By: Justin S. Motto
“Ask yourself: What would you sacrifice, for what you believe,” many people don’t stop and ask themselves this question enough. This inquiry comes from an unexpected place. The villain, Malekeith, in the blockbuster hit Thor: The Dark World thrusts this deep inquisitive thought upon its audience. This upcoming holiday season will be chucked full of films from some the biggest titles of the decade along with some newcomers. As this season approaches I am asking you to stop and ask yourself this very questions before your child makes their way to enjoy the week’s hottest hit. Thor: The Dark World is the just the tip of the iceberg, but exploring some of the questionable messages tucked away in the plot may make you think or at least consider having a conversation with your child.
I’m not going to start by bashing the series. That would be an act against my beliefs. I am a strong advocate for the cinematic arts, and Thor: The Dark World is no exception to that confidence in the industry; however, I am an adult that has experienced more of the world knowing that some of the indirect messages are nothing more than a poor decision on the part of the casting director and writer—in some cases the Motion Picture Association of America.
Some of the issues I find myself concerned with in the film may seem small, but could very well have a lasting impression on teenager’s concept of race and gender. Thor had its opportunity to be more inclusive, but directors, writers, and producers decided to make poor decisions in the way the cast would be portrayed. The series is based on Norse lore—an opportunity to bend the rules based on its mythical cornerstone. The following is a list of those complaints:
- An eradication of racial diversity
Thor is based on lore that there are nine realms in the world, which is inhabited by six races—one of which is the human race of Midgard (Earth); however, we find a film dearth of racial diversity. The only major racial diversity existent in the film is that of an Asian guardian, an African American guardian, and an African American elf—who is evil. The lead representations of earth are that of Caucasian descent. Last time I checked, the world’s population is made up of more than one race.
- Vilifying of a race
If the previous point was not frustrating enough, let’s look at one of the two racial diverse characters, Algrim. Algrim is the loyal lieutenant of the dark elf king, but his race is only shown briefly before being transformed into the monstrous beast, Kurse. It is one thing to try to incorporate other races, but to have only one of the three minorities portrayed as a monster is horrifying. This portrayal sends a bad message. My personal experience of growing up in a predominantly white area, left me with little exposure to other races. The only interaction I had was through the movies I viewed. It created a fear of other races, which I overcame. As much as I want to give today’s youth the benefit of the doubt, I can’t help but see the reality that only seeing other races in vilified roles provides limited knowledge
- Women advanced and held back
Women? What woman should I take on? Sif the guardian who is portrayed as an emotionless powerhouse? Jane the brilliant scientist helpless and endangered by her eagerness to reunite with love? How about Darcy? The babbling intern whose only purpose is to provide comic relief throughout the perilous and brutal onslaughts. Better yet, let’s explore Frigga the silent mother who in her last moments puts up an outstanding sword fight to protect her family.
If you haven’t noticed I find myself torn due to the conflicting descriptions of the characters. Every female character is limited by stereotypical roles of women. None of the women were developed, and their diverse characteristic—if you could call it that—seems like an afterthought. Jane couldn’t be brilliant, smart, strong, and independent; she had to be a fool for love who just so happened to be a scientist. Figga, a mother, who has little speaking parts, but miraculously wields a sword in her last moments to defend her family. Sif, who plays a much larger role than I lead onto here, but she is a mere object; one that should be of Thor’s desire. Finally, Darcy, an intellect by trade, but a fool by design. The role was clearly developed for the great come back lines and foolery; she is nothing more than a prop.
Now, as I write from week to week, I find it a struggle to critique cinema. I do believe that your teens should enjoy the film they are seeing, and I think that they should embrace the entertainment it was designed to create. I do worry that, as developing minds, teens create models and expectations from these films. Maybe it isn’t directly and maybe it isn’t prominent, but a small seed is all it takes to start building a template that one day may become the source of discrimination or a shortcoming that may prevent some of the greatest friendships never experienced. So if you are like me and you see people as people—and not of color and gender—I echo, “What would you sacrifice, for what you believe?”
Until next time,