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On Thor and Loki

So your royal highness of nerdiness had the day off and returned to the theater for a second viewing of Thor: The Dark World. Yes, I loved it that much. And yes, I enjoyed just as much the second time as the first. However, this time around after I left the theaters, I got to thinking about our two main male characters. After all, the heart of the story pertaining to Thor has been about Loki ever since The Avengers (I argue that it’s more about Odin and Thor in the first film than Thor and Loki). As a writer, I want to take a second to analyze their dynamic just because I find it so interesting that while Thor is an awesome character and is played by an insanely gorgeous, talented Aussie, Loki is still the more popular character.

Naturally, massive spoilers ahead for Thor: The Dark World.

I mentioned in my review of Thor: The Dark World that I am not a Loki fangirl, and I rather dislike a large portion of that fanbase. I’d like to continue the thought and clarify what I mean when I say that. What I dislike is their blatant disregard for what Loki’s done in favor of defending his actions and chalking his downright evil actions to being ‘misunderstood.’ Loki is definitely misunderstood, but it’s by his own doing. That’s one of the best things about Thor: The Dark World. Loki tried to throw his weak argument in Thor’s face (“Who put me there?” “YOU KNOW DAMN WELL WHO DID!”), and Thor wasn’t having any of that nonsense. We did not get to see Loki and Thor grow up. Thus, there is no excuse for anyone to say that Odin was a “bad father” and that’s why Loki turned out the way he did. We have implications that Thor was favored because he’s handsome and strong, but it is quite clear that Thor, Frigga, and Odin cared for Loki as he grew up.

Odin handled this beautifully in the beginning of The Dark World by also smashing Loki’s dumb logic to bits. Loki tried to claim that his birthright was to be a king, and Odin put him in his place by explaining that he’d be dead if Odin hadn’t saved him that cold night in Jotunheim. Loki glossed over an entire childhood and adulthood life of being a prince of Asgard just because he felt he deserved to be king instead of Thor. Yes, he’s probably a bit mad in the head and yes, we all know what it’s like to be envious, but that does not excuse him from trying to exterminate the Frost Giants nor does it absolve him for his crime of coming to earth, killing dozens of people, and trying to enslave mankind. There. I said it. Come at me, bro. Er, gal. Whatever.

Having said all of that, now that I’ve seen Thor, The Avengers, and Thor: The Dark World, I think I finally understand Loki’s appeal. For the longest time, I didn’t get it. Seriously. Now, I got the appeal of Tom Hiddleston. I mean, Christ. He is literally the nicest man who ever lived. He’s insanely intelligent, well read, funny, charming, sweet, and dorky as all get out. He has an incredibly sexy voice. Plus, he’s British. He’s British, guys. Come on. How can you not fall in love with those big blue eyes? But Loki I never could grasp the concept of why an entire legion of panties fell before him after The Avengers. That is, until Thor: The Dark World. For me, I understand it now that Loki has had a full character arc. I feel that his arc was incomplete as of The Avengers, but now that his character has been fully explored, I can understand the somewhat twisted mentality that makes people, particularly girls, favor him over Thor.

First, I’ll explain how I came to this conclusion as a girl. As much as I hate 50 Shades of Grey, E. L. James did nail one concept when it comes to the fairer sex: we effing love bad boys. Granted, Loki is more a bad man than a bad boy, but go with me on this one. I of course do not speak for all women. I would never dare do such a thing. However, from my own experience, I do have a thing for naughty haughty fictional men. In real life, I opt for sweet, funny, nerdy guys, but in my fiction, I can’t help but love the jerks. I think Loki is more popular than Thor with the ladies because many of us have dull, unspectacular lives and it’s so much more fun to imagine what it would be like if you could have a roll in the hay with the god of mischief.

Loki is cruel and vain and unpredictable. He’s a sadist. He’s a self-destructive bastard. It would be literally impossible to come up with a scenario where he’d even think about sleeping with a human woman (sorry, ladies, nothing personal but don’t forget Loki is racist as in he thinks the entire human race is beneath him), but you can’t help yourself imagining that the hell that would be like. You probably wouldn’t survive the encounter, but it’d probably be worth it. Power is attractive. Corrupt power can be even more attractive. It’s the thrill of the forbidden, I suppose, and also the fleeting thought that maybe we could be the one to melt the ice. Not that we’d want Loki to change after being with us, but rather, we’d be the one girl that he’d show his softer side to at the end of the day. Er, that’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but you get my point right? After The Dark World, to me, there is proof of something noble inside of Loki. He is still manipulative and treacherous and cruel, but we saw a flicker of something else inside him. That flicker is something a lot of girls can’t resist.

Second, I’ll explain how I came to this conclusion as a fan of great writing. Loki has evolved through these three films as much as Thor did, in my opinion. To me, he might have still had a chance for redemption in Thor, but by the time we hit Avengers, the Loki of the past was long gone. As charming as I find him on occasion, the guy came to earth to enslave us all. He killed people and enjoyed it. Sorry, but that’s inexcusable. They made a Hitler parallel on purpose, dammit. Loki deserved every single beating he got by the end of Avengers. However, The Dark World did me one better by having Loki skate between being a monster and being an intriguing yet dark character. I love the grey area when it pertains to the soul. I love that I’ve read things and watched things where good men do horrific things and bad men do noble things. Hell, it’s the subject of both of my upcoming novels. I love that Loki straddled the fence between good and evil in this film. I think he genuinely mourned the loss of his mother. I think he genuinely wanted to save Thor, even though he used it as a ploy to fake his own death. I think it’s fantastic that they decided to show us both sides of him and allowed us to choose which one we think he might be. That is the mark of a well written character. We know a lot about him, but just enough for him to still be mysterious and unpredictable.

Now, having said all of that, I still love Thor as much as Loki. My reasoning is that Thor and Loki are more than just hunky fictional bad asses. They represent two sides of a coin. Thor is courageous, self-sacrificing, kind, and responsible. Loki is selfish, reckless, conniving, and nefarious. Thor is the kind of man you want to spend the rest of your life with, the kind of man you want to have four hundred babies with, the kind of man who will honor and respect you until the end of your days because that’s what you deserve. Loki is the kind of man who you want to throw you over his shoulder, make off with you, do unspeakable things to you in the bedroom, and then go on about your life. Thor and Loki are complete opposites, but I think that’s why they resonate with us fangirls a little more than some of the other Avengers and their supporting casts. Don’t get me wrong—I would kill to come home to Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Clint Barton, or Bruce Banner—but while those wonderful characters have so much to offer us, I think Thor and Loki hit a soft spot with the female gender because of their interesting dynamic. It’s exactly why there have been so many hilarious posts on Tumblr comparing the duo to Tulio and Miguel from The Road to El Dorado. One is the sarcastic one with all the plans and the other is the total sweetheart. At the end of the day, who can resist that? Certainly not this fangirl.

Odin bless you for reading this rambling bunch of nonsense. Maybe I’m on my own for this one, but it’s still nice to live in a world where such excellent characters exist and continue to kick ass for our benefit. Marvel, ya done good. Keep it up. Excelsior.

Kyoko

Things The Marvel Universe Taught Me About Writing

Face front, True Believers! Thor: The Dark World is premiering early in my current town of residence tonight and I could not be more excited. I know some people are a bit lukewarm about the God of Thunder, but I am just not one of them. Still, Thor is just one of Marvel’s greater successes, at least in my humble opinion. In honor of our big blond teddy bear god hitting the silver screen tonight, I’d like to take a quick look at some of the things that the Marvel Movie Universe has taught me over the years. I’m also taking a bit of freedom here with the term ‘Marvel Universe.’ I’m not simply talking about the continuity they created starting with Iron Man. I’d also like to take a look at their previous franchises like Spider-Man and X-Men because they are huge parts of my childhood as well as great teaching tools.

Know thy fanbase. This is one thing that Marvel has nailed repeatedly in recent years. They have an unparalleled ability to listen to their fans and figure out where to go from there. They didn’t always have this talent, mind you. A perfect example would be the horrific abomination that is Spider-Man 3. It’s common knowledge that one of the movie’s biggest reasons for sucking was due to executive meddling, where the studio poked their big nose into Sam Raimi’s script and told him to do stuff. It resulted in an overstuffed, over-the-top farce of a film that laid waste to the film’s previously excellent reputation. Here’s where knowing the fanbase kicked in.

Disclaimer: I didn’t like the Amazing Spider-Man. I’m sorry. Hate me if you wish. I just couldn’t help myself because Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 are without a doubt two of my all-time favorite superhero/comic book movies. I grew up on them. I watched them hundreds of times, and I still have to stop every time one of them comes on. They have so much heart and depth and wonder to them. However, it turns out that while those two films broke box office records and definitively proved that superheroes are worth the general movie audience’s time, a lot of fanboys and girls were unhappy with certain aspects of them. The most vocal complaint was Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, which I understand completely. I liked Mary Jane well enough in the first film, but by the second and third films, I kind of wanted her to get the Gwen Stacy treatment. She was weak and nagging and got stuck firmly in the “damsel in distress” role whereas in the comic books, she often kicked ass and sassed people like no one’s business.

Marvel gathered up these comments and then made the brilliant move of picking everyone’s favorite redhead (ironically to play a blonde; double ironically because she’s a natural blonde) Emma Stone to be Gwen Stacy. My dislike of Amazing Spider-Man notwithstanding, I fully admit this decision was a God-send. Emma Stone is funny, sexy, snarky, and an absolute joy to watch. While I still would have liked her as the new MJ, she did everything that I hoped she would do. Marvel understood that the best way to win over their fans was to listen to them and learn from their past mistakes.

In terms of writing, Marvel’s method is something I think all writers should enforce. I would never try to pander to my fanbase (if I had one), but I would take a serious look at the criticisms that arise for my work. Writing is subjective. So is the act of reading. No one reads a book the same way, and fans will inevitably find something in my writing that I didn’t know was there, or that I never considered could come across. If it’s a universal problem, it would be wise to address it either in a blog post, or more likely, subsequent works of mine. There are very few drawbacks to accepting detailed, intelligent arguments against your own work. Even if it pisses you off to your very core, you can only go up from there.

Give a damn about your own work. Strap in, folks. Mama’s about to lay the smackdown on some things here. To me, it is always easy to tell when Marvel gives a shit about their work. The quality of the filmmaking is the most telling of all. Stuff like Daredevil (bite me, nerds, it’s a shit film and you know it), Elektra, The Punisher (which I admit still has a corny charm to it), X-Men: The Last Stand (and that’s coming from someone who kinda likes it), Ghost Rider, and Fantastic Four have clear evidence that they weren’t invested in their products. I argue that each of the listed films lack charisma, effort, and heart, and was pushed out more to make a profit than to actually be considered worthy of the Marvel name.

On the flipside, films like The Avengers, X-Men and X-2, Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, Iron Man, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor have evidence that Marvel gave a crap and wanted to make great movies for its audience. They chose great directors, writers, and actors—people we love and trust to bring our favorite comic characters to life. Do you remember the day they announced Robert Downey Jr. to play Tony Stark? We all flipped our shit in celebration of such perfect casting. Same with Joss Whedon getting to direct The Avengers, which is arguably the best Marvel film to date, or Edward Norton getting to play Bruce Banner. These movies all went on to do incredibly well at the box office because Marvel put their foot down and opted for quality over profit. They knew that profit is a result of quality. They recognized that if they took their time to make a fantastic film franchise, they’ll make bucketloads of cash and keep us happy for decades to come.

It seems like common sense to give a crap about your own writing, but sadly, these days it is not. Anyone can be a writer. We live in a world where a faux masochistic relationship that was ripped off from a creepy codependent relationship between an emo teenage girl and a vampire both out-grossed the intricate, beautifully written world about a boy wizard. We live in a world where the crappiest of films can get sequels. We live in a world where actual effort is an afterthought. The easiest thing in the world is to not try.

Don’t be that writer. Sure, E.L. James and Stephanie Meyer are literally swimming in cash, but that doesn’t have to be you. The happiest authors in the world are the ones who stay true to themselves and write honestly. They write from within. They strive to make the best for us readers because they care and they want to create a wondrous world for us to dive into. They want to leave behind a legacy they can be proud of. Authors like Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, and John Green are all down-to-earth, humble, and full of life because they give a shit about what they put out there.

It’s unwise to compare oneself to bestselling authors, but they can also simply be a north star for young authors. Yes, it’s daunting that crappy novels make money, and crappy movies make even more money, but for every turd there’s a gem. Shoot for that instead.

Have faith in your own product. There’s a line from the movie Hitch that I always think about when it comes to certain aspects of writing.

Albert: You’re selling the stuff, but you don’t believe in your own product.

Hitch: Love is my life.

Albert: No! Love is your job.

Marvel is by no means perfect. I’ve already listed the films I consider to be travesties. But that’s also something I think they have learned well in the past decade. One of the main reasons why I favor Marvel over DC in the film department is the overwhelming amount of faith that they appear to have in the characters as well as their audience. They seem to recognize that there is a reason these films do so well. These characters and stories helped many of us grow up. We read them dozens of times as kids and we still follow them as adults because heroes inspire us. Heroes make us believe in the impossible. They make us want to be better than who we are. The Marvel films that tend to be better in quality are those where you can tell that the writers, directors, and actors actually care about the subject matter and want to do it justice. Tony Stark is by far the most popular of the Marvel universe, and guess what? He’s an asshole with a drinking problem. We can totally relate to that. Sure, he’s a billionaire, but most of us know someone like that—an insanely talented friend who has a good heart, but lacks focus and belief.

Marvel is out there kicking the box office’s ass every year because they believe in our heroes. They don’t always get it right (I’m still angry about Barakapool from X-Men Origins and whatever the hell they did to Beast in X-Men: First Class) but it is clear that they realize if they make a good film, we’ll watch it. We’ll stand outside in a line to San Diego Comic Con for hours just to catch a glimpse of the next one. We’ll waste hours online crying over Tom Hiddleston’s perfection. We’ll buy tickets early and dress up in costumes even when it’s nowhere near Halloween. It’s love, plain and simple.

Maybe you’re not Jim Butcher or Stephen King. So what? Do you have something to say in your writing? Do you want it go be good? Bam. There you go. That’s it. That’s your secret. No one said you had to be Shakespeare. The best way to become a great writer is to invest in your product the same way you invest in the TV shows and books and movies and video games you love. Pour your soul into your writing, even if your soul is twisted and scary and broken. Authenticity is key. No one will believe in your work if you don’t believe in it.

With that in mind, I hope that Thor: The Dark World uses the positive examples I discussed above. We have a lot of exciting films coming our way in the not-too-distant future and I can’t wait to see more as long as they adhere to their better works. Here’s to you, Marvel. Excelsior!

-Kyoko

P.S. While I’ve got you here, did you know that the giveaway for a free copy of my novel, The Black Parade, is still going on? Why not pop by and enter to win? It only takes a second. It ends Monday, November 11, 2013. Don’t miss out!