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I’m not a psychologist, but I don’t have to be for the sake of this post, and neither do you. The only expertise we need for this post is to diagnose Thor as having depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), or both. Because he’s a make-believe character, what that really means is that we have to infer whether that’s what the writers intended when writing for the character. If you’re one of the few that don’t infer that, then this post isn’t for you. I’m operating from the assumption that Thor’s physical condition is the result of one or both of those mental/emotional conditions (perhaps another that’s more appropriate), and so I will certainly not be arguing that assumption here.
Thor’s physical condition clearly sprang from his mental illness. Was that a good thing? I believe it was, both for script purposes and for real world purposes.
What started in Thor: Ragnarok came to fruition in Avengers: Infinity War: Thor is the strongest Avenger. With only one exception, Thor never took a legitimate blow from the Hulk, getting hit only when he was trying to stop the fight or when the Grandmaster cheated. He developed what was probably the Thorforce from the comics, and with both Odin and Hela dead, that makes sense. He took on the brunt of a neutron star. He almost took out Thanos while Thanos was wielding all six Infinity Stones. The Russos came up with a lame excuse (Thanos was taken by surprise), but if Thor had just gone for the head . . . .
So, if Thor is that powerful, what happens in Endgame? Most likely, the battle lasts about 15 seconds with Thor saving the world. That’s not particularly dramatic. His weakness was necessary to give Thanos a fighting chance and to give us the grand finale we all wanted.
All that said, the only reason this plot device worked is because Thor was deemed worthy. Depression and PTSD are illnesses. Having them doesn’t necessarily make you a weak person, though they do give you certain vulnerabilities. Mjolnir gives us an objective standard to tell us whether or not someone is “worthy.” Thor’s ability to summon and wield Mjolnir tells us that his condition and value as a hero aren’t connected. It tells us that our own conditions and values as human beings aren’t connected. For this reason, I not only think Fat Thor was nothing worth being offended about, but was actually very important.
Moreover, once it was explicitly established that Thor’s physical condition was tied to the depression and/or PTSD, the jokes stopped coming, or at least shifted focus. “Lebowski” wasn’t a comment about weight. Endgame wasn’t perfect, though. For some inexplicable reason, Rhodey continued to insult Thor, and it didn’t come across as playful. I’ll discuss this in depth in tomorrow’s post.
Did you think “Fat Thor” was handled well?