Here at Black Girl Nerds we’ve been loud and proud about our love for Thor: Ragnarok. Our review of the film perfectly describes how we feel; it’s easily the best of the franchise. Thor is finally finding its footing and improving the narrative of its characters, especially the women. It’s well known that flat female characters aren’t a problem relegated to the Thor movies—it’s a Marvel wide issue that is now being rectified.
After watching Thor: Ragnarok, I decided to view the first two films to get an idea about the changes in characterization for the women in Thor’s life. I’ll start with how things began and where things are now, with emphasis on the strengths and weakness on character portrayals.
Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis is interesting. As the side kick to the damsel, not much is expected of her. Dennings’ portrayal is enjoyable and she has a lot of funny moments, but she isn’t memorable. If her character wasn’t included in the first two films, it wouldn’t make a difference in the overall story.
Frigga (Renee Russo), wife of Odin, isn’t given much to do throughout series. In fact, (spoiler alert) she’s fridged in the Thor sequel and her death is used as a catalyst for war. I didn’t really care about her character because the audience isn’t given an opportunity to know who she is. Frigga plays a much larger role in the comics as her purpose in the story is more definitive.
Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is the resident damsel in distress. Word is Portman wasn’t particularly fond of working on the sequel due to the change in directors. I should also mention that most fans weren’t fond of her phoned in performances—then again, I can’t blame her, as Jane Foster isn’t given much to do. Her existence is based solely around the actions of Thor and, when he can’t operate on Earth, she disappears. At least her arc makes more sense than the next character on this list…
I feel strongly about the way Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) is treated in this franchise—she gets benched more than Vince Carter. In part one, her appearance with the ‘warriors three’ was sensible, as fans were just getting introduced to her character. In Thor: The Dark World, there’s a 360 degree turn around. There is this weird love triangle the film tried to jump start, but then she’s gone for the rest of the movie. Ugh. Marvel attempts to rectify this by giving her some appearances on the TV show Agents of Shield, but I want more.
Alexander mentions scheduling conflicts as the reason she doesn’t appear in Thor: Ragnarok and I’m bummed. With the new writers on board, Lady Sif needs an upgrade. Please, please, please, let Alexander’s Sif appear in Avengers: Infinity War. She deserves better, and it gets better…
Grandmaster: “What’s the word I’m looking for? It starts with a ‘B'”
It starts to get better. Topaz (Rachel House)—not to be confused with Marvel’s comic book version—is the the right hand woman to Jeff Goldblum’s character, the Grandmaster. Sure, she works to serve him, but she’s an independent thinker and not one to be bossed around. She’s confident, fearless, and respected. I dig it.
Most fans of the MCU agree that Marvel’s on-screen villains tend to make little impact. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) still remains a favorite for many but, for me, Hela (Cate Blanchett) picks up the mantle and goes all in. As she chews up every scene, Blanchett doesn’t take herself seriously and has a good time. When Hela’s horns come out, you just know she’s about to wreck it. Learning how powerful she is presents the possibility that the heroes may not win this battle. That’s the makings of a good antagonist.
Her narrative is the most defined of any woman in the MCU (fight me, I don’t care). Her arc does not necessarily revolve around Thor and is written in such a way that the character is allowed to exist on a level equal to that of her male counterparts. She isn’t treated any differently due to her gender. Valkyrie is in charge of making her own choices, and isn’t shoehorned into the journey just to take up space. Tessa Thompson steals every scene and represents one of the biggest highlights in Thor: Ragnarok.
I hope to see continued progression from Marvel. Not only with their female characters, but with every character. If Thor: Ragnarok is any indication for the future of the universe, then it’s headed in the right direction.
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Valerie Complex is a freelance writer and professional nerd. As a lover of Japanese animation, and all things film, she is passionate about diversity across all entertainment mediums.