We Need to Talk About Thor


No, really, I’m going to spoil a big part of the movie, so if you want to see it and be surprised, click the little X in the corner and walk away now. This is your last warning!

**** HERE WE GO! ****

I’ve been a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) since Tony Stark first appeared on screens back in 2008. I’ve watched Captain America: The First Avenger, Avengers: Infinity War, both Guardian of the Galaxy movies, and Black Panther so many times, I often wonder if Amazon is going to send someone to check on me. I’ve been (im)patiently waiting for Avengers: Endgame since the credits rolled on Infinity War in April of last year.

The night before I went to see Endgame, I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw the most dreaded of all internet things: a spoiler. And worse! One without a spoiler warning like the two I offer up above. I was angry and disappointed. Not only because I’d been spoiled, but because of what specifically had been spoiled: one of the characters was in a fat suit. My heart sunk.

I spent the whole of the next day worrying about who would be wearing the fat suit, and why, and, most of all, how hard the audience would laugh when they saw it.

Boy did they laugh. Uproariously, every time the character was on the screen. And I sat there, watching this culmination of eleven years of movie-watching, a film I’d been dying to see for a year, clenching my jaw and sharing side-eye glances with my MCU best friend, Alex. He knew, as soon as that fake belly and back fat showed up on screen, what I was feeling, and he was nearly as mad and sad as I was. (For which I love him, tremendously.)

Poor Thor. Honestly, the guy has been through some really rough times. He lost his mom, his dad, his sister (well, not much of a loss there, really), his brother, his best friend, his hammer, and half his people. He blew the team’s best chance to kill Thanos in Infinity War, dooming half of the entire universe! And you thought you were having a bad day.

I thought having Thor deal badly (or, really, not deal at all) with all of this trauma was a great move. I was a big fan of watching Tony go through something similar in Iron Man 3, and I think the story of Thor in Endgame could have been really compelling. It wasn’t not compelling — I thought Chris Hemsworth did a great job with the material he was given — but the fat jokes took me immediately out of the scene every time, because they were mean, and easy, and unnecessary. The opening-night audience didn’t even need the one-liners; they laughed every single time he was on screen. Fat Thor, hilarious! His body is a monument to his failure!

Except it wasn’t. Fat Thor still picked up Stormbreaker (and Mjolnir) and fought alongside his friends and defeated Thanos at last. He was still worthy, and that was important. And there wasn’t some magical body-transformation scene where the God of Thunder got his abs back. Credit to the writers and directors for that.

In the week plus since the movie opened, I’ve been happily surprised by the number of articles about how the fat shaming in Endgame is problematic. I’ve been unhappily unsurprised by the number of articles claiming there’s no fat shaming, or that fat shaming is okay, or that we all need to get a life. But I’ve been most unhappily surprised by how many people I’ve spoken to who didn’t notice it, or didn’t remember it enough for it to leave an impression.

Here’s the thing: I need you to notice. I need you to care. I need you to sit up a little straighter when you hear someone talking negatively about a fat body. I need you to squirm a little in your seat. I need you to share a side-eye glance with your movie-going best friend. I need you to pay attention to the pervasiveness of fat hatred in media so that you start to recognize it where it is: everywhere.

There’s one scene in particular I want you to think about. Thor got to see his long-dead mother, Frigga. She knew that he was in a bad place, and she counseled him like a loving mother should. And then, as they were about to part forever, she told him to “eat a salad.”

Does that make you laugh, like the audience laughed when I saw it? Does it make you nod your head in agreement? I hope not, and here’s why: It’s a pervasive and harmful myth that fat people don’t know how to properly feed themselves. That if we’d only stop gorging ourselves on “bad” food, we’d be slim. Many people use this idea to engage in health shaming of fat people, commenting on their food choices in restaurants and grocery stores. Everyone from strangers to loved ones becomes a medical and nutrition expert when it comes to judging fat people’s food choices. In truth, if you pay attention, the chances are that fat people are probably eating the same things you are, in the same quantities. Some eat salads all the time. Some don’t. (Surprise! The same is true of thin people.) Whether or not those choices determine their body size, the important thing is that no one’s food choices (or body size) makes them unworthy of respect.

Now, chances are that once Thor gets back to his usual routine, his body will go back to its set point (which is probably closer to chiseled abs than beer gut). But again: Thor is worthy of respect no matter what shape he’s in. He’s tough and mighty and powerful no matter his pants size. He’s worthy, no matter what his body looks like.

I hope that when we see Thor again (maybe with the Asgardians of the Galaxy?), the writers and producers will have taken the time to consider the perspectives of fat fans like me, who were deeply disappointed and more than a little wounded by their “comedic” choices in Endgame.

Do I love the MCU less because of their treatment of Fat Thor? A bit. But I’m also grateful for this opportunity to talk about him, and how his treatment by others in the movie affected me (I’m looking at you, Rhodey; I expect that from Rocket). I see fat shaming, fat hatred, and fat erasure all the time in TV shows and movies I love. I still love them, but I speak out. I reach out to celebrities who sell merchandise that only fits straight-sized people. I send emails and tweets to producers and writers of shows that make fat jokes (I’m looking at you, The Flash). I make noise. I talk to you here.

I hope that you’ll consider making some noise, too. Pay attention to how fat people are portrayed in the media you consume. Think about the fat people you know and love in your life. Don’t you want a safer, kinder, better world for those loved ones? Every voice makes a difference. Assemble!

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