Fatphobia & Trauma – An Avengers Endgame Problem

Avengers Endgame is the culmination of 21 films spread out over 10 years and a TV series, and acts as a swan song for some characters, their final bow as Phase 3 of this grand experiment comes to an end.

Endgame did many things right, but also stumbled on others, and it came to mind when I saw the following tweet from pop culture commentator Clarkisha Kent:

Warning, from here on out, there be spoilers, as well as trigger warning for fat shaming jokes, and discussion of depression.

Spoilers Sweetie...

I would highly recommend that people read the entire thread, as it’s quite illuminating the depths to which fat jokes were made at the expense of Thor in Endgame. There’s also a good discussion on it on the latest episode of Feminist Frequency, which I would also recommend.

This also has a ton of spoilers in it.

I agree with pretty much everything they talk about, but I wanted to add in my personal perspective as someone who’s dealt with grief, loss, anxiety by seeking comfort in alcohol and food. For me, losing family, even older family who we knew whose time was coming, was still painful as I, along with other members of the family, had to watch happen first hand as we cared for them, right up until the end.

It also wasn’t simply seeing the death of a family member, but seeing how it affected others in turn, and then having to be a bed of support and comfort for them, however I could.

And what did I do? I drank. And I ate, and I did what I could to try and numb my own feelings of pain.

And through that, I gained weight.

Heck, drinking is still something I struggle with at times, not being in a position where I wished I could be, because sometimes becoming numb to the world was the only escape I had on hand.

So, to see the film mock Thor for his appearance, no longer being the super cut hottie we’d first seen in the first Thor movie, really stung. This is a man hurting over being unable to save his father, unable to save his people, who reconciled and then lost his brother Loki, who lost his mother and whose girlfriend broke up with him.

Chopping Thanos’ head off on his farm planet was, all said and done, a small, hallow act of vengeance, and you can hear it in his words when his fellow Avengers turn to him and say:

“What did you do?!”

“I aimed for the head.”

Chris Hemsworth is a wonderfully talented actor who was able to put so much pain, loss, and futility into a single line, so much so I ached for him. I ached for Thor.

So of course he turns to drink and food, working through his grief with bottles and barrels of booze, because facing up to that enormous well of guilt, in his view, would be nigh-impossible.

Thor Odinson, mighty warrior, prince turned King by right of birth, responsible for the lives of so many, failed.

What makes it also personal for me is that I AM a bigger guy. Unlike how Hemsworth or Evans or Pratt looked shirtless, I’ve no super cut abs covered by smooth skin. I’ve a gut and body hair and even despite my knowing that those actors got to be that way through arduous levels of training and expensively paid for guided nutrition, there’s still a little voice inside of me that tells me I’m not worthy of love or affection because I’m fat. it’s a hard voice to silence, and while I’ve gotten better at ignoring it over the years, it still pokes its head up in my more vulnerable moments.

It was also such a missed opportunity, because near the end, in the final battle with Thanos, Thor remains as he does when we find him in New Asgard, without any kind of training montage to show how he got back in shape after finding his warrior’s spirit. Maybe if the film had given him the empathy and kindness others had received, the message that your waistline does not determine your bravery, courage, and will to keep hope alive might have had more of an impact. As it was, I’m pretty sure such a message was more a happy accident than a deliberate act on part of the Russo Bros or the writers.

Instead, we get lines such as this:

Thor: Do you know what courses through my veins?

Rhodey: Cheese whez?

I can’t help but compare it to Ned’s treatment in Spider-Man Homecoming, where not a single fat joke is said by any of his friends, nor even the jerk of the club he belongs to, Flash Thompson. No one suggests he eat a salad, or hit the gym, or do something to appear more aesthetically pleasing. As someone bullied a lot for being fat, Ned would have been something I’d love to have had growing up, but I’m still happy I got to have him and even live through him a little.

And of course there’s the treatment that actor Wentworth Miller went through as he struggled with his own depression and suicidal tendencies, mocked by a tabloid article for simply being fat.

Wentworth Miller Talks Depression In Response To Fat Shaming Meme

This isn’t to say that not everyone is mocked for their own trauma. In fact, there’s a great scene of Steve Rogers leading a counseling group for people in the wake of the Snap, encouraging them on, congratulating on their bravery, and discussing how it’s important to move on.

No one mocks Tony Stark for being afraid of Thanos and not going after him, not after all he’s been through and the guilt and anger he feels for not only having failed but in having lost Peter Parker.

And, loathe as I am to give Scarlet Johannson any credit, especially after her recent choices in the roles she took, she portrayed a woman who is simply so tired, so worn out, struck down by the loss of everything, including members of her own team, that it looks like making a simple peanut butter sandwich takes a lot of effort.

But since Thor got fat, that meant free reign for the film to mock him and to encourage us to join in on that laughter. It makes for comedy that would be better classified as cruelty, and it hurts to see it.

Over the past few years, we’ve had a number of male celebrities come out to discuss their own issues with suicide, depression, and anxiety, such as Ryan Reynolds, The Rock, Chris Evans and, most recently, Zachery Levi. It’s important for young boys to see that dealing with such issues and how we deal with them is okay to talk about.

But when you don’t include everyone and be understanding of the ways in which they deal with grief and anxiety, you’re sending the message that it’s okay to make fun of them, that fat people aren’t human and thus aren’t worthy of kindness.

It’s a terrible message, one I’m sad to see Marvel include in their grand finale.

Lets hope they do better in Phase 4, and that DC and the WB don’t follow in their stead.

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