Heresy of the Week – The mainstream media still don’t get comics


female thor

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

The almost-hysteria which has greeted the latest incarnation of Marvel superhero Thor — as a woman — shows only the ignorance of the mainstream media who have leapt upon it as some kind of oddity

There are things that I expect to hear when my alarm clock wakes me up to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, the morning after a cabinet reshuffle. Amongst them is definitely not the fact that Marvel’s latest superhero comic has Thor reimagined as (drumroll please) a woman.

I feel the absurdity there needs to be underscored. This is Radio 4’s flagship current affairs, getting its knickers in a twist over the gender of a comic book version of an ancient Norse mythological figure. Did I…just…what?!

I’m all for geek-culture getting more exposure, and Marvel’s ongoing film franchises have done a lot to promote that for the cause of comics (DC too, I suppose, though my reservations there are well documented). It just strikes me as massively misinformed that this is taken as something out of the ordinary.

For those who haven’t seen this news, my understanding — and I mean that very tenuously, because in true labrynthine comic fashion it doesn’t appear to make a great deal of sense — is that Thor is no longer worthy to wield Mjolnir (his hammer) and so someone else (who is a woman) gets the hammer and (for some reason) is Thor.

This morning I saw these two images on the fantastically funny website Texts from Superheroes, and it pretty accurately sums up my feelings on the matter:

female thor texts

See, Thor suddenly being a woman is odd, yes. But it isn’t that out of the ordinary by the standards of either comics, or the mythological source material on which it is based. Io9 even have a list of 14 previous Thors. Worse things happen at sea, and weirder things happen in comics.

The other thing I object to, is the implication that this is Marvel either pandering or recruiting a female audience. Now, the geek world has had serious issues with gender equality in the past, and they have more than once blown up — deservedly and not — into big media events. But let’s not pretend that this is the first female superhero which Marvel have written. There are even rumours that we’re going to see a Black Widow film (okay, rumours is probably the wrong word; we will see a BW film, it’s just when Marvel will get around to it).

Like I said, I’m all for geek culture getting more mainstream exposure, and the Today Programme seems like an excellent place. But to be honest, all this has really demonstrated is that the mainstream media are still a long way from getting the world of comics.

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