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The outrage over fat Thor in Endgame

Contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame

In Avengers: Endgame, the surviving heroes wrestled with the reality that half of all beings in the universe had been snapped out of existence and that the snapper, Thanos (Josh Brolin), had reduced the Infinity Stones to atoms. The trauma affects each of Earth's Mightiest in different ways, and most fans agree that Endgame depicted the uniqueness of the emotions in an excellent way. Unfortunately, there has been serious backlash over how one particular character and his struggle with grief was portrayed in the film. Many are outraged over "fat Thor" in Endgame

Avengers: Endgame saw the Asgardian god of thunder Thor (Chris Hemsworth) fight with overwhelming feelings of failure — for not protecting Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and Heimdall (Idris Elba) at the start of Avengers: Infinity War, and for not killing Thanos when he had the chance to. Thor's guilt sent him to a dark place mentally and emotionally, and he appeared after the five-year time jump in Endgame having found comfort in alcohol, high-calorie snacks, and days spent playing video games with his buddies Korg (Taika Waititi) and Miek. He has a big beer belly, scraggly hair, and a thick beard that would make lumberjacks jealous. Most of all, Thor isn't as confident or self-assured as he used to be, though he's still quite chipper. 

Following that big reveal, several jokes are made at Thor's expense throughout Endgame, with characters poking fun at his robust figure, unkempt appearance, and unusual demeanor. They joke that he looks like the Dude from The Big Lebowski, quip that he didn't fall asleep but actually died in the middle of an important meeting about the Avengers' time heist mission, and jab that he has Cheez Whiz coursing through his veins. 

While some giggled along with the gags, many others found fault with it all, arguing that "fat Thor" in Avengers: Endgame is problematic, as it encourages audiences to laugh at someone who exhibits symptoms of depression, alcohol dependence, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

"Here I am, the morning after seeing Avengers: Endgame, and I am still shocked, angry and hurt. I am an avid Marvel nerd and while the movie itself was brilliant in many ways, I had seriously conflicted emotions about the physical appearance of Thor," wrote Lacey-Jade Christie at The Guardian. "Thor has seen war, death and destruction and as a result he has PTSD. I applaud Marvel for highlighting mental illness, particularly as it relates to veterans, but it could have been treated more sensitively … I had hoped that we were past the point in history where we are allowed to poke fun at fat people. I was wrong. Because here we are in Avengers: Endgame and Thor is 30kg heavier and it seems as though everyone in the audience is laughing except me."

Christie continued, writing that "the jokes made at the expense of the fat person were lazy stereotypes," and though some audience members can smile and laugh at those moments, others feel "like they've been punched in the gut" when they hear them. 

Cosmopolitan's Emily Tannenbaum penned her own piece about "the big fat problem with Thor in Avengers: Endgame." Tannenbaum wrote in part, "The point they're trying to make is clear: Thor is plagued by PTSD and mental health issues. My own depression manifests in overeating and weight gain so, like, it me. And if they went on to focus on his recovery and help him process his grief, this could have been an incredible moment in the MCU timeline. But instead of tackling his issues head-on, his fellow team members repeatedly ridiculed and belittled him for his appearance, specifically his weight … But here's the worst part: When we first walked in on 'Dad Bod Thor' in his hovel, I laughed. It's like a two-hitter: On the one hand, the jokes at Thor's expense are fat-phobic and problematic, and then they had to go and make me complicit."

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw of The Daily Dot felt similarly, stating that the "meanspirited recurring fat joke is going to age very poorly, very fast." She wrote, "Weight gain and heavy drinking can go hand-in-hand with depression or PTSD, and the idea of Thor regressing to a self-loathing version of his beer-swilling youth is a plausible scenario. The problem is, the movie plays the whole thing for laughs. Thor's weight gain is a punchline that comes back again and again, leading to the uncomfortable situation of sitting in a theater of people laughing uproariously because a hero got fat. Chis Hemsworth's unconvincing fat suit is a problem in itself, but in a film that otherwise offers a neat balance between humor and serious themes, it's bizarre to see a character's trauma symptoms portrayed as a joke."

Many more took issue with "fat Thor" for a variety of different reasons — but some offered rebuttals to the outrage. 

Slashfilm's Ethan Anderton was one such individual. He published an opinion piece arguing that Avengers: Endgame "isn't fat-shaming the traumatized and grief-stricken Thor," and that the film actually handles the hero's personal journey quite well.

"Some think the movie treats Thor's new look like a nasty punchline, using fat-shaming to elicit laughter from the audience and ignoring the significance of his emotional trauma. But that's not how I see it at all. As a longtime fat guy, let me tell you that I found nothing hurtful or malicious about how Thor was depicted in Avengers: Endgame," said Anderton, who was happy that Endgame never changed Thor's physique and saw the chubby hero ultimately regain his confidence and fight alongside his fellow Avengers to take Thanos down for good. "As someone who has struggled with weight loss, got bullied here and there in my younger years, and still carries a hefty belly of my own, this movie doesn't feel like body-shaming to me. If anything, it's about time we had chunky superhero, and I can only hope that Thor keeps this weight if he's coming back around in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in the coming years."

Anderton was far from the only person who felt this way. Polygon's Emily Heller wrote that some of the jokes in Endgame that dug at Thor's bigger body were definitely mean, but the important thing to focus on is that the hero ends up accepting who he is without changing his new physique. He fully embraces something his mother Frigga (Rene Russo) told him earlier in the film: "The true measure of a person is how they succeed at being who they are." 

Heller argued, "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 … A few of the fat jokes in Endgame were cruel and unnecessary (maybe we didn't need a cheese 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."

In the wake of the backlash and the response to that criticism, Avengers: Endgame screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely spoke to Vulture about their vision for Thor's physical and emotional transformation in the film. 

Markus explained that he and McFeely didn't want to put Thor "on a mission of vengeance," as that's what he had done in Avengers: Infinity War, and were wondering what he would look, act, and feel like after facing failure and losing family and friends. The screenwriter made it clear that there was no ill intent in having Thor gain weight. 

"We wondered, 'Okay, well, what if he does become a sort of depressive alcoholic?' And the 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," said Markus, adding that "Thor became human, for the first time" when Endgame first showed him with his larger body. "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."

All reactions considered, it seems that Thor's new look and the way he was depicted in Avengers: Endgame may continue to divide Marvel fans. Hopefully, Marvel Studios can take the feedback to chubby Thor and use that to inform the character's post-Endgame trajectory. After joining the Guardians of the Galaxy on their mission to find Gamora at the end of Endgame, Thor seems poised to appear in the third Guardians movie — and may still rock the dad bod while zipping through space.