Everyone who knows me understands that I’m an unapologetic fan of Marvel’s Thor – particularly the version of Thor in the movies. I love how all of the characters are represented in the films, especially hero and female protagonist Jane Foster. No longer relegated to the role of simple girlfriend and nurse, MCU Jane is a competent, compassionate, assertive astrophysicist.
And when discussing Thor: The Dark World with someone, I learned something else about her. Some people think: “She should’ve known better.” (Spoilers for Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy ahead.)
We were discussing the plot of the film, in which Jane Foster is transported to another realm and infused with the Aether (likely one of the Infinity Stones / Gems). Jane was transported there after investigating an anomaly directly related to her field and work. My opponent argued that Jane was transported to the other realm and unwillingly infused with the Aether as a result of her trespassing on condemned or private property – where she didn’t belong.
In other words, as a consequence of her curiosity – she deserved what she got.
To me, it sounds like the victim is being blamed. I’m not even comfortable with Jane being a victim in the first place, because as a woman in groundbreaking Marvel movies, she represents a lot. (Don’t worry – there are still plenty of people who are content with the damsel in distress trope.) After seeing the trailer, it took trust for me, as a fan of the character and Marvel and Natalie Portman, to assume that the character would be granted the same agency she assumed in the first movie.
Jane Foster’s Body and Possession
Jane did not want or ask for this force to inhabit her body. It was done against her will and it had violent and traumatic results, which makes the mission of Jane, her friends, and her love interest (Thor) all the more urgent. To see the Aether’s possession of Jane’s body as a rape metaphor isn’t far-fetched; admittedly it’s one I hadn’t even really focused on because I see her as such a strong character, surrounded by strong people. And that’s a flaw in my perception, because rape can happen to strong women and men who make smart choices or poor choices.
Other characters seem to assign Jane’s frail mortal form to Thor, as though she’s his possession. Several Asgardians use the term ‘your mortal.’ Fortunately, our hero Thor clearly sees Jane as her own person, admiring her pursuit of truth and science at several points in the film (including two deleted scenes). The Asgardians discuss Jane’s beauty, but that seems to be only a small part of what Thor appreciates about the mortal scientist who has captured his heart.
On the positive side of unwilling possession – yes, there is one – it’s not likely by chance that one Jane Foster came to house such a powerful force. She is, after all, someone who understands the intricacies of space and time better than most. Plus, another notable mortal(ish?) counterpart wielded similar power – Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Of course, all of this occurs after complex MCU villain Loki threatens to “pay her a visit” when he is speaking to Thor of Jane in the first movie.
Women Pushing Boundaries and Exploring the Unknown
My opponent argued that Jane’s misfortune (being possessed by the Aether) was a result of her being somewhere she shouldn’t have. I argue that it was a result of her doing her job – something that brought enthusiasm and dedication to her life before her love interest was even present (in fact, it led her to him). To suggest Jane shouldn’t have been where she was – given this character and her profession – insinuates a lot about what she’s doing. If being a woman in her field was more culturally acceptable and encouraged, it would probably be done a lot more often.
I admire Jane’s ability to discover things, look at science in a different way, and make breaking discoveries.
I also admire that about DC’s Lois Lane, Daily Planet reporter and love interest of Superman / Clark Kent – but to get to the truth of the matter as a journalist, she certainly seems to go to a lot of forbidden places. It’s easy to say ‘oh, silly Lois. If only she hadn’t been in over her head, investigating dangerous stuff, Superman wouldn’t have to rescue her all the time.’
The truth of the matter is this: breaking new ground is risky. Writing that investigative piece or finding a portal to another dimension requires gumption. There are risks and consequences, but women (and everyone else) can’t avoid risk-taking behavior entirely simply to play it safe. How else would we be career-minded individuals, mothers, and more? Life itself is a risky operation.
But the ‘she deserved it’ rape culture attitude has GOT to go.
I’m not suggesting that anyone not take responsibilities for their actions, and that seems to be a big counter-argument in these types of discussions. In this specific incident, Jane’s ‘crime’ was investigating an abandoned building in London, for which the ‘punishment’ was a forced possession by a powerful entity or force. The crime and punishment here show a false equivalency – that’s like saying a man deserves to get stabbed because he was jaywalking. Clearly the thing that happened had little to do with the offense in question.
Whether Jane decides to focus on her career OR whether she becomes Princess of Asgard, I hope she never stops taking risks. I need that constant reminder – I need to see that my favorite heroes take calculated risks, because I need to know that’s okay and I need to do that more often, too. I’m glad both Jane and Thor decide to take risks in the films – not just on each other, but when it comes to responsibilities they hold dear.
(And by the way, I hope Jane becomes a Nobel winner AND an princess. She can handle it.)
- What is Rape Culture?
- Is Thor a Feminist Movie? (Yes)
- Loki and the Language of Sexual Violence in the MCU