Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week, Bennett looks at the controversy around Thor in Avengers: Endgame.

Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo announced on May 6 their informal spoiler ban on the movie had been lifted, Spoiler ban lifted! Russo brothers tell all about the making of 'Avengers: Endgame'.  Leaving me finally free to write about the movie, specifically one aspect: how Thor was depicted as a massively out-of-shape alcoholic and the negative online response it generated, for example, 'Fat Thor' Prompts Avengers Fans To Accuse Marvel Of Body Shaming.

There’s been outrage on Twitter, videos (Fat Shaming Thor RUINED Avengers: Endgame, The Outrage Over Fat Thor In Endgame) and online pieces like Why Thor's Endgame Transformation Has Polarized Fans.  Which claimed movie audiences either "chuckled on command when Chris Hemsworth’s fake belly was first revealed and continued to laugh through the Big Lebowski jokes and references to various junk food brands."  Or "balked at the inherent fatphobia of the gag."

In What's Up WIth Fat Thor In "Avengers: Endgame"? - BuzzFeed News Jenna Guillaume wrote she’d felt blindsided when "one of my favorite celebrities dons a dehumanizing fat suit, turning one of my favorite characters into a walking, talking fat joke."  And that "Fat Thor shocked me and absolutely broke my heart."  And in Avengers: Endgame was brilliant - but the fat shaming broke my heart Lacey-Jade Christie wrote: "While you might laugh, others are sitting around you feeling like they've been punched in the gut."

Most of the pieces on the subject I came across were negative ('Avengers: Endgame' Taken To Task For 'Fat-Shaming' and PTSD-Shaming, The recurring fat joke in ‘Avengers: Endgame’ sucks, The Big Fat Problem With Thor in ‘Avengers: Endgame’).  But there were positive ones, like 'Avengers: Endgame’ Isn’t Fat-Shaming the Traumatized and Grief-Stricken Thor and All Praise Thor’s ‘Endgame’ Dad Bod.  And especially Avengers: Endgame’: In Defense of Fat Thor by Matt Goldberg, who pointed out while there were jokes "at the expense of his physique" the movie didn't say "'Fat people are bad'" and there was no "fatty fall down" humor.

And to establish intent, here's what the movie's makers had to say on the subject.  Like in  'Avengers: Endgame' Writers Defend Fat Thor - Vulture  there's an interview with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely where Markus is quoted as saying:

"...[T]he weight gain was just part and parcel of that state of mind.  We didn’t go, like, ‘Let’s chunk him up, it’ll be hilarious.’  And we leave him in that state at the end of the movie.  Even though he’s emotionally resolved…  We fix his problem, and it’s not his weight.  I know some people are sensitive about some of the humor that comes from it, which I understand.  But our issue that we wanted him to deal with was his emotional state that his mom addresses.  And I think he is the ideal Thor at the end of the movie, and he’s carrying some weight."

Then in an interview with The Russo Brothers that appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Avengers: Endgame filmmakers defend Thor's startling look, Anthony Russo is quoted as saying "Even though there’s a lot of fun to be had in the movie with his physical condition, it’s not a gag."  And “It’s a manifestation of where he is on a character level, and we think it’s one of the most relatable aspects of him.  I mean, it’s a very common sort of response to depression and pain.  "Having always been a big fat guy and highly sensitive person (what was once known as a "cry-baby") I was concerned when I heard Endgame had of the Avengers in a fat suit.  Having been routinely shamed, bullied and beaten for being both things, things I could do nothing about, I've always been sympathetic towards those accused of being "snowflakes" and absolutely appreciate that the pain that has caused people is genuine.  But I am not among them.  I don’t know, maybe life has finally pounded out the very last ounce of feeling in me, but personally, I didn’t have a problem with "Thicc Thor."

Yes, I definitely could have done without the fat jokes.  Given their friendship in Infinity War and how he's triggered by disrespect you would have thought at least Rocket would have said, "You know, those kinds of comments really aren't helping."  But instead, he calls Thor a "melting ice cream cone."  How Rocket knew what an ice cream cone was I have no idea - I’d like to think someone took him to Baskin-Robbins, but that’s another question for another day.

And the context matters.  I have to agree with Markus, McFeely and The Russos, the vainglorious Thor (remember the hissy fit he had when Stan Lee cut his hair in Thor Ragnarok?) had to lose what little he had left; his looks and physique.  In an interview, Anthony Russo called Thor's arc in Endgame a "Shakespearean tragedy;" undoubtedly he had one of The Bard’s tragic heroes like Hamlet in mind.  But here Thor is much closer to the character Orson Welles considered Shakespeare's greatest creation; Falstaff, the fat, cowardly knight Stan Lee used as a model for Volstagg of the Warriors Three.

You know, Volstagg the Valiant, better known as "the Voluminous," who along with his comrades Fandral the Dashing and Hogun the Grim were unceremoniously dispatched early in Thor Ragnarok. They died un-mourned and have been totally forgotten, so there is justice in having The Mighty Thor reduced to playing the fool and enduring some of the jibes and disrespect poor Volstagg must have faced in Asgard for not being regulation size. Endgame is chockablock with callbacks to previous Marvel movies so it would have been nice if at some point Thor looked in a mirror and saw Volstagg starring back at him.

Of course, what makes it all work is Chris Hemsworth, who once again proves he’s not mobile scenery but rather an actual actor, and his scene with his mother Frigga on Asgard is beautiful and heartbreaking and finally gives Rene Russo, who was criminally underused in Thor: The Dark World not just more lines but something to say.  "I Love You 3,000” is the movie’s meme, but I prefer what Frigga tells Thor; "Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be the measure of a person, a hero, is how they succeed at being who they are."

The scene also has one of the movie’s best callbacks; when Rocket is being chased by the Asgardian guards they call him a "rabbit."  So when Thor calls him that in Avenger: Infinity Wars he’s not being trying to funny; he’s just never seen a raccoon before.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of