Spoilers for “The Avengers” and “Thor” below!
I had an exchange on Tumblr recently that got me thinking about Loki and Thor’s relationship. It’s talking about this bit of dialog from the Avengers (which I am quoting from memory, so apologies if it’s not 100% accurate):
Banner: [Loki's] mind is like a box of cats. You can smell the crazy on him.
Thor: Have a care how you speak. Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard, and he is my brother.
Black Widow: He killed 80 people in two days.
Thor: He’s adopted.
Unsurprisingly, some folks were upset about the “adopted” line. I have to confess, I have laughed both times I saw it in the theater even though I felt a little badly about doing so (Hemsworth’s delivery is comic timing at its finest, and he strikes just the right uncertain note in his delivery, almost as if it’s a question: “he’s adopted?” Like he’s trying it out as an excuse).
So, I saw a post on Tumblr which said:
future-little-minhos: Can I use “My brother and I are adopted and didn’t find it offensive” as an argument saying why the “he’s adopted” line in the Avengers isn’t offensive?
And I reblogged it and replied to it, which started a conversation:
me: I’d say it’s offensive, but it’s meant to be. Thor can be a dick sometimes. I was actually kind of pleased they lampshaded the goddamn “adopted kids are eeeeeeeeeevil” trope that they couldn’t avoid without making Loki Asgardian.
future-little-minhos: Thanks for saying it more eloquently then I could have. The line was meant to sting. It would take away the characters and how you see their relationship if it had been taken out.
me: Aw, thanks! And thanks for the follow. :)
It really does show an important piece of Thor and Loki’s relationship — Thor loves his brother and keeps giving him second chances, wants him to come back home, defends him when Banner talks shit about him — and yet tries to blame Loki’s killing on his parentage, tries to distance himself from it.
Thor loves the Loki he remembers, the little brother he played with and fought beside, but he’s not sure how to deal with the murderous lunatic Loki has become (don’t get me wrong, I adore Loki. But he is totally a murderous lunatic in The Avengers). Thor insists Loki’s “of Asgard” until it’s pointed out he’s killed 80 people in two days. Then it’s all, “he’s adopted.”
It’s like a remnant of the jerk Thor was at the beginning of “Thor.” Thor’s matured and grown a lot, but not that much.
Oh man, can you imagine how Thor and the Warriors Three would’ve treated Loki back then if they knew he was adopted? Ouch.
And of course, I kept thinking about it, because that’s how I am, and I figured I’d blog about it here because 1, I know all four of my followers here like my babbly meta and 2, I don’t like doing longass posts on my Tumblr. Not sure why. I guess I view it mostly as being for squee and reblogging of amusing/awesome photos/fanart, not for rambling.
Well, and I don’t want to only post on my Tumblr and not on my blog. I love my blog.
Let us look at the timeline of Thor and Loki’s relationship:
- Children: Thor is a rambunctious kid, Loki is more quiet. They are both clearly loved by Odin, and seem to view each other as partners and friends.
- Teenagers/young men: they have real affection for each other, but there’s also a fair bit of teasing going on. Thor’s friends give Loki a hard time when they pay attention to him at all. Loki and Thor fight side by side, but Loki is sufficiently jealous of Thor that he provokes him into doing stupid things as a way to show Odin that Thor’s not ready for the throne. Of course, this goes badly, hence the events of the first film. Thor still loves Loki and tries to save him.
- Adults: Loki is ’round the bend. Thor still loves him and keeps trying to persuade him to come home, Loki keeps telling him it’s not possible (not, mind you, saying “no, you’re a dick and father’s an asshole, you can both fuck right off.” Just saying it’s not possible.).
I think Thor doesn’t really know what to do with Loki as an adult. He clearly doesn’t understand him at all. He loves Loki, but I think he loves the Loki he knew when they were young — someone he didn’t really know all that well, either, because Thor was a self-centered douchenozzle when he was a teenager.
Thor’s defense of Loki in the dialog I quoted at the top of the post is based on Loki’s attributes (he’s from Asgard and he’s Thor’s brother), not on his actions. When confronted with his actions, Thor retreats and distances himself from Loki.
So on one hand, he loves his brother and defends him from accusations of insanity, but on the other he wants to distance himself from Loki’s actions, to blame them on Loki’s heritage. It’s as if he just ignores the parts of Loki he doesn’t like and keeps trying to reach out to the parts of Loki he cares about.
You can read this a number of ways, really, but today I’m leaning towards “Thor is a simple guy who wants his brother to go back to being his kid brother and stop trying to be a king.” Thor is a very straightforward, up-front kind of guy. He is one thing, all the time, at 110% intensity: himself. Loki, on the other hand, is layers within layers. He’s manipulative, able to perform whatever emotion seems necessary to get what he wants. He’s a lost, unloved little boy on the inside, but he wants to be a king, so he hides that side of himself — which is why he keeps saying it’s not possible to change course. To change course, he’d have to admit that his performance as a self-assured badass is just that — a performance, and he won’t even admit that to himself, let alone to Thor. To say “no, I won’t” implies that the performance exists. This is why Coulson tells Loki that he lacks conviction. This is what Coulson meant. Loki isn’t being authentic, he has no self-integration. He’s fragmented inside. If I may lapse into occult-speak, Loki cannot manifest his true Will because he’s not integrated enough to know what his Will is. He thinks he does, but he doesn’t, and that’s why, as Coulson says, he’s always going to lose. (Wow, now I want to do an occult take on The Avengers.)
Thor, being so straightforward a guy, doesn’t understand this at all, and keeps trying to reach out to the Loki he once knew and ignore the Loki who’s running amok. But that’s not going to work. Thor’s not going to be able to have a real relationship with Loki until he accepts the things about Loki he doesn’t like.
And really, isn’t that true of us all?
That’s one of the great strengths of “The Avengers” and the other Marvel movies — the relationships are realistic, even though the people aren’t.