Thor: Ragnarok‘s Hela (Cate Blanchett) is the kind of villain who makes you take pause and watch in the wonder as she conquers all that she wishes without the typical entrapments of being a female villain. She’s not driven by romantic betrayal or softened by the concept of family as if it were a defining factor of being a woman. In fact, all of it is foreign to her, just a bump in the road to what she really wants, domination.
She is powerful, insightful, funny, and calculating in a way that accentuates her unquenchable thirst for power as the goddess of death. She’s all about the conquest and leading her armies to conquer, or if she has to, destroy all those who would oppose her reign. In turn, she is the kind of villain that sets the tone for the future a female villains.
Her time on Thor: Ragnarok isn’t about her getting revenge on her father. This is her being set free, revealing how Odin used her to conquer nine realms before locking her up when her aspirations grew bigger than him and what he wanted for Asgard, and moving forward from it. She had no time to stagnate in Odin’s petty move to conquer a daughter that he raised in his own vision and couldn’t control anymore. Hela had a kingdom to rule and a world to conquer.
If life imitates art, Hela is the embodiment of the woman of the 21st Century. She is unapologetic in what she wants. She isn’t looking for permission for the ambitions that she has. Instead she reveals what Odin did to her as a way of freeing herself from what happened. And maybe this is a leap here, but it feels like what women are doing now with men like Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., and Jeffrey Tambor.
They strip away the facade and make us see for the first time the man beneath the veil of his own making. From that point forward the man is seen in a different light to everyone around him. But the woman, the one that has been hurt by this man, has no time to relive what was done to her. She’s moving on to bigger and better things with the knowledge that others know what this man has done.
If life imitates art, Hela is the embodiment of the woman of the 21st Century.
Hela’s motivations distinguish her more than anything else. She isn’t being driven by revenge, a romance turned sour, or the death of a loved one that left a mark on her. Hela is simply a woman who knows what she wants and will destroy the world to get it. And for many that might feel like it’s simplifying the villain and taking away from many of its complexities.
In reality it gives the writers an opportunity to diversify their writing and look a little deeper when it comes to our female villains. Hela isn’t swayed by having brothers that suddenly are revealed to be her family, neither is she too worried about saving her people. She doesn’t fall into the same trappings that those before her do as female villains do when they are presented with, for example, with familial bonds or that of the young. She is a conqueror.
Furthermore, her sexuality is not used as a means of getting her way. Sure, every move that she makes oozes with a gracefulness that could be confused for the director or writer going for sensuality. But the way that she carries herself has nothing to do sex. This villain moves like she is a hundred percent sure of the power she holds inside. It’s self-assurance and an understanding within her that she can take these men and women down with the flick of a blade from her hand.
And if a villain, a female villain at that, does not use her sexuality to get what she wants, is not driven by revenge, then writers and directors have to get a little bit more creative in exploring what drives a woman to do what she does. Not even because she’s a woman, but because she’s a being with motives that she carries within her and that it is the writer’s job to accentuate so us as viewers can understand why she wants to reign over as many realms as she wants.
Thor: Ragnarok is in theaters now. Check out ticket info HERE.