My stubborn post-election depression took me to see Thor this weekend. Okay, I admit I love superheroes. But this isn’t just a guilty pleasure. I’m on a quest to decipher the electorate’s psyche through the heart of Thor.
All that mythic content in the hands of a Shakespeare master (director Kenneth Branagh) — c’mon, the film’s surely going to shed light on the unconscious masculine archetypes shaping popular politics. And sure enough, buried in this paramilitary fantasy, I fall knee-deep into politics and power.
Mythic god-beings have issues. They’re all about unlocking the inner secrets we all carry. These guys bring theirs out into the open. On the surface, this particular story is about youth crime and punishment and the sibling rivalries that can tear worlds apart. Incarceration and zealous security come into play. Ouch.
But this is a hero’s journey. A menacing, out-of-control youth moves from errant son to wise leader. And Thor’s compassion and intellect grows to even include his enemies. Wow. I’m starting to be in a better mood. There’s a modern message here about peace and wakefulness amid the horrors of war.
But then the psychological sleight of hand hits me. Odin, Thor’s wise father, has nothing to learn. The larger-than-life Odin has two sons obsessed with measuring up. How did he neglect their self-esteem? Hint: Odin doesn’t discuss, he issues commands. And when disobeyed, he is punishing. But none of this casts even a hint of a shadow across Anthony Hopkins’s benevolent-patrician masculinity. No accountability. Sound familiar?
All the darkness sits psychically with the youth. And they must pay a huge price for their shadow conflict.
The collateral damage is mythic disconnection and loss, but none of this reflects on Papa. “Father knows best” may feel old, but the 50s are alive and still stirring wistfully in our psyches. Underneath Thor’s peace-loving story-line, the unconscious offers up the acceptance of tyranny. What’s the magic that can fight that fire?
This article was first published in NOW Magazine.
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