Why the New Female Thor Isn't a Victory, Yet
I’ve been hooked on comic books ever since I found an X-Men comic my brother left in the kitchen when we were kids. The X-Men comics of the ’90s were innovative, inclusive, and gave all of their characters, no matter where they came from, a spotlight, an interesting origin story, and complex inner turmoil. How could a little, scrawny, nerdy girl like myself back then not fall in love? It was perfect.
As I grew, comic books moved away from what I loved most about them and I began to drift away from them a bit. This doesn’t mean I don’t read them anymore, but only that I don’t buy every single issue of every single series; rather, only those that interest me. Marvel, of course, has always had a special place in my heart, and Thor is particularly big for me as a historian enamored with Norse Mythology.
When I saw the first image of female Thor, I was amazed: she looked stunning, strong, and still feminine. It was a perfect image, but I wondered, would the stories match up? Now, I am not one of those people who bashes change just because it’s change. I have nothing at all against it. What worries me about this change has nothing to do with the fact that Thor is different, but with the fact that people might start thinking it is enough. And more importantly, will the people at Marvel think this is enough: changing a slightly popular character into a woman and throwing it at the people who say there’s no diversity and leave it at that?
I hope not. We’ll have to see how the premiere issue reads when it’s released on Wednesday. In the meantime, I’m skeptical.
You see, the problem with women in comics has never been about their quantity. There have been more and more female characters over the decades, and there are plenty of interesting ones, like Elektra, a super kick-ass ninja who is her own woman and doesn’t take any sides. The problem rests in the fact that she, and most other female characters, prance about, scantily dressed, and in the end are nothing but victims of their male-lead surroundings. They end up falling into stereotypes—the damsel in distress, the mischievous sex symbol, or the female body with all the characteristics of a man inside. I don’t think the many layers of female personality have actually been explored in mainstream comic books. Sure, we have gone a long way from having the mighty Wonder Woman accepted into the Justice League as a secretary instead of an active member, but there is still a long way to go.
To actually satisfy our, or at least my, thirst for inclusion, we need female characters to become strong forces of change, to have their own complex and intricate story lines and show everything that a woman is and can be. I don’t simply want to see a woman on the cover instead of a man, I want to see real women living and acting in the comic book universe. And not just one, but all of them. I want those characters who have been placed behind the stage to come out and reveal all they can be. I don’t just want one token to make me feel better. That’s not what we need. What we need is a deep change in the whole universe, where women can be beautiful and useful, and not just for plot advancement.
I know there have been other attempts at this, like Fearless Defenders, but until the comic universe actually tries to shake off gender stereotypes, and starts writing complete female characters, I’m holding off on celebrating a female Thor.
Jackie Gairaud is geek culture enthusiast who loves to travel, read, and write on occasion. Her twitter account is @JGairaud.