Anyway, leaving the desert and returning to the stars, I really enjoyed both of the Thor movies. And for some reason, the character of Loki really resonated with me. I've been jotting down scattered thoughts about scenes from the movie and my experiences and attempted to draw them together in the post below.
In case you don't know, Loki is the son of the king of Asgard and the younger brother of Thor. There are some story spoilers in the text below.
" . . . "
Throughout the first part of Thor, Loki has a distant, sad, aloof look. He's always observing, but doesn't speak much. I'm also a careful observer and a hesitant speaker. A sort of on-guard, at-attention, carefully-planning-and-reacting character.
I can guess why Loki looked the way he did. While quiet on the outside, he had very strong emotions swirling on the inside, as we saw later. I can have strong emotions inside, too. Sometimes when I've told people that, they've laughed at me. They say that they can't imagine me angry, even though there are times when I feel like my anger is going to crush me or my sadness is melting me away. I wonder what people *do* see on the outside when I feel such turmoil on the inside, then? What kind of expression do they see? An oddly careful, pitiful look?
It's hard to know what is going on inside of Loki's mind, but he gives a few hints. He says that he interrupted Thor's coronation because he was nervous about his brother's behavior. "He's arrogant, he's reckless, he's dangerous!" In the coronation scene, Thor is very bold and confident, while Loki is standing off to the side, looking like he's just swallowed lead. I can't tell if he's going to cry or scream or dissolve. He didn't seem very comfortable with the aggressive character of his brother in the childhood flashback, either.
The world outside makes me feel cautious, anxious, and sad, too. Where Loki schemes to control things, I tend to relinquish control to run and hide. There have been times where I did try to assume control of the situation to set things in order, but usually it hasn't worked well. I don't go to the lengths of Loki's scheming, but I can relate to feeling trapped, frustrated, and all the while quietly contemplating.
"There are secret paths between the worlds"
On a more upbeat note, Loki is a smart and curious fellow. He's traveled to distant realms, exploring secret and dangerous places. I wonder what adventures he had on Svartalfheim before he took Thor and Jane there? I like traveling and exploring, too, especially places that are not well known. I may be reluctant to share my special interests with others, but when someone is genuinely interested or needs help, I feel a daring eagerness to take the helm and lead onto the hidden places at dashing speeds! *whoosh* :3
"Volstagg: How did the guard even know? Loki: I told him."
But Loki is unpredictable, too. I feel like my research interests and emotions are also unpredictable. From day to day, I don't know what will give me energy or capture my attention. I surprise and baffle others with my intense interest in totally random, specific things from out of the blue.
I get a strange satisfaction from seeing people's expressions when I tell them what I've been obsessively researching. I like catching them by surprise, because while I want to be respected by others, I don't usually "feel" respected. (Whether that's what's intended or not, I'm not sure.) But by astonishing them with my illusive interests, I feel acknowledged. It gives me a sense of power when otherwise I feel helpless. Some mystery that is uniquely mine to wield. Something that validates my value and puts me in control.
Another stolen relic
"What am I?"
Then, there's the matter of Loki's background. He's distraught when he learns that he's really the prince of the Jotunheim who has been rescued by Odin and raised in the land of Asgard. He's the thing he feared. And the thing that, as a child, his brother vowed to destroy.
But now he's been removed from where he belonged (not that he would have survived, but he's still out of place) and raised in an impossible situation. He was told as a child that both he and Thor were born to be kings, but there can only be one king of Asgard. That's a paradox... Thor is the firstborn and actually the only true son of Odin. What of Loki? If he was raised to be king, but is not ever going to be king, how is he supposed to make sense of it? What would become of him? Would his talents and efforts be rendered null? He's been directed toward an impossible goal and has been checkmated - a placeholder, someone strategically aligned to bring peace to others while his own identity is in conflict. I can relate to those feelings.
As a girl, I felt that it was my responsibility to be emotionally supportive of others. The girls around me had sleepovers where they talked, laughed, cried, and shared secrets. They seemed to be having a great time. I liked making crafts with my friends, but when craft time was over and we spent the rest of the time socializing, I was no longer having fun. My emotional reserves were quickly sapped, leaving me feeling stressed and angry. I didn't feel refreshed. Also, while other girls were eager to talk about guys whom they had a crush on, I didn't find any interest in the topic. Actually, I was terrified of being romantic. But as a female, if I ever wanted to not be alone, I would have to be a wife and that included a lot of fear for me. I wasn't comforted by the idea of marriage like other girls were, just as social outlets weren't relaxing for me like they were for others. But I felt that it was my duty to care for and comfort others, even if I didn't like it.
All that time, what I really wanted to do was pursue ichthiology, rock collecting, ancient history, language, and art. I had these esoteric fascinations that I pursued with zeal. I wanted to learn Hebrew and preach the Old Testament. That was something that I felt comfortable doing; but as a female, I wasn't allowed to become a preacher. I didn't understand it... if I was a Christian, and God had given me talents and called me to use them, why did He give me studying and teaching gifts if I couldn't use them? It was a paradox. Why was I designed to love these things, but was put in a position that made it impossible to achieve them? Meanwhile, the things that I feared were the things that I was supposed to do. I was a frost giant! Or rather, I was a woman - someone expected to have an incredible emotional energy, social wisdom, and skill with interpersonal relations. I felt out of place, trapped, terrified. I felt like a stolen relic "locked up, here, until one might have use of me."
I can see why Loki panicked. But I'm trying to learn how to live in the midst of that panic, with the responsibilities that I have, with realistic expectations, and with the knowledge that Loki forgot - that my Father loves me and had good in mind in the midst of this confusion of mine. I'm not actually misplaced or stolen. I am, all at the same time, waiting with my Christian family for my true home.
"Well, I must have been enforcing father's last command."
There's an extended version of the scene where Loki and his mother are sitting at Odin's bedside watching him sleep. As they talk, a group of guards enter the room and hand Loki his father's staff. Loki looks at them with a nervous, puzzled expression and then looks back to his mother, who tells him that he will need to become the king for the time being. He takes the staff hesitantly. Later while he's fighting Thor, he says that he "never wanted the throne" and only ever wanted to be his brother's equal. But while Loki is king, he seems far to eager to act. He takes things too far. Is the burden of that responsibility too much for him to handle? He never had that kind of authority before and his normal ways of dealing with things are indirect, secretive, and manipulative - not the healthiest things.
I don't know whether Loki's initial reluctance to assume the throne was genuine or not, but I relate to feeling overwhelmed when thrown into an unfamiliar role of authority. Like when I tried to help with child care a few years ago. I watched the children carefully and kindly, but I felt like my emotions were falling out of control. Was it right to come home shaking, crying, and wanting to scream?
Well, maybe Loki wasn't nervous about the idea of leadership like I am. Maybe he just wanted to be in control so he could do what he wanted. Maybe he wanted to be respected by others. Or maybe he wanted to live up to Odin's legacy to try to earn his father's love. I don't know what he wanted, but I found the tension of authority and fear quite striking. I hope that he'll learn to be humble someday like his brother did. He sure was a helpful partner in their attempts to destroy the Ether - until he snuck off for Asgard again -_- *sigh*
Lack of Authority
"What happened? Silver tongue turned to lead?"
There's another aspect to Loki's authority that I can relate to, though. That's the fact that most people don't listen to him. Loki tells Thor not to fight with Laufey, but he does. Then, he tells Thor that they have to leave, but Thor stays behind to fight. Back on Asgard, Loki tries to plead with Odin, but his father silences him. Loki tries to explain to his friends that he can't convince Odin to restore Thor, but they continue to ask for Thor's return. He commands Heimdall not to open the bridge, but he does. And when Thor returns, Loki finds that some stranger on earth whom he just met has had more influence on Thor than Loki ever did all their years of growing up together. No one is listening to Loki, even as their king. I can't imagine how frustrating that would be. Yet, I feel so often like people don't listen to me.
What does Loki do in the face of such blatant opposition? When his family, friends, and citizens ignore everything he says? I think he felt like he couldn't use plain speech or plain action to get anywhere with others. I think he felt that using deceit and trickery was the only means he had of getting people to heed him. I think that's why he resorted to his crafty plans in the first place and why he falls into greater deceit as time goes on.
And the last part of this is also the toughest. In the midst of this situation, where Loki is disregarded and turns to secretive subtlety to navigate life, he is forced to take on a position of clear authority. A position where a person MUST have the respect of the people and their obedience. The people must not defy their king; yet they do defy him, just as Thor betrayed the command of Odin. I think this created a deep desperation in him and eventually destroyed him.
What about me? I don't feel like I resort to manipulation in order for people to listen to me; but I think that in some senses, I do. There are times when I try to speak, but my words seem to be invisible. And in those conversations, I find that I have to search for threads of ideas, motivations, and factors that would be seen as convincing by the other person. I feel like I'm manipulating them by weaving together thoughts that they will heed, even though they mean nothing to me. It's a sort of working dance, a puzzle-game, and a reality of communication that makes me feel very insincere.
When I'm put in a position of authority, this just gets worse. I know that I need for others to listen to me, but they just don't. Take child care, again. When I watched the children, we built block towers, played the xylophone, and read stories. But then there were those times when one child would hit another or take their toy. I would calmly try to stand in as the adult and tell them "no." But I felt like my words were falling on deaf ears and on frozen ground. They totally ignored me. I had no influence, no power. And I felt panicked because as the adult, I needed to hold out right and wrong and good leadership. But I felt like I had absolutely no control. I wonder if Loki felt that way, too? Maybe that's part of the reason he became so angry.
"Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to destroy Jotunheim."
As we reach the end of the movie, we see a very different kind of Loki. The one who was quiet and subtle is suddenly violent. I wonder if he really intended to start a war with the Jotunheim and then be the only ruler left in Asgard? I wonder if he felt pressure to be a warrior like the legendary Odin and his courageous brother Thor?
When I was in high school and college, I felt scared and overwhelmed by the offensive, hurtful world outside. And for some reason, I turned to violent books and movies as an outlet. I could write a long list of them. It's illogical, but it seemed to diffuse some of my anxiety at the time. I wonder if I was overcompensating for my sensitivity? Maybe it was an awkward way of fighting back to defend myself? I wonder if at heart Loki was really a sensitive person scared by the aggressive world around him, responding out of desperation with his own form of violence?
I'm curious to see what will happen in the movie that comes out later this year. I'm just glad that Loki isn't dead, whew. I thought it was another Spock ending ;_; But I am nervous for Asgard...
Well, I guess we'll see this fall! Until then :)