Edmund and Edgar, Loki and Thor

“Well then, / Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land. / Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund / As to th’ legitimate… Edmund the base / Shall top the legitimate. I grow, I prosper”(I.ii.17-22).

“To prove to Father that I am a worthy son! When he wakes, I will have saved his life, I will have destroyed that race of monsters, and I will be true heir to the throne!”(Branagh, 1:35:48-1:35:59).

In Thor (2011), Thor is set to take the throne in Asgard in place of his father. However, when Thor is accused of inciting conflict with the Frost Giants, he is banished to Earth, and his brother Loki becomes the crown prince in his place. As the movie continues, it becomes clear that Loki sabotaged his brother in hopes of becoming their father’s true heir. It is also revealed that Loki is not actually an Asgardian, and is instead an abandoned Frost Giant whom Odin adopted. When Loki discovers this, he recalls all of the times that it has been obvious that his father loved Thor more than him. His feelings of jealousy and greed result in him actively working to dethrone his brother and steal his place.

This directly parallels the relationship between Edmund and Edgar in King Lear. Edmund, like Loki, is the bastard child and was always inherently loved less by his father. And, like Loki, Edmund conspires against his brother in hopes of regaining what he feels his brother has stolen from him. As Loki claims his brother’s throne, Edmund claims his brother’s land.

Edgar, like Thor, must quickly adopt a new role in order to stay alive. Thor must adapt to life on Earth, a harsh change from his life as royalty on Asgard. Edgar must assimilate to life as a beggar, or a “Poor Tom” – a severe downgrade from his previous role as nobility in England. And in their respective stories, Edgar and Thor represent goodness, righteousness, and strong core values, contrasted sharply with their brothers who represent greed, resentment, and more.

Personally, I doubt these similarities were unintentional. Kenneth Branagh, director of Thor, is a dedicated fan of Shakespeare – he has even directed and starred in some of his own adaptations of Shakespeare’s famous works. Tom Hiddleston, the actor who portrayed Loki, also has strong roots in Shakespearean theater. With this in mind, it is fascinating to see how two characters in a Marvel superhero movie can so directly parallel these two Shakespearean characters.

“Line Without a Hook”

The Song I chose is “Line Without a Hook” by Ricky Montgomery, released as part of his first album, Montgomery Ricky. This song reflects on an intimate and passionate relationship he had with a woman, and the responsibility he feels for their relationship failing.

Montgomery’s clearest use of poetic language is when he claims “I broke all my bones that day I found you / Crying at the lake”. He expands on the classic metaphor of a broken heart, feeling his emotions so strongly that he hyperbolically “broke all [his] bones” when he saw his lover experiencing sadness. After hearing this lyrics, it brings clarity to a phrase he uses earlier in the song. Montgomery, in the opening, says “I can feel all my bones coming back / And I’m craving motion”. By using this same set of words, Montgomery can indicate how his perspective is changing – in the past, Montgomery has felt the emotions of his lover even stronger than she has felt them herself. But now, as their relationship is struggling, he no longer has so much empathy for her.

Montgomery clearly feels that he is an inherently deeper and more emotional person than his lover; at one point, he claims that “You’re a pond and I’m an ocean”. He metaphorical equates both himself and his lover with bodies of water to compare the depth of both of their emotions. But although he views himself as more emotionally available, he clearly thinks of his lover as being out of his league. In the bridge of the song, he exclaims that “‘She’s a, she’s a lady, and I am just a boy'”. He feels that he cannot be everything that she needs – a lady needs a man. However, emotionally, she cannot be what he needs – an ocean and a pond are incompatible.

This use of poetic, multidimensional language makes their incompatibility clear, while it also makes the song more emotional. As I listener, I know very little about their relationship; in fact, Montgomery says very little about anything they have been through together. But his poetic use of figurative language makes it clear even to me, a teenager who has never shared these experiences, how Montgomery feels about his relationship and his lover.

Otherness

How do we define the “other”? Is it by the color of their skin, the language they speak, the place that they call home? Or is it by the stories that they share, the experiences they’ve had, who they are?

In Exit West, Mohsin Hamid takes the stance that we are all the “other”. On page 197, he states that “nativeness [is] a relative matter”, yet on page 209 he confirms that “we are all migrants through time.” It is hard to see the way in which one can hold both of these beliefs, but Hamid does so.

Because the “other”, like nativeness, is relative. There is no “us”. Every person is alone in one way or another. We are all migrants, so none of us are. We can relate to one another because of the shared groups that we cannot relate to.

There is no mutual recognition when it comes to the “other”. This is because we only become ourselves when the “other” becomes part of “us”. We find ourselves through the people we are grouped with, not the people we are pitted against. And in a world where everybody is a migrant, we can, at any point, be grouped with those people that were once the “other” to “us”.

Does Love Exist?

Love is a social construct. It exists to distract us from the absurdity of life, from the pain and suffering that we truly live through each day. It is a curtain over our eyes that covers up the truth, that life is miserable.

Who cares?

Why not be happy? Why not spend your life looking for your other half? If life is absurd anyway, why not act irrationally and continue to seek out love? The question of if love exists or is just a social construct is meaningless. We still feel the same longing for love either way. We still feel attraction and heartbreak. So why not look for love?

On Authorial Intent and Mutual Recognition

Recently, I have been re-watching the Harry Potter series. I re-read the books last year, for the first time since I was in early middle school. But I have found myself hesitant to endorse this series that I love because of the comments of J.K. Rowling, the author of the books.

Over the years, she has made many claims about the books. Following the publication of the last book in the series, she announced that Albus Dumbledore had been gay all along. At one point, she claimed that she had envisioned Hermione Granger, one of the main characters, as a black girl. But these announcements came post facto, and were therefore far too late.

By introducing these ideas after the characters had been solidified in the public’s mind, J.K. Rowling robbed these characters of mutual recognition. These supposedly central parts of characters identities had been hidden for years. How could we mutually recognize characters for traits that had never been expressed? By withholding the information that she claimed to have known all along, Rowling’s pathetic attempts at inclusivity fall short.

No young black girl is reading Harry Potter and relating to Hermione because of her struggles with racism or colorism. No closeted teens are watching these movies and seeing one of the main heroes of the story be LGBTQ+ like them. If the people she now tries to include can’t recognize their struggles in these stories, is she really including them at all?

Autonomy and Power in “Escape from Spiderhead”

Spiderhead, as an establishment, is inherently about power. Abnesti tries to make himself seem like a hero, like he is working towards a greater public good. When he explains to Jeff the new drug they are developing, he talks about the ability to stop wars, help people find love, etc. But it is clear that it is not these results that he necessarily cares about, but rather the control that this gives him. He tells Jeff, “‘No longer, in terms of emotional controllability, are we ships adrift. No one is. We see a ship adrift, we climb aboard, install a rudder'”(58).

In this way, he admits that it is power, rather than conflict resolution, that they are actually after. This is reinforced in the way that Spiderhead functions – with Abnesti and Verlaine in control of all of the prisoners at Spiderhead. This power dynamic is recognized by the prisoners trapped in Spiderhead. The use of the word “acknowledge” implies that there is no real choice for these prisoners. When Jeff begins resisting the commands of Abnesti and Verlaine, they have systems in place to ensure his compliance. The prisoners at Spiderhead lose autonomy as a punishment for their crimes. Upon first read, Spiderhead seems very different from any prison we, as readers, are familiar with. But one has to wonder: is that really the case? Or is the power struggle and lack of autonomy as described here a part of our prison systems?