AMBER LOVE 17-JUL-2014 I think I explained pretty well why I disliked the way Marvel announced the new female “Thor” character in a previous post. A rather select few people have said that they agree with me. I think a lot of people are afraid to say there are problems with it because of threatening comments and name calling. I want to get personal here. Really personal.
Plenty of women (cis- and trans-) have had difficult experiences in real life and don’t need to hear disparaging remarks because we’ve chosen to dislike a character or simply dislike the way the announcement and plot are being handled.
Marvel employs a highly talented creator pool. I’m not doubting that they can manage to cull together a story for the sake of sales here. That’ll be seen in the fall when it comes out. And then we’ll see it change back when the appropriately linked movies are ready to make millions of blockbuster dollars.
Thor, the Norse God of Thunder and the name, have particular personal meaning to me. You might have connections from childhood to someone you revered like, I don’t know… maybe Elvis or John Lennon. Thor meant something to me during some formative years.
2. MY LIFE WITH THOR
In a couple weeks, I’ll be at the Boston Comic Con for the first time. It’s also my first time speaking as a panelist on an LGBT comics panel. I’m pretty sure Jennie Wood asked me to be there to represent the “B” part of the shortened acronym for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Asexual Queer Allies Intersex people. It’s something like that. I can’t even keep up with the alphabet soup needed to simply say “we’re kind of different.” I’m also never going to say that I can truly relate to a trans person and their battles with self and their external world. I did have a period of my life where I simply couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me because I didn’t feel “right.”
I was 12-years-old and in the 7th grade. Back then in the 1980s you could see all of the girls immersed in the zeitgeist of Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Stevie Nicks or hard rockers like Lita Ford and Joan Jett. I wore white and black lace with fluorescent trim and accessories. I can’t remember exactly what year I cut my giant hair into the Princess Di feathered pixie. I eventually had my giant New Jersey hair teased to the skies again.
My mother insisted that we go to Church and Sunday School every week even though I didn’t particularly like most of it. I only liked certain lessons and I didn’t really feel comfortable in their traditions and formalities. I would have been perfectly happy going in a miniskirt and having pink hair. I tried to push those edges once in a while. A friend had attempted to dye my hair like Terri Nunn, the lead singer of the pop band Berlin. I wish I had pictures but until I was in college, I another thing I hated was being photographed so not many pictures exist of my early years. I was mostly a behind the camera person.
My desire for self expression wasn’t rebellion, per se, but that’s all I could call it on the limited knowledge I had. I wanted to explore a million different things and see what felt good to me. This was not exactly encouraged though my mother never seemed to care what color my hair was only that I didn’t shave it. My mother was experiencing some debilitating years and probably couldn’t show the support or creative carefree stimulation I wanted as a blossoming artistic teenager. I can’t wish that my parents had been different because that’s unfair and insulting. I wish I had been given the resources that kids today seem to have on subjects about personalities, mental illness, gender identity, religion and sexuality. It’s unlikely this is a 1980s problem or even a regional socio-political problem. It’s probably specific to a smaller community level of what we were taught at that time at those schools and churches.
Despite my desires to be Stevie Nicks and Madonna, I felt alien in my skin. I hated everything so much. How could I go from one day wanting to be a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and Playboy Playmate to the next day wanting to carry a rifle and liberate oppressed countries and the next week want to be a writer? I wanted to join the Army and be a lifelong soldier until my mother said she would disown me and never speak to me again or welcome me into her house again. In high school, I wanted was be a cartoonist or fashion designer, something artistic and freeing where I could make my own rules. I have never been one to stick with things for long. In the 80s though, I wanted to be a soldier. Not just any soldier. I wanted to be a boy and a soldier. This came up again my senior year when I hadn’t applied to any colleges because I was dead set on enlisting.
I wanted to be a boy since I was very young because I liked boys’ things as much as girls’ things. Boys seemed to have everything easier and they got to be stronger and faster too. When I was prepubescent, I absolutely detested my long blonde hair too.
I wasn’t popular but I was able to hang out on the fringes of the smart girl clique. They were girls with more money, better grades, nicer clothes and one even had computers in her house which, back then seemed like you were a super spy with a lair in your basement. We would sit around with desks pushed together or at cafeteria tables and trade stickers from our competitively growing sticker collections. I had raunchy stickers from the mall with Valley Girl catchphrases but I had a ton of glittery unicorns too. If I could live in the world of Lisa Frank, I would have. I had mobiles hanging from my ceiling with puffy satin clouds and rainbows and the posts on my bed were wrapped in Christmas lights. I was pretty fucking girlie for a tomboy that wanted to join the Army.
I felt like a Chimera was trying to claw out of my human skin. I have never had one personality that made sense. This was long after my childhood comic days which was never really my thing; I devoured coloring books but not comics. It was long before my adult comic reading days by decades. I would read up on mythologies in encyclopedias and books not knowing that some of that was used as foundations for comic book characters like Wonder Woman.
We formed a Mythology Club (Things kids did before smartphones.)
One of the days that the other girls and I sat around, I had proposed that we form a club and each take the name of a god or goddess from myth. I was clearly pagan during my Sunday School years. I took Thor as my patron god. Nothing sounded more appealing to me than being a male god of thunder. It was a beautiful dream to have abilities to harness winds, storms, thunder and lightning. I was the type of kid that would go outside in the rain but not run through it, just sit and let it consume me. Yes, I wanted Thor to somehow embody me with what he had to offer. I had no idea Thor was a Marvel Comics character. Remember, I didn’t know about X-MEN and Storm back in the 80s. I perused X-MEN comics laying around my house in the 90s but never knew who Storm was until the movies. Thor was my elemental symbol.
So why, then wouldn’t I love and embrace this new female Thor?
Because she’s a knock-off. She’s not genuine. She’s not a wholly realized feminine power player. She’s Thor with boobs and vagina instead of a brand new shining beacon of female identity. She’s not even based any other female goddess from myth which Marvel could easily have chosen to add to the starting bench. I’m not opposed to her picking up Mjölnir. I think that’s pretty great. But what is also great is when female characters have growth to justify their presence as more than eye candy, like Sif already has and Sif could easily have a compatriot join her who is not a Thor-wannabe. (**OF COURSE ALL THIS CAN CHANGE BY THE TIME IT COMES OUT.)
Wonder Woman was never Superman with female genitals. Black Canary was never Batman with female genitals. Same for Hawkgirl compared to Hawkman. That’s life at one big house. Marvel probably has even more innovative female characters simply because the X-verse is unbelievably massive.
But going back to the 80s and having no idea what the comic characters’ foundations were, I had known Wonder Woman from cartoons and the show as a child in the 70s yet I still didn’t have awareness that Wonder Woman was based on the goddess Diana. I was more inspired by Josie & the Pussycats and Jem & the Holograms by that point; plus I loved the hell out of Scooby Doo.
Finding solace in this entity of legend that was called Thor was something I needed in my life. I’m not saying I needed Thor like Dean Trippe needed Batman (ref: “Something Terrible”) but it was definitely a lifeline to something bigger than myself when my identity crisis went from the slow ascent of 10mph as a kid to a sudden 110mph as a teen. I felt like my identity was not in my control. I had never heard the phrase “gender fluid” until recently in my 40s. If 12-year-old me had been given an understanding about gender and been supported in the need to explore my own, I can’t conceive how different I would be as a person right now. Playing with gender was something only eccentric celebrities did.
This post took hours to draft and revise. During that time, this Neko Case song came on my Pandora channel:
“The most tender place in my heart is for strangers; I know it’s unkind but my own blood is much too dangerous” – Hold On, Hold On
For some reason, those lines struck a particular chord regarding this subject about how you can offer your love to strangers but still believe you need a protective bubble around you. When you can’t trust that the self you know is even real, you want distance. I certainly wanted to get out of my own life and out of my own skin.