Loki: Insanity and Characterization

On characters and movies and stuff: Loki

I recently watched Thor: The Dark World. Now, being an Avengers/Marvel/Movies/Comics fanatic, I would have made it a point to catch that movie in the big screen anyway. But then we all know that where Hiddleston is concerned, geek-status turns out to be only one half of the motivation.

Now, I’m not going to be the gushing fan girl (in this post at least). This is about characterization (I think). We’ve seen this before, we’ve read these same stories, these very same moments in other narratives: The Trickster Villain teetering on the line that separates “redemption from damnation” (Chris Hemsworth’s words, watch the video interview if you haven’t already).

Storytellers love to construct characters that are as real as living, ‘ordinary’ people in their shortcomings, quirks and weaknesses, while at the same time, giving them these unrealistic, fantastic aspects.
Recipe: Shower that character with charm and wit, place that character under duress, clothe him in misunderstanding and heart-break and let him loose in a universe (alternate or otherwise) run by the very same principles our ‘mundane’ world runs on, and WHAM! Result: You have yourself a loved-tragic-villain in the making.

And we cannot help but fall in love with that character. In spite of being familiar with the stereotype, in spite of having read, watched and sobbed over so many, many similar such stories. I’m not writing or saying anything new here when I declare that we absolutely require our protagonists and antagonists today, in the context of our current ’21st Century’ lives, to exhibit traits that are both good and bad. It’s been years since we’ve closed the chapter on characters that are just 100% clean and ‘good’ or 100% evil.

Which is the thing I took back home with me from the theater after watching Thor 2.

(That and this solemn promise to myself: download hundreds more of Tom Hiddleston’s pictures as well as make a board for him on Pinterest).

I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the movie otherwise. I loved it actually, despite the rather dragged-out, stretched-thin ending fight scene. (And this coming from somebody who loves action movies.) I loved Frigga. Her character is epic and it was so natural at the same time (and if I say more, It’ll be a major SPOILER so I won’t).

I read on this review that Thor was not made with any ‘redeemable quirks’ (read here) – he didn’t have those shortcomings, those ‘shades of grey’ (ugh, that book has totally ruined that phrase for me) that Loki possesses. But I don’t think that’s true. Thor is a proud god, even if he is no longer arrogant. If you make him out to be so, he could easily step into darkness because he has been too straightforward for too long. Anyway, I’m rambling now.

(And another thing – don’t you just love the memes with a technologically-challenged Thor? I think that’s pretty redeemable! As in, his general lack of skill with such things)

tt1 tt2

Of course Loki is my favorite (and Iron Man; always Iron Man) and his character has been developed so well, portrayed so well, that Thor does come off as rather one-dimensional in comparison. But I think it’s because we can put Thor and Loki in opposition (Trubetzkoy anybody??) that each character, Loki being the focus here, is so exquisitely defined.

So, coming back to the line between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ and such things, after watching interviews of the cast and the crew and after Thor 2 (and Thor 1, which as a movie, I think was better put together than the sequel), I regained my passion for the bleeding-heart-villain character type and I kept trying to figure it out in my head: Why is it so epic, why do I love it so much?

And I came up with:

Most people understand that it’s such a murky, tenuous line, the one between madness and sanity. It’s never 100% of either one. It’s always a combination; two sides of a coin, to use the clichéd metaphor.

But there’s this one particular aspect that really intrigues me: the way it manifests in people. You can have a lifetime filled with madness, defined by innumerable acts of woe and tragedy, marked by acts of insufferable cruelty and pain. And in the midst of this continuum, you could have a few moments of sanity.

Or maybe, in a sane, calm life, you have instances of instability. Momentary madness that is so epic in its manifestation, so complete in its consumption of your soul that you are as much defined by those few moments as you are by the rest of your otherwise clean, safe and mundane life. Until, of course, you descend into complete madness because of those few moments and what they mean to you.

And that is super-relatable. On some level, we’d all like to explain the worst shortcomings in us as instances of madness; we all hope that when we (if we haven’t already) hit that point, we’ll be understood for both the good and the bad in us.

Or something less dramatically-cliched.

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Let Them Speak

More old writings…

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I lift my head, open my eyes
Look around and realize
That today, I don’t want to say
Anything, speak a single word
Or utter even a sigh
Today, I want everything else to speak
For itself
And speak for me
Today, I want the bed to say
I had a restless night
The night to say I didn’t sleep
I want my hands to say
They have a firm grip
Even if I have nothing to hold onto
I want my lips to tell you
They haven’t kissed love
The Sun in the sky
The Sun in my eyes
And the light to say
I hate the dark in my life
In the corners of my room
In the corners of my mind
I want the Earth to say
I’m a burden to bear
But She doesn’t mind
All that much
And that She would rather have
Me living, leeching off her
Than leaving, leaving, left
Today, I want the skies to fall
And provide a blanket
Of sightless, soundless, thoughtless bliss
For even a moment
I want the world to tell
Of the lack of peace in life
Not too loudly or in lament
Just in moderation
I want, in excess, arms
And eyes and smiles
That radiate love
And don’t question my bearing
I close my eyes
Breathe in one last time
Because today
I want my body to speak my mind
I want my heart to rule my brain
And your brain
And the rationale of our world
I want my last breath to tell the air
That I will draw one more
That I’ll never choose to not be there
That I would be too scared
To leave alone
To leave you alone
To leave
I want my every breath to say
I live, I love, I lie, I care

Conversations & Conflicts I

This is old writing. I’m picking random things that I wrote a long time ago (but can still read without retching…much)

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“I can’t get to sleep…”

“Why?”

“I don’t know…afraid to, I suppose…”

“What do you have to fear?? It’s not like you’re six and you fear the demons in the dark. Even if you did, there are none…”

“There are, if I close my eyes…”

“You’re afraid of being caught unawares…HAH! but seriously, who do you think will get you here, in your own home, on your own bed!? No one can touch you…”

“I’M NOT AFRAID OF THAT!!”

“So you will say…”

“I’M NOT!! I don’t have to prove it to you, of all the people…I’m afraid of what I see and hear and feel when I’m asleep…as simple as that…”

“Ah..I see..perhaps because you dream of THAT?? Is that why you can’t bear to lose yourself to sleep? Afraid that your sleeping mind will overthrow the illusions in your waking one??”

“No…I don’t care what you say…you know, you’ve been in my head…you know…I can’t forever run from something that never even happened, to begin with…”

“Then why run?? Why the drama, the pretense of the chase??”

“Because I can’t bring myself to believe that it’s over…that it’ll never surface again…”

“So now you live in fear of reliving something that never happened?”

“As long as these images keep playing in my mind, I’ll always feel hunted…”

“You’re pathetic…too weak to face the past and cut it down once and for all, too weak to chuck it and move on…”

“I don’t wanna chuck what has made me me…I want it to be acknowledged first, then de-mythified…then destroyed…is that too much to ask for??”

“Some would say so…”

“I know and I’m my own proof…and that keeps me…but sometimes it’s not enough, not nearly…”

Sometimes, when you’re combing your hair or when you’re typing a report, you think of what you were thought to be, what you still might be thought as…and you crumble into a thousand, dirty, ugly pieces…It lasts for a few minutes, for hours at times…then, sometimes, like now, it lasts for days and weeks and you shrink within yourself…shrink till there is little that identifies you as human save for your outwardly appearance…

If there was a devil and a hell, it must be a weak, sinful, un-moving lump, crouched in a corner of a surgically-sharp imagination, awake, scared, angry, in pain and waiting for a doom that will never come, but is ever anticipated…

How do you kill a god?

How do you kill a god? Where will you cut first? Who will strike the first blow?

You could strike right away, but you hesitate. Your god is weakened, hurt and almost drained of all life. He is there, lying at your feet, whether he lies or not, you know he might have as well been doing so; kneeling, head bowed, baring his neck to you. Your job is simple and requires no more talent, no more skill than squashing a bug in the palm of your hand. So, what’s holding you back?

Fallen, beaten, bruised, but he is still a god. You cannot forget, you cannot look at him and not look at what he was, what he did. Your stomach is in knots and you do not want to be the first that strikes because you cannot ever truly believe that he is beaten, that he is not capable of, with just a slight movement, wipe the entire lot of you off the face of the earth.

How do you kill a god? How can you, a common, normal human? Do you even dare to dream of such a thing happening? Now you do. Now you can. For he is, indeed, fallen. But this is not about the fall or about the conquering of so great and mighty an opponent. This is about whether you will ever stop believing that he can rise again.

And so, as he lies there, bleeding, dying, you are already dead. You will live lives shadowed with the doubt that plagued you from the very instant you realized you were going to cut a god.

And so we each carry a god with us, around us. Like palpable clouds, we are surrounded by this.

Often, we kill our gods, often others kill them. But killing is for humans. And so a dead god will rise and take back his place. We watch people breeze past us as we walk. In our little groups, comfortable to not be a god when talking of others, we put our heads together and whisper about the god that just walked by. And we talk not of the god, for that god is human, but we talk of the god of that human. The deity that his life, his existence, his words, his work is.

And then others will talk about us and they too, talk of our gods.

Do you now know what this god is? This god breaks every now and then and people see you and think they see the exposed you, the humiliated you. They scoff at you, they pity you, they laugh, they cry: at you, for you. They think of your god and think how they have managed to see through but then they forget about their own gods and how these human gods are mortal and immortal: your god will grow back. And when this happens again and again, people start looking at you and at your god and they start realizing that they can’t differentiate any more.  

That’s when they realize that you will not stay broken, that they can’t ever react when you fall the next time. How does it matter, you only rise higher. That’s when people start either loving you or hating you.

When they love you, they realize how much more common you are for you have embraced all that is human in humans: the ability to always hope, to always rise again. And so they understand you stand on the same ground as them and together, somehow, the whole lot is raised.

When they hate you, when they feel you have a better god, a luckier one, they would rather kill your god than make their own like yours: immortal, phoenix.