what’s inside. The reaction proves that they are loved just the way they are. Remember how many kids grew up on these movies. Maybe if we continue showing that anyone can be a hero, the next generation won’t feel less than because they’ve got a little more.

Danielle Radford
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