The way most Hollywood films are shot, the camera seeks out to show the “nice bits” of the young female characters. This is why women in films are usually dressed in either tight-fitting, revealing, or otherwise miscellaneously appealing clothing; it gives the camera a better target to showcase. Men don’t get the same treatment because they’re just the default. Most directors (and cinematographers etc) are straight men, so this makes sense. It’s actually a recognised thing in academia, and it’s called the male gaze.
One of the things that makes the first Thor film a feminist movie is its subversion of the male gaze (might as well put my degree to work here). The women in the movie are dressed how most women dress in reality; and the only character who gets the male gaze treatment from the camera is Thor himself, both in general and in specific scenes that show him shirtless and in tight jeans. The gender roles, as perceived by the camera, have effectively been flipped.
In an ideal world, obviously, there’d be no need for flipping the roles around to make a statement because the treatment would be either done in equal measure or not at all. But we don’t live in an ideal world; we live in one where the male gaze is given almost exclusively to women. It’s nice to have a subversion of that, even if just for something new in a Hollywood action film.
After the first Thor came out, a lot of straight guys joked about feeling strangely attracted to Thor in the cinema. That’s how the camera was positioning you to feel! And now you know what the background radiation of entertainment is like for women/gay men/etc.
Thor: The Dark World has very little of the male gaze in it, but still has one short scene shoved in for no reason other than to get Thor shirtless again. Someone tried to claim this as “reverse sexism” when discussing it with me; but how many times have you seen the arbitrary “a woman takes a shower for no reason” scene? Surprisingly, he didn’t seem so aggravated about the million of those out there.
On a slightly different but still relevant topic, Robert tried to engage me in a game of “if you had to marry a fictional male Marvel character, who would it be?” The whole discussion seemed largely wasted on me; I feel it is something for the domain of exclusively straight guys. Robert nominated Thor, pretty much because of Thor’s loyalty, sense of humour, and supportiveness. I rejected Thor as a suggestion immediately, because I’m personally not attracted to Chris Hemsworth. My suggestions were Heimdal or Edward-Norton-era Bruce Banner; neither of whom, as Robert pointed out, would be particularly good husbands for various reasons.
This made me notice something interesting, though. Not feeling physically attracted to any of them, Robert (and presumably most people who get into this type of discussion) based his selection purely on personality and emotional grounds. I was ruling out people quickly based on appearance. And I realised that, to make a generalisation, this is how men often interact with women (and, hey, vice versa) in reality all the time. Was I suddenly the douchebag dudebro in this scenario? Possibly. I’m still puzzling that one out.
Okay, let’s get the obvious out of the way first, Thor: The Dark World is really good.
The first Thor is a feminist movie, which I didn’t pick up on until it was pointed out to me, but the things that I liked most about it were, in retrospect, things I liked because they contributed to that. I thought I liked them because they were fresh and new things to be in a Hollywood action film, which is also true, but far more sad when you consider the first statement.
One of the things I was wondering going into the second Thor film was, would they be able to keep that element going? (Different writers and director might have killed it dead, for example.) Not only is The Dark World also a feminist movie, but it’s even more so than the first film. It’s like they realised that some people didn’t pick up on it the first time around, so they had to put it into overdrive for the sequel. If they want to up the ante again, they may have to stray into full-blown strawman feminist levels for the inevitable third movie.