Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Encomium of Loki: An Exercise in Sophistry

                By now many of you have seen all of the Marvel Movies and have been waiting with baited breath since the first Iron Man for the Avengers premier. It’s been fun waiting, and was definitely worth it. All those heroes mushed together on the screen was almost enough awesome to make the world explode. If, however, the movie had one detrimental effect it’s that it presents, as a villain, its greatest victim. That’s right. While everyone probably feels a little bad for Loki, not many people are probably questioning his villain status right now. And yes, while it is sad about all those security guards, the innocent masses in Manhattan, the wives and children of the techno-alien soldiers, and the countless number of Ice Giants that were undoubtedly destroyed, Loki is the Marvel movie franchises’ greatest victim.
            Loki’s troubles begin with the very moment of his birth. An outcast from infancy Loki is too small to be accepted by his Ice Giant parents and is left to die. He is rescued by Odin Allfather and is taken to and raised in Asgard, but is remarkably different from everyone there as well. As he grows up he is continually forced to live in his impulsive, arrogant, hot-headed, adoptive brother’s shadow and is continually forced to clean up Thor’s messes. And, all this time, he is being raised in ignorance of his true parentage and in an environment that is hostile to his race. He is a good son and friend (if not a bit manipulative) who loves his adopted home very much, and yet is still not fully accepted by its members. This serves as the historical background that drives Loki’s future actions.
           In the context of ‘Thor’ it is not evil or selfish intentions that drive Loki’s actions, but love. He loves Asgard and he only wants what’s best for the kingdom. He knows that Thor’s rule would undermine everything that their father worked for (and this is not an unfounded belief) so he tries to postpone Thor’s rule for as long as he can.
           In addition to this, Loki bears a great love toward his adoptive parents. When he discovers his true nature as an Ice Giant’s offspring (and not just that, but the son of their king) (the revelation is something akin to a Nazi concentration camp worker coming to realize that his parents were both Jews). This drives him to be a better and more worthy son, leading him to take extreme and irrational actions. His actions, although irrational and harmful are done in an effort to legitimize his position as a valuable member of both his family and his country.
          This carries through to ‘The Avengers’ as well. In this movie Loki is indeed more dark and twisted, yet this stems from the rejection that his actions received at the end of the ‘Thor’ movie. He was stopped from destroying Jotunheim which, while demented, was meant as a desperate expression of love. He then dropped off of the face of the known universe. When hey returns he is a broken and twisted man. He was denied (he perceives) love from his own family and seeks, now, to manufacture a sort of affection with other beings. His attempt to conquer the earth reflects a need to engage in some sort of meaningful relationship with other sentient beings. Loki sees his only means of attaining such an interaction through the hostile take-over and subjugation of a planet populated with a ‘lesser species’.
             It is clear that all of Loki’s actions stem from the need to love and be loved. His need for affirmation was denied to him from his father, his king, and metaphorically by his country. The security that he once felt as a member of his family was shaken by the revealed secret of his true parentage. His shaken sense of identity served to psychologically isolate Loki from everything and everyone that he loved and cared about, leading him to believe that dramatic measures were needed to win back their love. Later this need led him to try and manufacture a reason for his existence. His sad fate is clearly the consequence of the isolation he felt from being trapped in his brother’s shadow, but, perhaps more importantly is a consequence of the secrets kept from him by Odin.

                It is clear that Loki is a victim of the political manipulations of his father. One can hardly be called a villain when all of one’s actions are guided by a sense of love, no matter how twisted and broken. Yes, Loki did many deplorable things, but all the innocent blood falls directly onto the hands of those who were responsible for Loki’s sense of isolation and misplaced identity. It is Odin who bears the brunt of the responsibility for Loki’s crimes, committed both on Asgard and on earth. What Loki really needs is not a prison sentence but, in the words of Tom Hiddleston “Prozac and A LOT of therapy.”

                Love is a person’s most basic human need. Denied that, there’s nothing grounding a person in reality and nothing to stop him from doing horrible things. A man denied love should not be punished for the atrocities that he commits, rather it should be the ones who denied him this most basic of human needs.

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