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Thor’s reaction to his new look is the only one that matters

The jokes are mean-spirited, but he owns the transformation

Thor in Thor: Ragnarok drinking a beer Marvel Studios

Avengers: Endgame revives something that’s been missing from Marvel team-up movies since Age of Ultron: silly moments between the heroes that aren’t entirely driven by the quest for a MacGuffin. Some of those moments, based on a dramatic new look for Thor, aren’t sitting well with fans.

[Ed. note: This post contains major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.]

Avengers: Endgame - Thor holding his Stormbreaker Axe as lightning emanates from him Marvel Studios

At the beginning of Endgame, we discover that the Decimation has hit Thor the hardest out of all the Avengers. That makes sense: He’s been bleeding friends, family, and homeland since Thor: Ragnarok, and he was powerless to stop Thanos from personally killing his brother Loki and his pal Heimdall. Thor blames himself for the entire Snap, as well; if he had just cut off Thanos’ head when he had the chance, maybe he could have stopped the inevitable.

It’s a heartbreakingly human moment for the God of Thunder, and even though everyone reassures him that it’s not his fault, anyone who’s made a mistake that hurt someone they care about knows that won’t help.

We pick up with Thor five years after the snap. Hulk and Rocket visit “New Asgard,” a seaside Norwegian town where the remaining Asgardians slowly rebuild their lives, to recruit him for the Avengers’ time heist. They first run into Valkyrie, who gestures to a huge pile of kegs when asked how Thor’s doing. These days, he only leaves his house for beer.

When Thor finally shows up, it’s clear he’s stopped taking care of himself. His beard and hair are long and scraggly, he’s wearing a dirty bathrobe, and he’s gained a considerable beer belly. He’s visibly buzzed, and spends his time playing Fortnite with his fellow gladiators from Thor: Ragnarok, Korg (played by Ragnarok director Taika Waititi) and Miek.

Hulk lures the warrior back into action, but back at Avengers HQ, Thor continues to drink heavily, passing out in a meeting after drunkenly rambling about his ex-girlfriend and crying about his mom. The rest of the team can’t help but notice Thor’s transformation, and rather than try to help their hurting friend, they joke about his new physique.

Endgame’s portrayal of Thor’s new look has provoked strong reactions from viewers, some accusing the film of fat shaming by playing a fat body (and symptoms of depression or PTSD) for laughs. But simply including a fat character isn’t inherently problematic. I’ll admit, I laughed when the new Lebowski-eque Thor was revealed — Hemsworth has physical comedy chops, and it’s funny. Many of the jokes at Thor’s expense are mean-spirited and should be criticized, but, crucially, they don’t bother him. He’s the freakin’ God of Thunder; why does he care what a talking raccoon thinks about his body?

By the time the fight against Thanos rolls around, Thor regains his confidence and, more importantly, fully owns who he is. He undergoes an emotional transformation that is entirely unrelated to his physical changes.

What really sold me on this choice for Thor was that, when his friends needed him, he cleaned himself up and stood up straighter, but he didn’t magically become ripped again. He took a shower, braided his beard, and put on a new suit — or the equivalent when you have a magic hammer — and he looked damn good, beer belly and all.

Endgame brings Thor full circle in a way that’s quite moving. In the original Thor, the son of Odin is ... a little bit of a fuckboy. He’s arrogant and combative, and struggles to become worthy of Mjolnir after being exiled to Earth. He eventually proves his worthiness, but spends the next several films grappling with what exactly that worthiness means, especially after failing to save his mother.

Thor sees Frigga again in Endgame, during his jump back in time to retrieve the Reality Stone. She immediately knows that he’s from the future, but not because of his physical changes. She can see it in his eyes. She knows he’s hurting and reassures him that everyone fails at living up to their expectations.

“The true measure of a person,” she tells him, “is how they succeed at being who they are.” He’s then summons Mjolnir; Hemsworth’s delivery of the line “I’m still worthy!” is one of the most emotionally resonant moments in the movie, and possibly in the MCU. Frigga’s parting line, reminding Thor to eat a salad every now and again, felt more like a mother’s well-meaning-if-annoying advice rather than a fat joke.

While some may see Thor’s Endgame persona as a caricature of a drunken oaf, there’s nuance to the performance that complicates the read as pure problematic comedy. More importantly, Thor doesn’t see the commentary as fat shaming. He takes Frigga’s advice to heart. He recognizes that he’s not a leader and he doesn’t want to be. When Captain America (finally) picks up Mjolnir during the final battle, Thor lets him keep it. After defeating Thanos, he hands the King of Asgard title over to Valkyrie and takes off with the “Asgardians of the Galaxy,” owning who he’s meant to be — a lovable rogue.

A few of the fat jokes in Endgame were cruel and unnecessary (maybe we didn’t need a Cheez Whiz dig), but ultimately Thor’s arc takes him from a sad, broken man to someone who fully knows and accepts himself — without treating his weight gain as a problem to be rectified. Hopefully Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 leans into Fat Thor, allowing him to keep rocking his dad bod and ignoring the haters.