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Opinion

Phyleology: Why I Love Loki

How The Trickster continues to woo audiences


By now you’ve probably seen the new trailer for “Thor: The Dark World” — if not, what are you waiting for? It seems like an Aesir lifetime since the first trailer was released, and I (and all my friends) have been chomping at the BiFrost for another teaser.

At last, our wish has been granted! And in more ways than one, as the new trailer gives us exactly what we’d hoped for but not dared to expect: much more Loki. It seems that the marketing execs have realized they need to capitalize on the rabid fanbase for Thor’s mischief-loving foster brother, and have decided to deliver in grand fashion.

It’s a very wise move on their part, as hordes of Loki-lovers will attest.

But why, you may ask, do people love Loki so? After all, isn’t he the man who tried to kill Thor and Odin, who wreaked havoc on New York City, who brought bodily and psychological harm to our beloved Avengers? Isn’t he the alien invader who threatened to subjugate Earth under his tyranny? Didn’t he kill Coulson?

Sure, but the secret to Loki’s appeal lies in one of the most masterful strokes of casting in recent years, and by extension in the wonderfully layered and vulnerable performance delivered by Tom Hiddleston in the Trickster’s role. As an actor, Hiddleston is very expressive and conveys a lot of that “inner turmoil” stuff that makes villains (and anti-heroes) appealing to so many. He is also a performer who has expounded in many interviews about his perception of Loki as under-loved, unappreciated, and one who feels like an outcast. It’s the backstory many fans are ready and willing to buy into and, for those of us who watch these films and read the comics through the Norse-mythology tinted glasses of Odin’s terrible parenting, the only interpretation that makes sense.

In Hiddleston’s Loki, Marvel has found itself both blessed and cursed; on the one hand, they have an enormously popular character who will bring viewers into the theater on his own merits and up the box-office ante and pre-release buzz for the project(s) with which he is associated. On the other hand, they have a character who has risen to such popularity that they are faced with the dilemma of trying to include him in more projects that perhaps he is a natural fit for lest they forfeit potential viewers.

I can’t be the only one who was a bit disappointed that the villain for Avengers 2 isn’t Thanos, and solely on the basis that a Thanos-centric storyline should have guaranteed at least a little Loki to tie up those pesky “nothing so sweet as pain” threats following his failure to deliver the goods in the last film. Forget the fact that Avengers 2, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, works better if they delay Thanos for a couple of films; I want my Laufeyson!

To harken back to another comics-based project I used to follow, Loki’s popularity is an example of what I call the “Smallville Lex Effect.” When you have a complex villain, and you couple that with a charismatic and talented leading actor who sparks that intangible “something” with the fan base, and then you surround him with characters/authority figures/fathers that beg for rebellion … well, it’s pretty natural that the character will resonate with audiences.

We all live in a world filled with unjust authority figures (fill in Odin and even Fury for this discussion), and the few annoying co-workers and family members who seem to skate through life on the laurels of high-school or college based on popularity (Thor, and the Warriors Three, as far as Loki is concerned). Who wouldn’t want a chance to deliver a little comeuppance?

And don’t even get me started on the hypocrisy of Asgard! Loki isn’t an “honorable” warrior because he lies, and uses magics and trickery? Hmm … last time I checked Odin wielded Gungnir (pretty damn magical); Thor’s war-hammer isn’t exactly enchantment-free, and I’m pretty sure there were more than a handful of folks in the “let’s lie about Loki’s parentage for his entire life” camp.

Plus, as a friend (and fellow columnist) remarked regarding Loki’s attempt at subjugation in Avengers: “Loki went about that the wrong way; he should have just told everyone he was offering a dental and vision plan, and they would have lined up to serve him.” Though said humorously, there is much truth in his words. Good health benefits? Freedom from having to manage a mortgage, car payment and work-life balance? A bitchin’ Asgardian wardrobe of leather and metal? Sign me up, Lord Loki!

So while Loki isn’t a character we’re supposed to love, for these reasons and so many more, he’s a character I just can’t hate. It’s a stance I’ll defend staunchly, and good-spiritedly, probably while wearing a Loki Charms T-shirt, or carrying an “I <3 Loki” sign.

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