‘An investigation into the representation of the women in Thor.’
Brown (2015, The Guardian) speaks of the pervasiveness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, suggesting that: “The success of Marvel feature films over the last decade has moved superheroes from just an obsession of comic book fanboys to an international phenomenon.” The superhero film is not a new phenomenon: Batman (1966, Leslie H. Martinson) was one of the earliest popular offerings – perhaps because of its status as a spin-off - of a live-action superhero film, and Superman (1978, Richard Donner) was the first big-budget, feature length superhero film to be successful both critically and commercially. However, whilst the superhero film was certainly popular in the beginning of the 21st century, with franchises such as X-Men (2000-2006) and Spider-Man (2002-2007) arguably paving the way for the MCU, it has never before been quite so commercially and critically successful. Of the top twenty films of all time, MCU places five films on the list: The Avengers (2012, $1.5 billion); Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015; $1.4 billion); Iron Man 3 (2013, $1.2 billion); Captain America: Civil War (2016, $1.1 billion); and Black Panther (2018, $1.1 billion). Given how immensely popular superhero films are, it is imperative that the representation of minorities in these texts is examined. In my dissertation, I intend to investigate the representation of women in the Thor franchise, focusing specifically on Jane Foster, Sif, Darcy Lewis and Frigga (Thor, 2011 and Thor: The Dark World, 2013) and Valkyrie and Hela (Thor: Ragnarok, 2017). I aim to look at whether it is possible for the women of these films to be both sexualised and empowered; to examine the extent to which the women are denied their own agency and are instead protected by their male counterparts; and to examine whether the representation of the main female characters of the Thor franchise has evolved at all over the course of the films. I hypothesise that throughout the Thor films, the representations of the women are multi-faceted and fluctuate frequently; whilst there might be some adherence to stereotypical gender roles, I anticipate that many of the characters will also have their own agency. I intend to address my research question by conducting a thorough critical review of the existing scholarship, and I will draw upon many of the theoretical frameworks developed by these scholars. I will also do a close textual analysis of the three Thor films, using the aforementioned literature to justify my interpretation of the texts. Whilst there is plenty of existing scholarship focuses on superheroes in general, there is less so that focuses specifically on the roles women play in the superhero genre. Given that the popularity of superhero films is set to continue over the next several years, I believe it is important to examine the way in which female characters are represented in texts that are consumed globally and frequently. This dissertation will have four main sections: the critical literature review, in which I will examine previous scholarship regarding the ways in which women are represented in both superhero narratives and influential female-oriented texts; the methodology I intend to use and why it is appropriate when conducting research into representation in film; the analysis and interpretation of my chosen texts, in which I will use the conceptual and theoretical frameworks identified in the literature review to examine the ways in which women are represented in the Thor franchise; and lastly, the conclusion, in which I will ensure that my research question has been fully addressed and will also suggest further research which might be conducted.