Updated: Aug 30, 2020
In this next edition of "Foxy Faves of 2017", I squee about the awesomeness that is Tessa Thompson, the breakout star of Marvel Studios' Thor Ragnarok.
Thor: Ragnarok was one of the best movies I saw in 2017, hands down. In picking Taika Waititi to direct the film, Marvel has allowed the Thor franchise to embrace the comedic elements and become the offbeat mythological-space-comedrama (comedy+drama) it was meant to be.
Another dynamic that many could say helped catapult Ragnarok to success was its breakout star, Tessa Thompson. When news broke out of Thompson's casting as The Valkyrie, without fail, comic purists were sent into a tizzy because of the choice to racebend Valkyrie.
This same non-issue happened way back when Idris Elba was cast as Heimdall, and it's hard not be hard on comic purist dudebros when it becomes obvious they don't have much knowledge about the Norse gods they claim to love so much, as Tessa Thompson hinted at in an interview last September. The inclusion of Non-White Norse gods, goddesses, and people as Asgardians isn't done in the hamfisted, 'diversity by Hollywood's standards' sort of way, something that I think is possible because the film director, Waititi himself, is an Indigenous Maori man of New Zealand.
In Tessa's performance, I was able to actually see myself, without having to live vicariously through a White woman or character, as most Black girls and women have had to do as mainstream comic fans for decades. In Tessa's performance, with the casting of other actors and extras in the movie, I and other Black people were able to not just see 'racebending', but additional and actual Black Norse gods, goddesses, and warriors. In Tessa's performance, we see a disillusioned warrior, broken from the loss of her love and fellow Valkyries, doing what most folks do when they're unable to face their pain:
Valkyrie wasn't reduced to the Angry Black Woman or Strong Black Woman stereotypes either; Tessa's performance was nuanced and multifaceted, and she had complex connections with both Thor and Hulk, along with being confident, strong, and probably able to drink Thor under the table on his best day. Brunhilde was a warrior with a broken heart, embittered with those she took orders from in the past, who through taking some of Thor's words into consideration, made the choice to face her past, save her fellow Asgardians, and get a slice of revenge on the Asgardian who took away everything she cared about: Hela.
I got all my Black tomboy-comic life seeing Valkyrie onscreen. Even thought I'm not a little girl anymore, seeing myself reflected in the media I consume is very important to me. It lets me know that I am seen, in a world that goes out of its way to ignore Black people, Black women especially. Seeing Tessa as Valkyrie onscreen also allows me to see myself as a bisexual woman, in a world where even with advances in LGBTQ+ rights and visibility, the "B"---for bisexual---still experiences issues of erasure, stigma, and exclusion from queer circles and media. It also helped that Tessa herself, confirmed that Valkyrie is bisexual, as she's been in the comics, and doesn't give a DAYUM about appealing to men or the male gaze.
And I was HERE. FOR. AWL OF IT!
I'm really looking forward to seeing Brunhilde's development in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and seeing if she'll show up in "Avengers: Infinity War, Part 2". Of course, if she shows up in Part 1, I'm all in, but from the teasers we've seen so far, it's possible we won't see the Valkyrie again until Part 2, for the final fight against Thanos. All that matter right now is: