Somewhere over the Rainbow….


A is for Asgard, B is for Branagh, C is for Completely Cool Multipurpose Modern Myth-remaking Movie!

[and WS is for “Warning—this essay may contain mild-to-serious Spoilers for those who have not yet seen the movie….read at your own risk!”]

Kenneth Branagh, Natalie Portman, and Anthony Hopkins are names I have frankly never associated with Richard Wagner, Dorothy Gale, and James Morris, much less with Snorri Sturluson, Isolde, and Wotan or Odin, but the movie “Thor” brings them all together in my mind and life experience at least.  I confess I had read some bad pre-release critiques of “Thor” based on charges of infidelity to myth, but they were all wrong, ALL totally wrong, and I haven’t been so completely taken by any other movie this year.  In fact, this may well be the best myth-recasting movie in a very long time, although I was a great fan of Tim Burton’s “Alice” last year.   I can hardly express my enthusiasm, having just returned from the 10:10 AMC showing on Third & Arizona in Santa Monica, 90401, except to say that I was just as pleased, satisfied, and generally exhilerated by this production as I was maddened and infuriated by “Red Riding Hood” when it was released on March 11 of this year.  THAT movie was a poorly acted, poorly scripted modernistic pseudo-psychobabbling disgrace and insult to Die Bruder Grimm and Charles Perrault as anything could possibly be.

It is actually just possible that Kenneth Branagh’s movie will in fact endure alongside Sturluson and Wagner in preserving the eternal memory of the Old Norse and High Germanic Pagan religious iconic traditions, ihrer Gotter und Gesetz, but there are many more comparisons to be made.

Natalie Portman’s character (Jane Foster) is quite a unique young lady: a brave sexy scientist who really does get it all pretty much right, but doesn’t get her man. (Reviewers have already compared “Thor” to “Spiderman“.)   Perhaps Jane’s a bit of projection of Natalie’s own self-image—crossed with her Dad maybe?—but I see a much more important comparison to be made between Jane Foster and Dorothy Gale—in that they both dreamt of crossing over the rainbow.  Dorothy Gale made the trip for the first time by accident in The Wizard of Oz though in later books by L. Frank Baum she managed to make the trip pretty directly and intentionally.  Jane Foster doesn’t make the trip at all although the man of her dreams does, in the form of Thor (Chris Hemsworth—whose character is comparable to no other superhero so much as Superman—especially since he can magically fly without gadgetry of any kind—and the Asgard scenes all have a certain Planet Krypton feel to them).   But Jane Foster, like Dorothy Gale, is brave, honorable, loyal and unafraid, and her job is to bridge worlds which otherwise have but scant awareness of each other’s existence.

Dorothy Gale herself was not, of course, the first heroic female transdimensional traveler—appearing for her first edition in 1900, she came 35 years after her British Counterpart Alice made her debut in London on July 4, 1865, otherwise for the most part a sad ex-Colonial Independence day for British sympathizers of the Confederacy including HM Queen Victoria and the then Lord Chancellor & Later PM Benjamin Disraeli.

The degree to which science fiction presaged physics in speculations about inter-dimensional travel is to me one of the extraordinary features of 19th century writing and imagination.   Even in Richard Wagner’s “Der Ring des Niebelungen” the portrayal of jouneys between the middle of the Rhein and Niebelheim, Valhalla and Niebelheim in Das Rheingold and Brunhilde’s appearance to Siegmund in Die Walkure are eerily like wormholes in the space-time continuum of 20th century (and current) science fiction.  In fact, once in Seattle and on another occasion in Bayreuth, stage construction provided that Brunhilde actually peered at Siegmund through a portal and obviously shimmers from another dimension as she grimly but solemnly announces to him, “Nur Todgeweihten taugt mein angblick. Wer mich erchaut scheidet von Lebens-Licht. ”  The use of the Rainbow Bridge as Thor’s primary means of interdimensional travel is celebrated in Wagner’s Das Rheingold when Donner (“Thunder”—the Old High Germanic name for Norse Thor/Anglo-Saxon Thur) calls forth the Rainbow Bridge so that the Gods can enter Valhalla at last.  This in turn rests largely on the description of the Bifrost/Rainbow Bridge in Sturluson (12th-13th Century Lawspeaker and historian of the Icelandic Althing/Parliament), but the connection with Donner/Thor appears to be Wagner’s invention and Branagh’s conscious continuation, because the only ancient connection between the Bridge and the God of Thunder appears in the Grimnismal (Poetic Edda), where it is specified that Thor specifically wades through the river waters because he cannot take the dryer path.  (One of the historical quibbles widely circulated pre-release was that Heimdall in the movie is played by an elegant British-born fellow of African descent, Idris Elba, while in all Norse and Germanic illustrations Heimdall or Heidallr is pictured as typical blonde of identical ethnicity to Thor in the movie—while I thought it sounded like amusing modernist “affirmative action” type tokenism before I saw Branagh’s production—in the context of this movie it works out perfectly, because Heimdall, as a guardian, belongs neither to the race of the Gods nor to the Frost Giants, but is a gatekeepr between worlds—I can only applaud the dramatic effect of “Schwarz Heimdall”.  Truthfully—black and white color symbolism play a major role in Norse Sagas—“black”, “swarz” or “kol” all being slave names—reminding me always of the inverse irony that the Gods of Subsaharan Africa are always White-skinned—possibly more like “Ghostly White” than Caucasian White, but the parallel structural use of terms is nonetheless significant in comparative mythological terms—and, quite as a legal and jurisprudential side-bar, totally discredits and disproves the Kenneth B. & Mamie Clark “black-white” doll preferences ignorantly cited by Supreme Court Justices in Brown v. Board of Education  (1954) as a reason for forcing school desegregation—a policy which arguably did more to destroy the legitimate ways, means, and purposes of education in the United States than any other single policy in history, and in the process probably destroyed the self-esteem of millions of children, black-and-white, as schools used for a quarter century as political footballs and little else rather than, well, for example, education.*

But to return to Thor, the plainest reason Heimdall can be dramatically effective because rather than in spite of the fact that he is played by a stern and very well-spoken Anglo-African actor is because Branagh has taken Ancient Myth and recast it—and done so brilliantly, even down to the level of selecting Galisteo New Mexico as the site for some of the wonderful desert scenes—just a half an hour south of Santa Fe and an hour east of Algodones where I had some fairly mystical experiences of my own just month before last as noted elsewhere on this blog.  New Mexico, “Land of Enchantment”, U.S. home address for D.H. Lawrence, legends of Roswell, the birthplace of the Atom Bomb, home of the Spanish Penitentes as well as large populations of Pueblo, Apache, and Navaho nations of Native Americans, and many of the finest Ancient Ruins north of Mexico, is just an inherently magical, mystical place, which just naturally attracts women like Jane Foster.  These**** are people who, as much as Aldous Huxley (New Mexico was a “Savage Preserve” in Brave New World where people still worshipped both Jesus and Buddha and read both the Bible and Shakespeare) Fox William Mulder, Dana Katherine Scully, and myself are intrigued by the borderlines and gradations between science, religion, science-fiction, and mythology.   There is in fact no setting in the United States better for such cross-fertilization—New Orleans may be great for primitive culture, religion, magic, and romance, while Berkeley, Cambridge, and Chicago may be better for the science-magic interface, but nowhere in the world combines all three together with multiculturalism with a 400-1000 year pedigree (a thousand years ago the “Athabaskan Bastards caused the Great Pueblo Fall” introducing New Mexico’s first level of multicultural complexity with the arrival of the Apache and Navaho, then came the Spanish, isolated even from Mexico by distance, then the Americans from St. Louis on the Santa Fe Trail, John C. Fremont, Stephen W. Kearny, then Jean-Baptiste Lamy, Willa Cather, Mabel Dodge, D.H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keefe….and now pretty much everybody from everywhere….there is even a school in Las Vegas, New Mexico, with the [to me quite totally horrifying] name “Armand Hammar-Global World College, USA” which my son Charlie visited in 2008 and narrowly avoided attending—it had posters of communist heroes all over the walls of every room and I got the feeling school song was the Internationale).

I keep digressing, but to return again to Thor, as a recasting, restatement of myth, I have come to think that such recasting in modern culture is the principal importance of my own education in Anthropology—Anthropology is a large part of modern mythology and religion—and oddly enough it has been ever since the mid-19th century.  Evolution and Darwinism started reshaping socio-cultrual thinking even before evolution or Darwinism were common words, because Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote of the moral superiority of Noble Savages (nearly two hundred years before Margaret Meade even visited Samoa) and Thomas Hobbes of Malmsbury wrote about the “state of nature” and other stages of what we would now call cultural or political evolution over a hundred and twenty years before Thomas Malthus wrote his Essay on Population in 1798 (although the “State of Nature” as a phrase relating to legal evolution can be traced even another five hundred years back to St. Thomas Aquinas De Veritate in 1256-59).

I first became fascinated with the modern process of recasting ancient mythology in connection with the Disney movie The Lion King and then with several Television series the X-Files and Buffy-the-Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly/Serenity and Charmed, all of which were 1990s phenemona spilling over past Y2K…and now the direct antecedents and ancestors of Lost, True Blood among other TV series and now, I think it is safe to say, Thor.  The X-Files had several episodes which drew on recent archaeological discoveries about cannibalism at Chaco Canyon, and others which drew on Nazi-racial “scientific” mythology***, but there was little if any plot continuity between the paranormal phenomena covered in the X-Files, whereas Thor really only drew on two strands: Ancient Norse/Germanic Myth and Modern Science (with a few marvelous hat tips to “Men-in-Black” and other partly comical sci-fi movies).

In 2004 I gave a paper at the First Slayage Conference on Buffy-the-Vampire Slayer in Nashville entitled, “Buffy’s Golden Bough.”  In that lecture/essay I focused on the use of anthropological sources in each series, Buffy, Angel and the X-Files.  At later Slayage and related conferences I compared Whedon’s use, rearrangement, and restructuring of mythological elements and motifs with Richard Wagner’s.   The tradition of reinventing Classical or Ancient mythology with quasi-modern mystery and musical theatre really develops in a continuous line from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte to Wagnerian operas to the (movie) Wizard of Oz  on to Buffy and especially “Once More with Feeling” (the musical episode from BtVS season six).  In common with Oz and Buffy, The Magic Flute has a “lite” storyline and script with fairly hilarious and unique characters—I played Papageno, Der Vogelfänger, more than once in College—mixed with some pop-culture appreciation of mystery in the service of a good and ethically wholesome life—wonderfully memorable music.  By mere coincidence I have been relistening to Mozart’s Zauberflöte on my card CD recently, and at each first appearance of Die Königin der Nacht, I picture Glenda the Good Witch of the North, played by Mary William “Billie” Burke in the 1939 production.  Glenda and the Queen of the Night are in fact almost entirely interchangeable, structurally identical roles and parts—they are essentially free radicals or “catalysts” for other action on the part of the main characters.   Thor’s Goddess Fricka (or Frigga) is quite as beautiful as Bille Burke, but nowhere nearly as well developed as Wagner’s Fricka in Rheingold and Die Walkure, nor is her relationship with the King of the Gods anywhere nearly so complex or important in the story line—this is too bad… but

Wagnerian operas are by no means “lite” by storyline or mood, and the “moral” or ethical points are sufficiently complex as to have been the subject of continuous popular and academic debate and scholarly writings from W. Friedrich Nietzsche to George Bernard Shaw to Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Adolph Hitler to the dozens of modern authors including dilettantes and university specialists up through present time.  Wagnerian Opera and the movie Thor have in common focus on Wotan/Odin and those deities most closely associated with him in the Nordic/Germanic Pagan oikumene—“uns ist in alten mären, wunders viel gezeit….“.  Thor lacks any memorable or particularly unique music, but as a journey of exploration and discovery by moderns in a mysterious world, it is much closer to Magic Flute, the Wizard of Oz, and Buffy/Angel than it is to Wagner.  Oddly enough—the Wagnerian Ring des Niebelungen, Buffy/Angel, and the Lion King can be grouped together as creating entirely new mythological universes, as could Clive Staples’ Narnia.  But the Oz story underwent one major and radical transformation between Frank Baum’s 1900 book and the 1939 movie with Judy Garland: In the book, and all of Frank Baum’s later Oz books—the reader was demanded to suspend disbelief completely and enter into the Magical Land of Oz as a real universe parallel to our own—but in the movie—fearing (in 1939) the cultural threat and geopolitical consequences of  “sermons from mystical Germans who preach from ten til four”, all mystery was cut out by the Kansas framing story: Dorothy Gale just dreamt it all owing to a head injury based on her own life.   Joss Whedon experimented with this “world of illusion” trope in one episode only, Buffy sixth season “Normal Again.”  The movie Thor handles the problem by allowing Thor himself to sever the ties between earth and Asgard when he destroys the Rainbow Bridge to prevent Loki from initiating Ragnarok, but Jane Foster keeps on with her research, searching for her man….

But unlike Richard Wagner and Kenneth Branagh in Thor, Joss Whedon was culturally ecclectic.  Much in the manner of Sir James G. Frazer’s original 12 volume Golden Bough, Joss Whedon, the creator/director/producer/ sometime writer of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly/Serenity goes around the world collecting stories which fit into a single pattern.  For Frazer, it was the pattern of the dying king, murdered in his full youthful vigor to preserve or “save” the life of the whole world.  In other words, Frazer set out to show, and he fairly effectively showed, that the story of Jesus of Nazareth was just the most developed and successfully “marketed” story of its kind in the world, and by no means a unique revelation.  (Whether universal recurrence in different guises makes a religion more or less valid is a different story).

As weekly settings for his universe filled with “AntiChrist” Vampires, Joss Whedon was a master of incorporating and restating whole traditions of myth and religious symbolism/ethical thought into his work.   Almost totally contrary to Frazer’s somewhat anti-Christian emphasis on ritual and mythic elements of narrative, however, Whedon’s effort is to compare ancient or “non-Western” religions to Christianity favorably on grounds of ethics and morality.

The nature of the “Vampire” mythology as a kind of inverse Christianity has been apparent since the 18th century—Vampires are inverse Christians (a Los Angeles Jewish Monthly Magazine for December of 2009 included a cover article “Why Jews aren’t Vampires” even though they shun the cross and have been libeled as child-murderers and practitioners of sacrifice generally).  The core “Maundy Thursday” ritual of Christianity is the Great Thanksgiving, the Holy Eucharist by which Christians drink the blood and eat the flesh of Jesus Christ—albeit most modern believers would say this is a memorial, rather than an actual magical transubstantiation.  According to Christ’s words at the last supper, this ritual is part of keeping Jesus himself alive in all his followers.  Vampirism is exactly the opposite—Vampire suck on human blood and flesh to destroy human life and make themselves (the vampires) more Godlike—they are “antiChrists” in the truest senses of the word—they do the opposite of give their own life and flesh to save the rest of the world.   Some writers, such as Elizabeth Miller, have posited that Vampiristic mythology became popular contemporaneously with Darwinism in the 19th century.   The feasting in Thor is all quite normal (lol!) if the Gods are sometimes portrayed as rather voracious and insatiable.   But there are no direct traces of Christian ritual in Thor, while there were many in both Buffy and Angel.  (Not so much in Firefly/Serenity where salvation is mostly a matter of self-help, preferably with guns and knives skillfully used by both men and women—which is another common theme with Thor to be sure).

Whedon’s works focus on the importance of the clear-thinking conscience, redemption generally, the redemptive power of family and love in particular, the salvation of sinners, the need for forgiveness of all sins and crimes, no matter how grave, and the definition of the soul as the key to all life and immortality, and he does all this despite his self-proclaimed status as an atheist.  There are many strong sub-themes including the soul-endangering evils of mind-altering drugs and social engineering, the importance of individual freedom, and the oppressive corruption of government and the complicity of the all-but-blind middle class in its maintenance.**

Whedon has through all these themes made his productions among the most deeply Christian/spiritual productions ever to appear on television—albeit his Christianity was about as orthodox as Richard Wagner’s, and similarly mixed with Buddhism and Pagan animism.  Like the Golden Bough, to learn and dissect Whedon’s corpus of sources is to learn comparative mythology from specific references to the Prophecies of Isaiah concerning the coming of Christ (“the annointed one”) as a child to lead to the peaceable kingdom, this starting in BtVS Season One along with a multifaceted and series-long treatment of modern and ancient witchcraft, to Grimms’ Hansel & Gretel, back to the Biblical Demon Moloch, and then to the Egyptian resurrection cult of Osiris and even then to Temple Prostitution in Mesopotamia (Inanna = Inara Serra, a beautiful companion/courtesan played by Morena Bacarin in the Firefly Serenity Series—Inara is portrayed as significantly more honorable, educated, and dignified than ALMOST anyone else in the series), and even then to the more recent mythology of Dracula and Vampires (Vrykolakia) in Eastern Europe.  While earlier series such as Dr. Who made occasional use of mythology, Whedon’s series used more anthropological sources than any other single corpus except the X-Files.  What unites Whedon’s work with, for example, The Lion King more than the X-Files is the internal continuity of the storyline and the presence of very strong structural organizing principles (e.g. Dumezilian trifunctionalism and Levi-Straussian dualism).  X-Files was more ecclectic, much less focused on developing season-long story lines, and utterly untroubled by structural consistency between episodes and series (except that Mulder always “wanted to believe”, more mystical, and basically right, while Scully was always skeptical, more cautiously scientific, and more often than not, dead wrong—but she never learned her lessons from episode to episode…some sort of short or long term memory loss or stubborn willfulness was utterly inconsistent with her vast store of medical and scientific knowledge….).  Jane Foster in Thor is more of an “I want to believe” fusion of Mulder and Scully, pretty much unparalleled in the Buffyverse or “Whedonian World.”

Much like the Whedonian World, especially as analyzed Rhonda Wilcox’ masterful treatment of Whedon’s productions in her book Why Buffy Matters: the art of BtVS  (October 13, 2005), Thor has a strong undertone of Christian values—self-sacrifice and forgiveness, fatherly redemption, even as it revitalizes the Gods of the Norse who, frankly, had few or none of these values (at least Thor didn’t—Wotan/Odin in fact once “hanged himself for nine days on a windy tree, a sacrifice of himself to himself”…..but it’s not clear that he did so to save the rest of the world from sin or anything like that).   Anthony Hopkins was in fact utterly unrecognizable as Anthony Hopkins with his beard and eye patch—he looked more like the Metropolitan Opera’s perennial Wotan James Morris than anyone else, but his performance and delivery were flawless (no actual Wagnerian music was used in the movie—I think this is slightly unfortunate, but possibly essential to sell to a mass culture audience, sadly, these days).

When discussing the interface between Christianity and science-fiction, especially interdimensional travel, it is necessary at least to mention C.S. Lewis’ Seven Book Narnia collection—“doors to the world of men, I have heard of such things”, said Jadis, the White Queen of Narnia, on hearing about the Pevensie boys and girls coming in through the wardrobe made of the tree that grew from the Sorcerers’ rings that led once Molly and Digory past the world between worlds through one particularly ill-fated puddle to the dead world of Charn…..from which Jadis came with Digory to Narnia….in the beginning.  The Christian metaphors in Lewis’ Narnia seem clunky and heavy-handed to me, not that they aren’t sometimes wonderful—like Aslan’s self-sacrifice to save Edmund and his subsequent resurrection by way of “a deeper magic than even the White witch knows”—but in Whedon, and in Thor, the subtlety and personal connections inherent in the various self-sacrificial decisions make the episodes of redemption or forgiveness and reconciliation meaningful—Thor is about a prodigal son who comes back to his father (cf. Gospel of Luke)…..and loses the mortal love of his life in the process…. but there is nothing forced or strained about it—it’s woven deftly into the plot and seems only right and good—except for the treatment of the Thunder God’s darker brother Loki….. and in fact

If I were to have any gripe with the movie at all it would be the character and treatment of Loki—never ever before identified as one of Wotan’s children in any source, adoptive or otherwise (but generally known as the son of the Giant Farbauti and Giantess Laufe, even to the point of being called Loki Laufeyarson in some sources).   Wagner portrayed Loki/Loge as a close and necessary companion and ally of Odin/Wotan and the Old English three-part incantation about offerings recorded in rural East Anglia as late as the early 19th century, “One for God and One for Wod’ and One for Lok‘” (quoted by Sir James G. Frazer, Georges Dumezil, Alfred Hocart, and so many others) also shows a special association between these divine names.  The movie shows nothing of Loki’s identity as Altdeutsche Feuergott Agnisbruder (the German Fire God and brother of [Hindu] Agni = [Italic/Latin] Ignis), and only very briefly makes reference to his identity as a master of magic.

In suggesting that there is something odd about Loki’s “giant” ancestry, the movie ignores the direct parallel between the heritage of the Germanic Gods as children of Giants and the Greek God’s status as children of the Titans.  This makes the racially significant emphasis of Loki’s identity in the movie Thor all the more critical to analyze.  Because Thor is Odin’s blonde true son—and boy do they EVER look alike (right down to their beards and hair style), while Loki turns out to be an “adopted” brown haired son.  It is not that the Frost Giants are uniformly portrayed as brunette so much as Green*****.  No, it is more because the two “children” of Odin are paired and opposed both as children and adults on the basis of their hair color and complexion—Light and Dark.  The movie’s pairing of “Fair Haired” Jane Foster and Dark Darcy (my longest-term college girlfriend was a “Black Irish” brunette named D’Arcy)  in New Mexico cannot be coincidental to the opposed pairing of Dark Loki and Blond Thor.  Joss Whedon’s series Buffy the Vampire Slayer also featured a “light dark” pair of slayers in the form of Buffy Summers, the eponymous heroine, who first (in a couple of episodes in Season II) faces a Creole Jamaican slayer named Kendra (called a “Tragic Mulatta” by at least one reviewer, namely Lynne Edwards, who also presented this concept at the First Slayage Conference in Nashville, 2004).   After Kendra’s truly tragic and untimely death, Whedon brought forth the unforgettable character Faith Lahane, a simply smolderingly sexy brunette who was “bad girl” to all of Buffy’s somewhat priggish/prudish traits of inherited “Middle Class Morality.”  Faith hailed from (one assumes) some lower class Irish sector of South Boston—but the correlation between class and color is utterly unmistakable in both Thor and BtVS: Blondes don’t just have more fun (Jane Foster and Thor fell in love—Darcy and Loki remain single), they are actually better, indeed substantially people or Gods—I should not that so much of my hair as has neither fallen out nor turned grey, which isn’t all that much—is and has been since I was 7- or 8 moderate mousy brown—neither distinctively light nor dark)….

If there were ever any objections to the character of Heimdall because he was a black and Anglo-African of subsaharan negroid origins, there could be even more serious objections to the character-identity and story of Loki as a warning about the failure of interracial adoptions.  Loki is the only character in this movie with self-esteem problems and they all relate to his origins, and relatively dark complexion compared to the majority of the Asgard deities.  He is maladjusted and insecure but not nearly so sympathetic as, for example, Othello the Moor.  It doesn’t ruin the plot by a long shot, but it’s the weakest link in the whole scheme I would say.  The original Norse God Loki, and even Richard Wagner’s Loki, as God of Fire, was a trickster, a shape-shifter, a transexual (no, not a trannie, just a shape shifter who could even give birth to eight legged horses while shape-shifting as a mare) and on the whole much more interesting than Thor‘s Loki—who’s a bit one dimensional—or at least I didn’t pick up more than one dimension, but I’ve already determined I’ll go see the movie several times.

I think it was a marvelous touch that several Norse Icons like the World Tree Yigdrassil and I believe even (originally) Loki’s offspring the eight legged horse Sleipnir who was to bring on Ragnarok (Armageddon, the last battle, aka Gotterdaemerung), as well as Thor’s hammar and Wotan/Odin’s law spear, were all very subtly slipped in.

Overall, like Buffy, Angel, Firefly/Serenity and Charmed (and even like Dr. Who, the Wizard of Oz and Alice), Thor mixes fairly outstanding verbal humor with intense and fast-paced action and a well-edited script (unlike this totally unedited stream-of-consciousness review essay).

*Black Children, White Preference: Brown v. Board, the Doll Tests, and the Politics of Self-Esteem American Quarterly – Volume 61, Number 2, June 2009, pp. 299-332  The Johns Hopkins University Press ABSTRACT: In Brown v. Board of Education the Supreme Court cited psychologist Kenneth B. Clark for evidence that segregation damaged black children’s self-esteem and hampered their ability to learn. Clark and his wife Mamie had tested black children’s “racial preference” by asking them to choose between black dolls and white dolls, interpreting the choice of white dolls as evidence of damaged self-esteem. After Brown, the Clarks’ studies set the parameters for research on racial identity, self-esteem, and child development—even though they were discredited on methodological and statistical grounds in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Subsequent research showed that the doll tests do not measure self-esteem and, further, that African American children do not have low self-esteem. Nonetheless, social science remains invested in the conception of proper racial identification. The doll tests’ contested history suggests that we need to replace this conception with a model of adaptive, negotiated, and hybrid racial identification.

**: Interestingly, in ancient Norse Mythology, as an aside—Heimdall was said to be the creator of social classes—but in Whedon, it is all a matter of freedom of thought and the dangers of selling one’s soul in exchange therefor)

***: Despite several potential racial themes, there were no overt or even covert or indirect references to Naziism in Thor at all, except for possibly two “twisted crosses”—these were soft-s-shaped serpents crossing and so perhaps not even intended as such, but the architectural layout of the SHIELD (SHIELD = “Men in Black”) field laboratory built around Thor’s hammer (misidentified by SHIELD scientists as a satellite but sent to earth by All Father Odin/Wotan as an afterthought to banishing his son Thor Odinsson).  The compound looked to me from a brief side aerial view to have the elements of a two intertwined s-shaped snakes, possibly a circumscribed twisted cross.  But then at the very end, in a plug for some of Thor’s coming reappearance in the Avengers, there was a box which contained what was described as a place of confluence of myth, legend, and history—an great power source—in fact a source of “UNLIMITED POWER”, and it clearly appears to be electricity charging in a very distinctly double interlocking S-shaped hackenkreuz.  I really don’t think there’s any mistaking the serpentine Swastika as this source of “Unlimited Power”—and apparently Loki is going to play a major role in the next movie in trying to exploit this source.  Infinite, unlimited power described by or emanating from a Twisted Cross—what a concept!  I had had doubts when I first saw this last scene on opening night but sure to my prediction/threat in the first edition of this review essay, I did in fact follow up on all of this by seeing this movie four times on its first four days in Santa Monica.

**** exemplum gratia: Shelley Sue Thomson (see e.g. elsewhere on this blog: https://charleslincoln3.wordpress.com/2008/08/23/for-jon-roland-you-hypocrite-lecteur-mon-semblable-mon-frere-and-for-shelley-sue-thomson-for-whom-i-won-a-fast-and-speedy-victory-taking-her-from-near-homeless-slums-to-a-nearly-palatial/#comments.   But this is just to name a one out of thousands of New Age/NeoPagan types, who congregate all over North Central New Mexico especially around Albuquerque, Los Alamos, Galisteo, Roswell, Santa Fe, Las Vegas, and Pecos).

{*****For whatever mysterious reason, the Frost Giants in fact look rather like Greenskinned Lorne/Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan in Joss Whedon’s “Angel” (Loki’s Green-skinned “Father” Laufe (a purposeful sexual misidentification?) even resembles the late Andy Hallett (1975-2009) in facial features and speech.}

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