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Those who are about to be flamed salute you
Okay, I'm having to explain a fragmented discussion to so many people that I want to recap it in one place. I am probably going to get my ass kicked for this. I am trying to convince myself that I regret nothing.

I liked The Avengers.

It's cool that you adored The Avengers.

I am not trying to rain on your parade. I am not trying to be that person who tells you that everything you love is bad and you should feel bad.

I don't actually feel the need to go on and on about this, but I'd rather have it all in one place and get it all out at once. If nothing else, this is a way to explain to people who are curious as to what the whole foofaraw is about. I will not bring it up again after this entry.

The Avengers was a great movie that had one sour note in it.

SPOILERS: That note was Loki calling Natasha a "mewling quim." Maybe that whole monologue went by so fast that no one was able to transcribe it; I can't find the full quote anywhere. Basically, if you haven't seen the movie or you missed this scene, Natasha/Black Widow has gone in to trick the trickster and lay out her own vulnerability so he'll let down his guard and tell her what the team needs to know. We saw her do this in her first scene with Russian gangsters; we know this is her specialty, using her presumed weakness as strength. Loki turns her "I just want you to spare Hawkeye" ploy against her (possibly she meant him to?), insisting that she really feels guilty about all the bloodshed in her past and thinks that saving one person will erase "the red from her ledger," and it won't. My memory gets fuzzy about the progression of the whole thing, but at some point he starts snarling about how he'll mind-control Hawkeye into killing her in the most horrible painful ways he can think of, and Natasha will feel horrible about it, and then Hawkeye will feel horrible about it, and then they'll both die feeling horrible about it together, or something. Somehow, this monologue climaxes with Loki calling her a "mewling quim." Scarlett Johansson's acting seems to indicate (in my interpretation) that Natasha is shocked and taken aback by Loki reaching past the false vulnerability she offered as bait and reaching down to some real pain, but she keeps rolling with it, gets the information the team needs, and when she turns back around to face him, her face is completely calm and unemotional; she tricked the trickster, etc. I feel like she really did feel pain in that scene; her strength is not that she faked it, but that she kept going anyway. I actually thought it was a really cool scene, and that the way Natasha turns sexist assumptions around to her own ends was really interesting; I liked the character a lot more than I expected. And yet... something felt really ugly and unnecessary and unpleasant about the whole thing.

I know more about vulgarity through the ages than I probably should, and I immediately recognized the word "quim." My jaw literally dropped, in the literal sense of literally, when I heard it. I mean, not onto the floor or anything, but it genuinely dropped a good inch or so. In less fancy English, Loki called her a "whining c---," a gendered insult in American usage that even I don't like to write out, and I curse a good bit. My understanding is that the word quim dates back to the early 1600s, meaning the female genitalia; in the Victorian era, it meant the female genitalia and/or the fluids therein as well. It is largely British usage, not American. (Supposedly it's not even English slang these days, just Welsh. Brits can confirm or deny this.) Which is, I'm pretty sure, the reason the word was used by the filmmakers and allowed by the MPAA: they didn't expect a whole lot of people to understand it. The American equivalent never would have made it in, particularly because it's pretty much the last expletive in American culture that's genuinely taboo. Coyly archaic or not, "mewling quim" was a really unpleasant thing to say, in a matching tone of voice that gets the spirit across if not the precise meaning, in an otherwise all-demographics PG-13 family-friendly superhero epic, and I don't understand why it was necessary.

So I was surprised when I saw this in Joss Whedon's letter to his fans:

RDA: What do you feel is the greatest achievement of "the Avoiders"?

JW: Getting "mewling quim" out there to the masses. Also, Hulk.

He's... proud of that? It's not just something he kind of sneaked in and hoped no one would understand?

I... well then.

(I concede the Hulk. Mark Ruffalo was pretty awesome.)

We had a large sub-discussion within the huge general discussion of the movie this week (seriously, I don't know that I'm caught up on all of it yet). The line bothered some people, and didn't bother others. Jim Hines discussed with us as well, then posted his own thoughts about it. I read some of the discussion on both of his comment sections (his website and his LJ); through all of it, some interesting points came up:

1) "Quim," like the C word itself, has a more casual, less sexualized meaning overseas. Well, but I'm not sure why Loki would use the off-color equivalent of "wanker" to insult a woman he was angry at, then. So I tend to think that the more derogatory meaning was intended.

2) Oh, but that whole scene's a riff on Silence of the Lambs, sort of a critique/deconstruction, where the imprisoned sociopath actually does lose control because Natasha is such a strong, strong woman. Actually, I can argue this movie all day, because it's my favorite. There actually is a scene where the C word is used. And it's not used by the film's incredibly popular villain-turned-antihero. Lecter is actually the one who says, "Discourtesy is unspeakably ugly to me; I would not have had that happen to you." Sociopathic face-eating cannibal: better manners than a demigod. Odin is disappointed in you, Loki.

3) Villains do vile things. In terms of narrative, it's both their nature and a way to show just how evil/awful/vicious/insane they might be. Point taken: Loki basically said (again, can't find a transcription) that he was going to make Hawkeye kill Natasha in the slowest, most painful way possible, and then make him realize what he'd done, and then make everyone feel horrible about it right before they both died. That's pretty vile. It was way more intense than the other antagonistic interactions in the movie; it might be to show that someone can get to Loki for once, that he's not psychologically invulnerable, that Natasha is stronger than he is. Okay, it's characterization. But I feel like the threat itself gets that across pretty thoroughly without resorting to the insult. It was really disturbing, but I'm more "disturbing in a good way" on that part. Again: I get it.

4) However, a number of Thor fans expressed surprise in the comments--they didn't even feel that an insult like "mewling quim" was in-character for Loki anyway. Even considering that, here's the thing about writing something in or out of character: The Avengers was not a documentary. You can say, "Well, Loki would say that, that's just how he is, here's why he did that." Actually? "Loki" didn't do that. He doesn't exist in the real world. Joss Whedon wrote that. (Given how pleased he seems with the line, I'm inferring that he wrote it. No one has claimed it was an ad-lib or came from the comics.) Whether he thought people would recognize the word or not, why was that a sentiment he wanted in his movie? I don't know.

The question may come down to, is it Loki's sexism or Whedon's sexism? (ETA: LET ME REPHRASE. Loki's moment of intended sexism, or Whedon's moment of unintended sexism? WE CAN ALL HAVE THEM.) I know he's a feminist. A number of things he's written seem to walk that "have my cake and eat it too" line. Are we talking about critiqued/subverted sexism, or actual unintended sexism, or both? It's such a fine line that I can't even make that call in my own mind. I just know that I was watching this movie, and at one particular moment, I felt uncomfortable, and this line seemed out of step with the overall tone and the character.

Some commenters, both male and female, said they had no problem with it. I'm not saying you're wrong or stupid or "not getting it." You have a valid interpretation of why that line worked and I am totally okay with that. Joss Whedon's proud of it, and... good for him, I guess. I'm glad The Avengers broke records and made people happy. For the love of lofty Norse demigods, I liked the movie. I wasn't fond of that line. This is my explanation why, because people on Twitter wanted to know what was going on. That's all.

That said: I really appreciate the incredibly civil discussion we've had here the last couple of days (and always). I will do whatever I have to do, as a moderator, to keep it that way. Let's continue to have nice things.

ETA on Thursday afternoon: I'm leaving comments open and will continue to read and moderate, but I won't be discussing anymore. I'm discussed out. We're at 353 comments as of this writing, and anything after that won't get a reply from me. If civility continues to hold, anyway.

ETA: Our very first nasty comment showed up sometime after 400! It is late Saturday night and I am tired and I don't want to deal with this entry ever again. Thank you for being 99% cool, and good night.

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Which is cool. Part of my problem is that I'm kind of disturbed and uncomfortable, but it's so damn borderline, I don't entirely know how I feel about it, and I'm not sure I can explain it in a way that fans can't totally and thoroughly counter.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Honestly, Cleo, the cruelty of the "he's adopted" line has bothered me since I heard it, so I absolutely get that this legitimately bothers you. I am in no way trying to change your mind or counter you, honest.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

No, it's cool. Honestly, once people explained to me why "he's adopted" was so wildly out of character, I was like... damn.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Still me, fic account.

I've actually worked out why the quim line didn't bother me. It's because it shows Natasha getting hit with about as vicious an attack as misogyny has to offer... And she ignores it like it's meaningless noise and goes for the win. That's why I don't mind it. She doesn't listen to Loki any more than anyone else ever has.

As for Loki, I have a lot of feeling for movieLoki because, frankly? Rejected and lonely and FURIOUSLY angry? For most of my life I could relate. His storyline speaks to me. And in *Thor*, one of the main reasons he went off the rails was, he got hit right in the insecurity, with a message that made him think he really was as unloved and unimportant and *not part of the family* as he always felt.

And in this movie, the first thing Thor does when he wants to join the new cool-kid crowd is, he *repudiates Loki as a real member of his family.* So that thing Loki feared so much he went crazy? IT'S TRUE.

I wanted just *one* scene where Thor expressed sorrow or affection or did that heartbreaking defense-of-loved-one thing. And I saw not a one. He talked brotherhood when he was trying to get Loki to come home and be punished and then be a good little doggie and follow Thor around some more, but there was never a hint of affection or worry or concern for what the hell happened to turn him evil overnight. Nothing. (That I saw-- interpretations vary, but this one is mine.)

It was depressingly empty and cold, and I *wanted* to like Thor and sympathize with his pain. But he just didn't have any. By the time he agreed to stand aside while Fury *had Loki tortured* I kind of wanted to chuck him out of the helicarrier myself, honestly!
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Yeah... kind of sounds like there were a number of moments where the implications weren't quite thought all the way through here.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Curses! I hadn't thought about the Thor characterization in the movie like that! Sadness. His movie was my favorite besides Iron Man.

I could argue that the "he's adopted" line might be the beginning of Thor's disillusionment with Loki, which escalated because of how fast things were happening, but I don't want that to be true, because they are brothers and family in every way that counts, which is backed up wholeheartedly by Frigga and Odin in Thor, and you don't do that to family. I could also argue that you can only do so much "please come home, brother!"s before you give up and acknowledge he's evil, but again: family, and I don't want to give him the out.

The best I can hope for is that the brotherly emotions were there, but with not a lot of time to be portrayed, and will come back out to play in Thor 2.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

*Thor* was one of my favourites as well so I wish I could believe all that too, but this is presented as Loki's first appearance since he fell into the void after Odin rejected him. So if Thor was *ever* going to show love and concern and "brother what has been done to you?"-- now is the time.

And instead we get throat-grabbing, throwing down, exhortations to come home and be like things were when Thor was happy...

And then repudiation and an agreement to let Fury torture Loki. All within what, an hour of their reunion, and a very short time since Thor found out Loki is alive.

And the thing that has kind of haunted me since *Thor* is, the whole family has tried to talk Loki down by claaiming him, telling him to stop "twisting my words," telling him he's mad (no argument) but there has never been a single occurrence of "we love you." Ever. In his mental state, I don't think Loki is capable of "just knowing" that, and nobody has said it to him. So the stories he's spinning himself about not being a real member of the family? When all he gets in return is "you're ours and so we have a right to control you" (which you can bet is what it sounds like in his head) it's unlikely to make him guess they want him back for him, rather than for the uses to which they might put him.

Sorry. This just *really* bothered me, because originally I liked the character of Thor and wanted to sympathize with him.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Don't be sorry! I love discussing this stuff, and I see why you're distraught. I'm trying to look at all the sides, but I think it's slightly lazy writing. I'm still holding out that Thor (and Loki, hopefully, especially since they'll need him on their side with Thanos wreaking havoc) will eventually be redeemed.

I agree that Thor and family didn't do the best job of convincing Loki of their love, but I would argue that Thor's still growing as a person, and Odin's standoffish, to stay the least. Thor's world has been idyllic for his what... 500? 1000? year long life, and to have it suddenly torn apart is not easy to cope with, and of course worse for Loki. As it is, Thor is just learning to communicate and doesn't really understand Loki, so I'm not really surprised he'd have some issues. It doesn't make it okay, but I think it's a natural part of communication issues and his development. Plus, keep in mind that the reason Thor's even on Earth is because Loki is raining mayhem on (mostly) defenseless mortals and he's been sent to bring him back as a prison escort, basically. And there's the fact that as basically immortal beings, they might go through century-long cycles of hate/love that are blips on their radar.

Not to mention, we're in a movie. If everyone sat down to talk about their issues, we'd have no drama. If Thor tells Loki he loves him and Loki softens, we've lost our villain. However, Thor tells Loki he loves him and Loki says "no" and keeps on killing, then Loki's beyond redemption and ceases to be interesting and conflicted as a villain. It's definitely clunky character flow-wise, but it's a bit necessary for this movie to get on with stuff. Plus they cut a half hour of footage- maybe Thor's sympathetic scene will appear as a deleted scene.

I have some questions- I can't remember, did Thor actually agree to let Fury torture him? Also, is it even possible for Fury to torture Loki? Standing by is just as complicit, but if Widow talking to him is torture, then I'd say that's pretty progressive. It sounds like Thor would have had to do the torturing, since he's the only thing strong enough to make a dent in Loki, when Coulson's BFG fazed him not at all. And again, Loki is now a war criminal, no matter how much he's family.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

I'm positive the deleted footage would tell a different story. The deleted scenes in *Thor*-- including one later edited down-- presented Thor and Loki as much closer, and that was deliberately edited out (which to me made Loki's behaviour seem much more organic.)

I'm hoping, just in terms of a character arc, there is a turnaround in *Thor 2* because artistically a cycle of three works for me-- like, decline, crash, recovery. I live in hope. And then they could go on to a new villain!

I don't want to keep saying the same things over and over, but it was the time frame for me: it was like Thor gave up immediately. I can't get over that.

My memory was that when Widow arrived, Loki sneered that he expected her to show up after the torture "as balm" when he was weak. So my impression was that *Loki* beleived he could be tortured by Fury. (And both thor and Loki are vulnerable to tasers or repulsors, so you could zap the daylights out of him!)

I'm with you in hoping this arc gets more attention and thought in Thor 2, and that Marvel does let Loki get redeemed instead of just killed. I also hope whatever happens, I believe it!

(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

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