WARNING: This article contains Avengers: Endgame SPOILERS. If you keep reading and you get something spoiled, it’s your fault because we warned you about the SPOILERS.
The internet was still mostly behaving about spoilers when I walked into Avengers: Endgame the Tuesday after it opened, but I knew a few things. A Game of Thrones joke made me suspect Tony Stark’s fate. I knew Captain America would pick up Thor’s weapon.
And I knew Thor would be fat.
“I have the body of a god,” one man with a dad-bod joked.
The world never knows what to do with those of us with weight issues, and it was with some trepidation that I waited to see how Hollywood would handle Thor’s story.
The critiques are understandable. Thor’s weight is, unfortunately, played for jokes. Certain parts, like his recollection of the location of the Reality Stone, could have been handled more sensitively.Thor’s weight gain was shorthand for hiding from his pain and his shame.
The real problem, though, is that weight gain is just a shortcut to Thor’s struggles over the five years between Infinity War and Endgame. We don’t get the full grief and recovery cycle for anyone else either. Suddenly Bruce Banner is Professor Hulk; suddenly Tony is a father. But Thor’s weight gain and alcoholism hints at a much more relatable journey, and one that should have been spelled out more explicitly.
In short, Thor didn’t wallow in his grief. Rather, he hid from his shame.
Shame and addictive behaviors often go hand in hand. It’s a four-part cycle: (1) you perform a behavior, which (2) makes you feel terrible about yourself, so (3) you isolate yourself from support, leaving you vulnerable to (4) a trigger to repeat the behavior. Eventually, the more a person isolates themselves, the more triggers are added. For example, after viewing porn a person may feel ashamed that she’s not living up to her values. Rather than seek help, she hides the behavior from her friends and family and refuses to talk about the stress that caused it. When the stress comes again she hasn’t figured out a healthy coping method, so she turns again to porn. Eventually, the trigger becomes as simple as “I haven’t looked at porn today and I’m craving it.”I personally have had my share of long, sleepless nights, feeling trapped by my own patterns hypocrisy.
That’s what happened to Thor over the five years between Infinity War and Endgame. Thor’s cycle started at shame. And he had a lot of shame. He lost his girlfriend, his parents, his brother, his planet, most of his people, and even his hammer. More than that, he felt responsible for the Snap. Thanos even told him so! Thor almost killed Thanos but failed, and half the Universe disappeared.
So he isolated himself from his friends and his people. He hid from everyone but Korg and Miek, who were content to let him play video games and get drunk. Now, giving your friends space is reasonable, and who of us hasn’t decompressed with video games? But they became his enablers, his “triggers” in the cycle. They let Thor hide from his shame, even turning the name Thanos into a forbidden word. They didn’t encourage him to move on, or be the leader the remaining Asgardians needed. Any time Thor even hinted at his despair, they handed him a beer instead.
Thor’s weight gain was shorthand for hiding from his pain and his shame.
And that’s true for many people, myself included. I turn to comfort food all the time. I can measure my stress at work by how much soda I drink. If I saw someone from High School today, 60 pounds heavier despite multiple diets and almost three years of Crossfit, they might act like Hulk: “Everything okay, buddy?” Or like Rocket, with snarky comments and a grimace. Or they might snicker behind my back, as the audience is, unfortunately, invited to do.
What does that do to Thor’s shame, or ours? It compounds it. We can’t even hold our bodies together. Like Thor, we may isolate ourselves even more, retreating into our unhealthy behaviors, staying trapped in a seemingly endless cycle, wondering if anything we do is of any value. I personally have had my share of long, sleepless nights, feeling trapped by my own patterns hypocrisy. As a Christian, I would wonder if anything I was doing “for God” was of any value. But there’s good news, for Thor and for us. In a pivotal moment in Asgard, Thor reaches out his hand. And Mjolner comes to him. “I’m still worthy,” he whispers, in gratitude and awe.
That’s the message and the miracle of Thor’s story—in Endgame, and really, across the entirety of his arc in the MCU. Nothing has disqualified him from wielding the hammer. Nothing has made him unworthy. Not his failure to save his planet. Not his failure to defeat Thanos. Not even five years of hiding from everyone he knew. Thor is still worthy.
“What shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Paul asks in Romans 8:35. Distress? Famine? Nakedness? Violence? Absolutely nothing! Not angels nor rulers nor powers, nor things that have happened, or even things that will happen.
Not weight gain. Not addiction. Not even our deepest, darkest shame shall ever separate us from the love of Christ.
Thor’s journey isn’t over, of course. He still struggles with insecurities, like insisting on the bigger weapon or his conversation with Star-Lord at the end. Even so, he’s finally come out of hiding. The weight of his shame has been lifted from his shoulders. Thor has been judged, and he has been found worthy.
And so am I.
And so are you.