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The Summer’s New Hero: Thor-ge W. Bush

The Summer’s New Hero: Thor-ge W. Bush (photo)

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This post contains SPOILERS for the movie “Thor.” If thy desire is to avoid details about the plot of this buster of blocks then, verily, thy dost need to read something else this fine May morn.

I don’t know Kenneth Branagh’s politics. I don’t know the politics of screenwriters Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne, J. Michael Straczynski, and Mark Protosevich. All I know is when I saw “Thor” last week, I became convinced that it was all about George W. Bush. Chris Hemsworth looks like Thor, the superheroic God of Thunder from Marvel Comics. But his story is a straight-up allegorical fantasy of the last decade of American foreign policy; the misadventures and redemption of Thor-ge W. Bush.

Our hero, Thor(ge), is the arrogant son of a powerful ruler of interdimensional beings called the Asgardians. Their sworn enemies are the Frost Giants, icy villains from the world of Jotunheim. Centuries earlier, Thor’s father Odin defeated the Frost Giants and left their civilization lying in ruin, but decided not to depose their ruler Laufey. On the day that Thor is to be sworn in to replace Odin as the new King, the Frost Giants mount an assault on Asgard’s home soil. They infiltrate Odin’s armory and attempt to steal a mystical casket; Thor, believing that the best defense is a good offense disobeys his father’s orders and leads a small party of warriors into Jotunheim for a retaliatory attack. The battle is not successful, however, and as punishment for his impudence, Odin strips Thor of his mystical powers and exiles him to Earth, where he must redeem himself before he can reclaim his place as heir to the throne of Asgard.

Granted, lots of this stuff is taken from the original Marvel Comics first created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby in 1962. Their very first Thor comics involved the God of Thunder displaced on Earth learning a similar lesson in humility by sharing a body with a doctor named Donald Blake (listen closely and you’ll hear references to this guy in the movie; he’s Jane Foster’s ex-boyfriend). But Branagh and company’s take on the Marvel mythos is a bit different, and rather blatantly reflective of the reign presidencies of the Bushes George.

According to some narratives about the War in Iraq (like Oliver Stone’s biopic “W.”) President George W. Bush invaded Iraq primarily to correct the oversight he felt his father made back in 1992 when he left Saddam Hussein in power at the end of the first Gulf War. Stone’s version is surely a simplification, but he thinks it all boils down to daddy issues: W. could never live up to George Sr.’s expectations, so he set out to do the one thing his dad never could.

That’s basically what happens in “Thor:” cocky son of the King wants to finish the job started by his father with a preemptive strike on their enemies, but he goes off half-cocked without much of an exit strategy. You could argue that Thor’s brother Loki represents Vice President Dick Cheney, the seemingly subservient right-hand man who exerts an undue amount of influence on the Commander-in-Chief and maybe even craves the throne for himself. The two themes that thread their way through “Thor” are issues about fathers and sons and the question of what is the proper use of military force. As Odin tells Thor before he journeys to Jotunheim, “A wise king never seeks out war, but must always be ready for it.”

All of these parallels hit in “Thor”‘s first act while he’s still in the mystical realm of Asgard. After he’s dumped in New Mexico — which does bear a certain arid physical resemblance to Iraq — he comes into conflict with S.H.I.E.L.D., another concept with its roots in Lee/Kirby Marvel Comics that’s also been reformulated for post-9/11 resonance. Instead of the comic books’ clandestine organization of James Bond-ish super spies, the S.H.I.E.L.D. of “Thor” acts like a Patriot Act nightmare, surveilling people and confiscating private property with impunity. Even when they find the weapon of mass destruction in the desert — Thor’s mystical hammer, Mjolnir, sent to Earth along with him — they don’t even know what to do with it.

Eventually the film’s real world connections begins to fall away; if they didn’t, “Thor” would have to end with the God of Thunder deposed to Texas after credit default swaps cripple the Asgardian economy (then again Thor’s outfits on earth, khaki jackets over blue shirts and slacks, do look a lot like W.’s ranchwear when he’s chainsawing brush down in Crawford). In some ways, though, the events that follow Thor’s dismissal by Odin represent a kind of dream of how we wish things had turned out in the last decade, as the world is saved and united by a leader who understands that might doen’t always equal right, but isn’t afraid to kick a little ass when it does. We’ll have to see whether writer/director Joss Whedon carries over these parallels when he brings Thor into his movie of “The Avengers” next summer. In that movie, he’ll be hanging out with Captain America, a symbol of American patriotism from a simpler era, The Hulk, our fears of nuclear war made flesh, and Iron Man, a weapons manufacturer who also learns that the wise never seek out war but must always be ready for it. The potential is there to assemble a lot more than a bunch of famous comic book characters.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.