Greetings, moviepiloteers. As it is pretty obvious that I’m back from my mini-hiatus, I wanted to start October off with a bang. And said bang includes returning to my roots and what I know best:
For two years, many of you have come to know me as a Marvel stan—which I am perfectly okay with. What I’m not okay with is the fact that people assume that that means that I cannot and occasionally, should not, be critical of Marvel.
That is incorrect and if you think this, you are wrong.
While I may be a Marvel stan, do not mistake my admiration for blind, hero worship (yes, I did say that in my best Volstagg voice). I do love them, dearly, and that love is what prompts me to be critical.
And speaking of being critical…we GOTTA talk about Marvel and its relationship with women.
Let me start off by saying that Marvel’s made a fair amount of strides towards incorporating more women into their universe. While I still dislike Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, the core cast of that show features three prominent women (four if you count Bobbi) and two of them are of color (Asian/Asian-American) which is HUGE because a lot of times, these superhero related teams can barely meet a 2:1 ratio in terms of women to men talk less a 1:1 ratio.
What’s more is that Jessica Jones is getting her own show soon, Misty Knight will be making her entrance in Luke Cage’s show, and we have a Captain Marvel movie on its way to theaters in 2018 (I’m still mad it got pushed back though). Add all of this to the incorporation of Daredevil’s great female characters into the MCU (shout-out to Claire, Karen, and Vanessa) and the wild success that Peggy Carter is enjoying right now and I’d say the Marvel is doing well.
But they could be doing better.
I know what you’re thinking: “How, sway? How could they be doing better?
My answer to that is simple: Their female MOVIE characters need some work.
A lot of work.
The great thing about TV is that it allows you to go into much greater detail character-wise versus movies. An apt comparison would be to say that TV shows function as novels, whereas movies function as short stories. You don’t have a lot of time to spend with characters in movies (unless you have the unique, dual privilege and burden of being a franchise) and usually some aspect of the movie—be it plot, character, or whatever else—suffers because of it. And often times, the people who do the most suffering character-wise in these Marvel movies are in fact the women.
I saw it in The Avengers with Black Widow being the least developed character in the film. I saw this in Guardians of the Galaxy with Gamora being the least developed character in the film. I saw this in Iron Man 3 with Maya Hansen being the least developed character in the film and the first one to be offered up to the chopping block and tossed away. And I have consistently seen this with Maria Hill across all of the movies she has appeared in (I don’t watch AOS, so I can’t speak on that) despite the fact that canon has her being the most important S.H.I.E.L.D. operative ever after Nick Fury.
There are way more examples, but you catch my drift.
And so with long ass intro aside, I have finally arrived at what I wanted to do today:
I want to talk about how kick-ass Jane Foster would be if Marvel wrote her better.
I can already hear the collective, mental groaning and believe me when I say that I am groaning right along with you. The Thor movies have had a lot of issues over these past few years (a lot of issues which I will address in a future article), but my biggest issue with them BOTH has been Jane Foster. She is, by far, the franchise’s weakest link. But that is of no fault of her own.
The fault lies in bad writing.
Because, let’s be real. If Natalie Portman can’t make a character even remotely endearing, that mean something’s afoot in the writer’s room.
Still, I’ve got my qualms with her. For starters, for a woman who is supposed to be an über-smart, thirty-something year old scientist (an overdone trope, by the way, as writers usually think this will allow to them get away with zero to no characterization whatsoever), she has the emotional IQ of a 12 year-old girl (no disrespect to twelve year old girls, of course). Nothing makes that more obvious than her extremely deep-seated and off-putting need to find a dude—Thor—that she knew for 1.5 day (I’m very serious about that. I did the math) after the events of Thor. In fact, it is this very off-putting need that leads her stick her hand in the forbidden, glowing red PlayStation in Thor: The Dark World that just so happens to house the Aether—one of the most powerful forces in the entire universe.
Nevermind that even if she didn’t know what was going to happen—which, you know, she didn’t—the Aether happened to be housed between TWO GIANT FLOATING SLABS OF ROCK that could have quite frankly cost her an arm.
But, nah. It’s okay. It would be worth it for Thor. Apparently.
So as you can see, that movie version of Jane Foster is my LEAST favorite version of Jane Foster. Ever.
Conversely, the best version—my favorite version—and the version that Marvel should have incorporated into the Thor movies is Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ version of Jane Foster.
My obvious bitterness aside at the cancellation of EMH in favor of the wildly inferior Avengers Assemble, EMH’s rendition of Jane Foster is peak Marvel doing the damn thing. You see, in EMH, Jane is an EMT, which is a little different than her previous history of being a nurse and wildly different than her role as an astrophysicist in Thor.
Revisiting that history, Jane was canonically a nurse for quite some time. And while there is nothing wrong with being one, as they are always on the front-lines of health crises, Marvel didn’t really do anything with her, besides interacting with Dr. Donald Blake (Thor’s canonical alter ego) and being saved by Thor (a lot) This was obviously a missed opportunity, but Marvel made up for it in EMH when she was shifted to the role of EMT.
Jane as an EMT was great. Compared to her historically static role, Jane was so much more dynamic because of this big change because it allowed her to throw herself in potentially more adrenaline-pumping situations that she might not have done and/or might not have been able to do as a nurse. All in the name of helping people.
The best example of this is the fourth and first episodes of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes titled “Thor the Mighty” and “Breakout: Part 1”, which I’ll briefly recap:
In Thor the Mighty, Thor and Jane first meet when The Wrecking Crew is f*cking up sh*t in New York. This causes an alert to go out and Jane turns out to be the first responder. Upon her arrival, she sees a whole bunch of superpower-ed wreckage happening but proceeds to help fallen civilians and police officers anyways, which is notable since her chicken co-worker opted out of doing so.
Still her bravery almost gets her killed by Thunderball, but Thor swoops in at the last minute to save her. She would later thank him and introduce herself before Thor flew away to meet up with Heimdall.
In Breakout Part 1, Thor is doing his whole “I’m all about protecting Midgard” thing until he is approached by Balder about Odin being in Odinsleep (when doesn’t that happen, but okay) and needing Thor to come back to Asgard. Thor turns him down because he’s searching for a higher purpose and etc.
While this is going on, we see Jane rushing out to help people who have been involved in a car accident. Once again, her bravery and courage threaten to bite her in the ass when a speeding car almost takes her out. Like clockwork, Thor once again swoops in to save her. While thankful, she straight up asks old blonde fridge if he’s following her but Thor replies in a way that only Thor can (and could only be attractive if Thor was doing it, but again, I digress):
“You intrigue me. Mortal lives, they are so fragile, yet you do not seem to accept that.” – Thor
“Would you?” – Jane
“Nay.” – Thor
And that’s just two episodes. There’re way more good solo Jane moments and Jane/Thor moments in EMH, but in the interest of time and space, that’s all I’ll cover.
Expounding on these two episodes, however, and the type of character that Jane is introduced right-out-the-gate as, it is hard not to see why Thor would not be in love with this version of Jane.
This version of Jane is a deeply empathetic person who is always game for helping others, even if it is to the detriment of her own health and well-being. This empathy drives her into certain situations that might cause people to view her as reckless, but in all actuality, she is just really brave and selfless and Thor picks up on that right away, being that it is unusual for humans to be so in his eyes (I don’t blame him. Humans are the wooooorsssst).
And that’s not all. In later episodes, Jane ends up flexing her empathetic and multifaceted character through her willingness to understand Thor’s otherworldly problems and help him sort through them, causing him to feel even more deeply for her and us as an audience—me especially—to lament the fact that THIS Jane is not what we end up seeing in the MCU.
Which brings me to the point I wanted to address to begin with: how Jane should have been written in the MCU.
Well, for starters, I would have made her an EMT and left Eric as the premier scientist (not that he’s not already the premier scientist, but I’ll address that in a later article) and Darcy as his assistant/mentee and a friend to Jane.
Because of this character shift, Eric and Darcy would be the ones to hit him with the science Humvee and then call in an ambulance, bringing Jane into the story. After getting the needed details and chiding Darcy about tasing Thor, Jane would eventually take Thor back to the hospital and go about the rest of her evening.
The next day, after realizing that Thor came out of the storm, they’d come back to the hospital to look for him and would find Jane working there (as she would be conveniently contracted with the hospital). They’d inquire about him for science and Jane would suspiciously point them in his direction. Eventually, they would discover that he is missing and go in search for him, with Jane tagging along to help.
After the obligatory scenes where Thor is hit by the science Humvee, Thor is given civilian clothes, Eric and Darcy’s research is confiscated by S.H.I.E.L.D , Thor attempts to get his hammer back and fails, and Jane shows up after being called by Darcy and frees Thor by claiming him as her ex-husband, I’d probably still keep the whole “gazing at the stars” bit that Thor and Jane ended up having. That said, I’d change the framing and have the talk be prompted by having Jane ask Thor about his story and the importance of the hammer that he got arrested for, to which she would get his long-winded, Nine Realms answer.
They would eventually bond on their mutual love for science and the otherworldly (maybe have some reference to Jane initially wanting to do what Erik does because of her dad, but not having the money or something, etc, etc) and Jane would even talk Thor through some of his family’s dysfunction.
After such, the Destroyer would eventually make its appearance after the Warriors Three touched down. I’d have Jane spring to action like the EMT that she is and have Thor watch in awe, especially as he himself is technically unable to assist due to being de-powered. Whilst noticing Thor’s hesitation, Jane would urge him and Erik and Darcy to help evacuate the buildings nearby (with the Warrior’s three doing sh*t in the background). This would probably be Thor’s “I may be in love moment”.
After being informed that the Destroyer is most likely Loki’s doing, Thor would make the very rash decision of trying to talk the Destroyer down. As she is wrapping up someone’s wound, Jane would see this and attempt to go after him. Erik would hold her back.
Thor would confront the Destroyer (and Loki) and ask that that the humans be spared in exchange for himself. In pure “SIKE!” fashion, the Destroyer would deliver his pimp slap of death and Jane would rush towards Thor and desperately attempt to treat him before he would later die in her arms.
And you know, the rest is history really. Thor would prove to be worthy. He’d say something about hoping he and Jane’s paths cross again (I always thought that kiss was…off? So there would be no kiss here) and then he’d peace out to go beat the sh*t out of Loki.
In The Avengers
Now, since this was merely a team-up movie and most secondary characters simply had cameos, this wouldn’t have been that hard to fix.
During the Battle of New York, in the scene where Black Widow and Hawkeye are pulling people out of burning buses, I would have literally had Jane roll up in an ambulance truck (I’d probably have some throwaway reference to her moving to NY in the earlier scene between Thor and Coulson, due to her growing restless in Puente Antiguo) ready to help. If I wanted it to be even more on the nose than that, I probably would have added:
“Jane Foster, I’m presuming?” – Black Widow
“That’s me. You one of Thor’s friends?” – Jane
“…You could say that.” – Black Widow
*Both of them stare at the sky where Thor is doing action sh*t*
“Tell him I said “Hey”. – Jane
In Thor: The Dark World
This one, like The Avengers, would also have been easy to fix. To elaborate, if the movie HAD to take place in London, I’d have Jane visiting a recently committed Erik and a super frantic Darcy out of deep concern for them. However, instead of Jane being the one who was obtuse enough to stick her hand in the Playstation of Doom, I’d simply have Darcy doing it. It makes way more sense for several reasons:
1. As Erik would be committed after the events of The Avengers, it would make sense for Darcy—Erik’s student and mentee—to go to great lengths to find Thor in order to prove that Erik wasn’t crazy/making sh*t up.
2. Jane mouthing off to Odin while in Asgard never made sense to me. Darcy mouthing off to Odin while in Asgard makes complete sense to me.
3. Jane would be in the story, but instead of being the strict love interest/damsel-in-distress that literally throws herself into distress, she’d be filling a role of concerned daughter figure (re: Erik), concerned friend ( re: Darcy) and three-dimensional person first and then love interest second.
4. That would get rid of this “intern’s intern” bullsh*t that didn’t have any place in the movie.
Annnnnnnd that’s how I would have written Jane.
Granted, Thor: The Dark World still would have had a lackluster villain to deal with/fix, but that’s none of my business.
In closing, I want y’all to know that this is not me condemning Marvel and telling them to kick rocks. This is me calling them out because of respect and admiration and asking them to turn their 2D female characters into badass 3D ones. They have already done so in their TV projects, so I know they have it in them.
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