God of Trickery, Goddess of Missed Opportunity

Strange things are afoot in the Marvel universe. There’s that whole ‘50% of everyone is currently dead for tax reasons’ thing of course and Avengers 4 is still a good distance away. But things are just as tumultuous on the small screen. In the space of a month, two of the Marvel Netflix shows have been cancelled and a third has wrapped a season with what looks an awful lot like a ‘Thanks for watching, folks! Drive safe!’ Happy ending. It might not be (SPOILER: It was. And I hate being right about that) but it certainly played like it. Throw in the fact that the Jessica Jones show runner is leaving after the next season and that Marvel are about to launch their own streaming platform and you’ve got yourself a party. A party, it was confirmed today, that will be attended by the Norse God of cheekbones. While a team up show for Winter Soldier and Falcon and a Scarlet Witch spin off have been announced, the first to be confirmed is Loki, starring Tom Hiddleston. This is good news and bad in a way which is pretty much peak Loki. Let’s take a look at that.

Good news first. Hiddleston has long been a favorite in the MCU and its easy to see why. His Loki is urbane, witty, charming, completely broken and eminently tragic. You want to save him with your love even as he stabs you in the back. You want to believe him when he swears he’s turned over a new leaf even as he sells the plant and steals the throne of Asgard. Loki is Blackadder without the troubling conscience. He’s the Norse id, howling to be let free and running rampant whenever he’s allowed. Loki is big fun, and it’s easy to see why he was the first to drop in Infinity War. Nothing says ‘this film is not playing around’ like gutting two Norse gods before the opening credits.

So we get a twofer of good news here. Firstly Loki the series! Secondly Loki’s probably not dead! Given that Scarlet Witch, Winter Soldier and Falcon are next off the blocks and all four went down in Infinity War it does suggest a pretty sweeping resurrection is on the cards. Hurray! tea and medals all round!

Mostly.

Bad news time. Marvel have rightly been criticized for spending ten years making different version of WHITE DUDE BEGINS. A lot of their movies are, well, this movie:

  • Brilliant, flawed hero has come to Jesus moment (Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Thor)
  • Brilliant, flawed hero loses everything (Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Thor)
  • Brilliant, flawed hero builds/magics/steals/pummels their groove back (Iron Man, Doctor…you get the idea).

That was especially true of Doctor Strange and Ant-Man hitting one after the other, although the ridiculously charming Spider-Man: Homecoming following them did help. Even then, none of these movies are bad, make no mistake, but they fly in way too tight a formation at times. Which brings us to the Marvel streaming service. And to Loki, and to another white guy fronted series. Which is understandable in a way, and not remotely in another. Because here’s the thing; Loki hasn’t always been a man. He’s taken multiple forms to get what he needed done, including impersonating the Scarlet Witch and being trapped as a woman for some time. That last one he was never entirely happy about but still, the point stands. Loki is an Asgardian and Asgardians, like ideas, are bulletproof. You can do what your want with them and they’re remain fundamentally true to themselves.

Loki is a blank slate that the same message is being written onto over and over. He’s Freebird played on a Norse lyre. I’ve got nothing against Hiddleston, he does great work but this show being the first out o the gate sends the exact same message Marvel have insisted they aren’t sending for a decade;

bros before everyone else. Just to be sure everyone else is real.

Abbie Comer. Jaime Alexander, Jaime Murray (Thanks to Bevis Munson and Ted Brandt for the suggestions) are just three of the countless other actresses who could bring the exact sharp toothed joy everyone’s favorite Frost Giant demands. None of them get the spot because even a sure fire thing has to be played safe apparently, and privilege has a very specific gravity. No wonder Loki’s angry. No wonder Loki’s smiling. The game was rigged before he, or she, ever showed up.

This piece originally appeared as part of my weekly newsletter, The Full Lid. If you liked it, and want a weekly down of pop culture enthusiasm, occasional ketchup recipes and me enjoying things, then check out the archive and sign up here.

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