Saturday, June 12, 2021

why I don't care about and won't watch "Loki"

If you know anything about Norse mythology, you know that Loki is the god of mischief and chaos—he's a trickster by nature. He has been portrayed in myth as sometimes helpful, sometimes harmful, and you can never quite pin him down. He's the god responsible for the death of Baldr, one of Odin's prized sons. If you know anything about gods, then you know that a god is a personalized reification of a cosmic principle or natural force: a god of thunder, a god of greed, a god (or goddess) of love, a god of the sea, a god of fire, a god of the sky. 

So here's the problem for Marvel's Loki: according to what I've heard, this new TV series—called "Loki"—tells the story of Loki from the moment he disappears with the Tesseract in 2012 (you may remember the moment in "Avengers: Endgame"). He's captured by a group called the Time Variance Authority, whose job seems to be the maintenance of the coherence of the multiverse. Loki is apparently given the choice of helping the TVA or being rendered nonexistent. He obviously chooses to help, and that involves traveling through different timelines, universes, and historical periods to undo the damage being caused by other versions of himself. Along the way, he grows as a "person" as he witnesses the misery that the other versions of himself cause.

From the position of anyone with any knowledge of Norse mythology, none of this makes sense. So Loki, the god of mischief and chaos, has been tasked with cleaning up after himself? The god of chaos is now a force for order? And gods, which represent cosmic principles, don't have character arcs: principles are unchanging, so gods don't change, either. Yet here is Loki, a god, given a character arc. What will he be the god of by the end of the series? Repentance? I kind of hope that Marvel's Loki begins to realize the Time Variance Authority itself needs to be destroyed, and he gives in to his chaotic nature and destroys it. That would be a good, antistructural Loki. But I'm not interested enough in the series to be arsed to find out what he ends up doing.

Marvel's Loki is manifestly not the Loki of myth, and that's been true for decades, so maybe we can chalk all this up to good ol' Marvel going its own way and not caring about mythological implications. And I realize some of you might object to the notion of gods not changing: Look at the difference between the Old and New Testament versions of God, I can hear you saying. Or: There are stories of gods being born, growing up, gaining wisdom, and dying. All true, but as a general rule, once a god is mature, especially if s/he is "god of" something, then my definition of a god as a reified, personalized principle or force applies.

I'm generally not a fan of Marvel's depiction of gods which, in the Marvel universe, are more like superpowered aliens than cosmic beings worthy of worship. I like that Captain America got to utter the line, "There's only one God, ma'am." He's obviously unimpressed, and I can't blame him. A true god, if one were to appear in front of you, would make you want to prostrate yourself before it of your own free will, but also possibly out of sheer terror and awe (unless the god appears in disguise, I guess). I don't think there's a way to render that visually, however pretty the drawings or special effects might be. Writers might come closer because the imagination is a powerful thing: one short story by Greg Bear titled "The Visitation" features a hierophany (manifestation of the holy) in which God appears to a woman, first as a sort of Trinity, but finally as something described simply and powerfully as "a vast, cyclic thing of no humanity whatsoever." Very evocative. Not enough to bring me to my knees, but tremendous all the same.

Anyway, comic books don't always make the best reading for us students of religious studies; they get so much wrong in their quest for pizzazz. And that, friends, is why I'm not predisposed to watching "Loki." Besides, "Loki" is on Disney Plus, and I quit Disney Plus after bingeing two seasons of "The Mandalorian."

1 comment:

  1. I know nothing about the Gods of which you speak. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if Loki's journey of self-awareness leads him to be "woke". Not that I'll be watching either.



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