Grief and loss are constants in this lifetime. Even as believers in Christ we are not exempt from these life experiences. This theme shows up in Marvel’s newest movie Thor: Love and Thunder, the fourth movie in the Thor series, which takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame.
Besides many explosions and action scenes in these movies, there are deeper experiences that people relate to, such as redemption, mercy, grace, anger, pain, and resolution. Anyone with red blood can relate to those themes, brought to life by good writing.
Thor’s story involves much loss. He has lost his parents (Odin and Frigga), his brother (Loki), the entire population of Asgard, and even his relationship with Jane Foster (his human love interest). By the time Endgame came, Thor was a shell of his former self and unrecognizable to many.
Fans like me were shocked to see how much he had changed. He coped by drinking a lot and avoiding further pain.
At the outset of Love and Thunder, Thor has resolved to keep relationships at a distance so that he is not hurt when he loses people, either by death or breakups. There is a scene in the movie (no spoilers) where he is saying goodbye to the Guardians of the Galaxy before they get a chance to leave him. It’s sort of like “I dump you before you dump me,” or “I quit before I’m fired.” Thor is rejecting people before they get a chance to reject him.
Isn’t that true to the human experience? We do many things when pain, grief, and loss enter our lives. Some of us see them as an intruder, a constant thing to avoid and suppress, and we contort our lives to try to get away from the pain. Some of us cope in other unhealthy ways, self-medicating or self-harming. However, in the Psalms we see a different approach. David and other writers often name their pain, grief, and loss in a way that makes them vulnerable. This vulnerability gives an unexpected gift: healing.
Only when Thor can name his loss and tell the people around him how he truly feels, does he start to recover emotionally. In a book called Cry Like a Man, author Jason Wilson coins the term “emotional incarceration” for men who are culturally pressured to be tough and not cry or show emotions. If men believe this, according to Wilson, they will become emotionally incarcerated where they cannot cry or feel. The author says the key is having the courage to name what you feel as a start, and sooner or later you will be freed up enough to cry and feel again with God’s help.
Thor begins the process of healing in his own way. I applaud Marvel for draping this theme as a backdrop to Thor’s heart and actions. In doing so they touch our hearts as well. This gives more “meat” to round out the characters and helps us care for them, root for them, and cheer them on. In truth, we are rooting for ourselves as we root for Thor.
See it for yourself. Art is still imitating life, and in this case, Thor’s healing journey can be a conduit of healing for moviegoers, too. (Marvel Studios)