Monday, 9 May 2011


Here's a nice piece I picked up from USA Today's Faith & Reason column, which describes itself as "A Conversation About Religion, Spirituality and Ethics".
Pagans voice concerns about Thor
By Sarah Pullium Bailey for USA TODAY
Thor offers the unexpected start to the Hollywood blockbuster season, as most people may not be familiar with the 49-year-old Marvel Comics hero. Fewer people are probably aware of the Norse god Thor, who is still followed in some pagan traditions.
Reviews have been fairly positive so far, but some pagans have been posting concerns about the movie popularized in the comic book instead of in the tradition they follow. Thor is described as a great warrior of enormous strength.
Leading up to the film, some pagans voiced concerns over the film's depiction of Thor as a deity. Eric Scott wrote a post at Killing the Buddha that set off a chain of reactions on "What happens when Hollywood gets a hold of your gods."
The truth is, I looked at the toys in my hands and I saw the result of millions of dollars of development and thousands of hours of manpower, put into something bearing the name of a god, my god, and it had nothing to do with me. Their Thor was a god forgotten by all except the few quiet geeks who read his adventures in Journey into Mystery and The Mighty Thor for forty years. It wasn't that they meant to upset or unsettle me; they simply realized that people like me were too few to matter. It's impossible to think of a story about Jesus like this, not written to pander to or irritate Christians, but simply not considering them at all.
Hollywood uses Christian characters as well, Alexandra Erin argues, assuming people will be familiar with the names and symbols.
While it must be remembered that Christianity enjoys a very privileged position in our culture and thus can't claim to be injured by off-target pop culture depictions, the fact remains that the Christian religion *is* treated as mythology by Hollywood to be pillaged wholesale for stories and characters. Consider the move Legion, which has a gun-toting archangel action hero facing off against the legions of heaven and/or hell to save a come-again Baby Jesus from the wrath of a petulant God.
Perhaps the film is an opportunity to introduce people to Paganism, Star Foster of Patheos' Pantheon blog says:
Thor is an opportunity. People will seek out Pagans due to this film, silly as that may sound. When they come we should greet them with answers and hospitality, especially if we weren't received that way. Thor can mark a change not only for seekers, but for how our communities interact with them.
Are you planning to see Thor? Have you felt like Hollywood has misrepresented or taken advantage of your beliefs?

I have to declare a special kind of interest in this story. While I wouldn't exactly say I'm a worshipper of Thor, I've certainly been a fan since I was very young. I first encountered The Mighty Thor (to give him his full title - sadly, the movie versions tend to drop the great adjectives, so we don't get the Amazing Spider-Man or The Uncanny X-Men - it's a wonder that they didn't give us just "The Four" as a movie) in the pages of Fantastic comic, which was launched in 1967, when I was an impressionable eight year old (as distinct from the impressionable 51 year old I am today). This featured short black and white instalments of the adventures of several Marvel superheroes, the Mighty Thor amongst them. I used to colour in the pages myself. When I eventually discovered that they were available in colour, between glossy covers and had stories it didn't take months to follow to their conclusion, it was like entering a new world. It's one that still holds its attractions for me, as a cursory glance of my bookshelves, bedside reading or Amazon wish list would confirm.
For ages, I implored my dad, who was a skilled wood-machinist at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, to make me a wooden version of Mjolnir, Thor's hammer (translated from the Icelandic, the name means "that which smashes"). He gave it to me when I was 10 or thereabouts; it was about half as tall as I was.

In my first year at Allan Glen's, aged 11 or 12, I illustrated a project in history class about the Vikings by cutting out scenes from some of my Thor comics (an unprecedented sacrifice by itself) and pasting them into my jotter. I got 0/10 for the project and my history teacher wrote in angry red script that I should remove every trace of these from my book and do the project over again - properly this time.

In keeping with my own devotion to the god of thunder then, I've used an image from the comic, rather than the movie at the top of this blog post.

1 comment:

  1. I went to see this film recently with my girlfriend and i personally thought that it was amazing!
    This is not to suggest that I thought that the film was correct... in fact, i think something different.
    I believe that this is a matter of perception. For those who have no concern about the story and of the mythology, this is simply a film. Those that would want to look at the origins of the film would not take the story on face value as others would and are likely to read into the various texts that there are available on this.
    Norse mythology has had an impact in literature and in music, Led Zeppelin -immigrant song has influences from norse mythology,
    many tv shows such as Stargate SG-1 and Dr Who and also in many video games have taken influence from the tales

    It may be argued that these creators are benefitting from anothers belief but this is not the case, after all tv shows and music are forms of story telling and in a way keeps the beliefs alive as people are aware of their presence

    Those who want to find out more will look further into fact rather than diluted fiction

    Again this is a matter of perception.