Thoughts on Loki (and Loki)

Mpepper/ July 31, 2021/ Reviews, Think Pieces

Once upon a time, there was a little “boy.” He had been adopted by a powerful family, the family of a king, in fact. This boy was meant to be a prince. But his greatest bond was with his adopted mother. He delighted in time spent with her, and in “feminine” things. (His mother was a great warrior in her own right, mind, but wiles are often seen as women’s weapons.) This boy was clever, and sometimes he liked to be a girl. But the expectations for him were that he was a prince, and that he would cause nothing but trouble.

Still, was his gender fluidity part of his hallmark chaos? Did it contribute? Or was that simply part of his being?

Loki, mythologically and now in modern pop culture, comes with a lot of baggage. Without knowing exactly what the Norse were getting at with Loki’s gender antics, we can’t say if they considered his feminine outings as part and parcel of his mischief, or if he was “just that way.” We have very definite ideas of Norsemen as burly and masculine; Loki is described as different from that. In fact, he is “other” in every way: adopted, actually from another world/dimension, and able to shapeshift. He’s ridiculed for spending time as a woman but doesn’t seem dissuaded by anyone’s bad opinions. If anything, he finds his big, dumb companions alternately amusing and irksome. They’re easy to fool and lack imagination.

I watched the series and… was disappointed. Because Loki should always be the smartest person in the room, really, and they absolutely dumbed him down. I can understand they wanted the character to be thrown off his stride by the new and bizarre circumstances of the TVA, but still, Loki is persuasive. He’s an accomplished liar. It should never have been written that he was so easily caught out and always on the back foot. It simply wasn’t true to character.

Really, what would have been more interesting and, I think, faithful to Loki as we know him, would have been to have Sylvie be the Loki brought in and “our” Loki be the one they were hunting. This simple swap would have made all the difference. And I can see that the Disney folk would want Hiddleston’s Loki centered, which is why they started with him as the one to be nabbed, but… It would have paid off more in the long run to have patience and bring him in later. I mean, imagine: the Loki we know skipping through time trying to stop his mother’s death and his own. Trying to stop the end of Asgard, even. Trying to hold his world and life together, thread by thread. We already know and have sympathy for him as a character; that work has been done by the films. It’s a perfectly logical jumping off point for the series.

Instead, we’re meant to feel sorry for Sylvie, a character we barely know except as another Loki. Abstractly, we can feel sorry for her; the TVA took her away and she basically hasn’t had a life, so to speak. But we don’t have the depth of feeling for her that we do for “our” Loki. If the roles had been swapped as I suggested, we could have slowly learned more about her, how she got grabbed by the TVA, maybe even raised by them in anticipation of needing to chase down another Loki in the future. She might’ve been their top agent, so to speak, and a true foil for the Loki we know. The dynamic would have been far more interesting. And our Loki would have retained all his cleverness and power rather than having been watered down for the sake of the plot.

Ah, but I started this essay by talking about gender. And I had mixed feelings about that, too. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love that there is a female Loki! But, well… I think Rowan Ellis’ video actually says it all. While the representation is nice, it’s not quite there? Is how I feel anyway. Like, why do we need to split the genders into two characters when gender fluidity is really about two-in-one? The fact that a male Loki suggests a female Loki would be “terrifying” is ridiculous. It should be more like, “Oh, yeah, I do that sometimes…”

So, you know, once upon a time, an adopted prince sometimes liked to be a princess. And he got ribbed for it, but the truth was, he was damn good at being both. Therein lay his power. And he knew that, and he embraced it. He used it to his advantage, which, deep down, was exactly what those around him were most afraid of. But [if I were writing the story] one day it would be that ability that would save not only him but them, so… eventually they’d come to appreciate it.

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