Ragnarok and Roles Are Here To Stay

Ragnarok Is Here To Stay

(Soundtrack: Cruisin’ 1961)

Tim O’Neil has an interesting post up about the most recent “end of Thor”, in which he praises the work’s creators for their admirable mercy-killing… Do I even have to tell you what I think of his position?

Well, I’m going to anyway!

Tim–you are death-drivin’ me crazy!

All of this talk about “dying with dignity”, “the grandeur of cosmic devastation”, “true swan songs”, and the general “inferiority” of life as an open-ended project reads like an ad for hara kiri.

Tim is “longing for catastrophes” in the worst way. But that’s the thing. The longing is as close as you can ever get to the catastrophe! No one can experience their own death. And no story can ever end. The dream of finality is pure wish. And we all know that “truth” begins where wishes leave off.

Tim makes an interesting excursion into the “recurring nightmare” of Ragnarok in Thor through the decades. But he derives a very strange lesson from his musings. Implicit in everything he writes on these matters is the idea that the “first time” you have a nightmare is the scariest instance of it. Is that how it is with you Tim? With me it’s the reverse. Everything hits me harder when I think to myself “oh no, it’s happening again“…

Okay, fine, so we’re no longer talking about Thor now, are we? Well, sure we are! We’re talking about everything all of the time! J.W. Hastings seems to disapprove of this! And he is certainly right to place me on the side of “interpretation” in any fight against “immersion”–characteristically, my true involvement with art begins when I “replay” it in my head, not while I’m “experiencing” it… He is NOT right, however, when he places me in the camp of the “decoders”!!!! See my post on “subtext” for what I think of this type of critic… My position on texts is not that they exist to be explicated, but rather that they (and me and you and the lamppost) defy explication!!! Which doesn’t mean we can’t talk about them! In fact, talking about them in as detailed a fashion as possible is my definition of appreciation. What else could appreciation be?

Put it this way–I’ve never gotten so “lost” in a text that I didn’t want to share it with anyone! The more I like something, the more I want to discuss it–we don’t have feelings about anything until we attempt to articulate them. The proof is in the pudding, as they say…and the “pudding” is what we say! Intersubjectivity fuels all thought/affect…

When I fell in love with Mulholland Dr. recently, that love manifested itself in the various ways I began thinking about expressing my appreciation of the film to certain people that I know! You can’t keep these feelings bottled up, because, in a very real sense, they don’t exist until you pop the cork!

So yeah, back to Thor… I will certainly grant Tim his argument that goldilocks is the “odd concept out” in the Marvel Universe. He’s right about the uniqueness (again, in the context of this corporate universe) of Ragnarok as an apocalyptic horizon too. But my interest is not in the exceptional aspects of the title, but in the editorial efforts that were made in order to bring it more into line with the world of “dynamic stasis”. Don Blake, obviously. Being “immortal” is not good enough. For Marvel’s purposes, you have to be a mortal (with flaws!) that doesn’t age. Enter the gimpy M.D. (and, obviously, there is a MAJOR debt here to Captain Marvel/Billy Batson). Anyone can be Thor, and, as Simonson later showed us, Thor can be anyone (even a frog)! And it still won’t make quotidian life any easier!

So the thunder god becomes just another superheroic identity. A role to be played in a neverending cosmic battle. A sort of “spring break” from this mortal coil. What’s that you say? Ragnarok IS an ending. Well, yes and no. After all, if there’s someone left to say “the end”, then it isn’t really THE END, is it? Conversely, if there were no survivors, then the whole point of an end becomes mute. Humans both fear and crave endings. Remove humans, and you remove finality itself.

What Tim O’Neil craves are not “endings” but eulogies. I prefer the elegiac, thank you. We don’t progress toward an end. We begin too late. It is this belatedness that makes us long for catastrophes–i.e. when “time collapses”, we will, at long last, get a chance to experience our own origins (they used to call this “God”). For a certain type of person, (and for all of us, at certain times in our lives!) this can seem like a very attractive alternative to life on the treadmill! And yet, it’s all wish-fulfillment (unless you actually believe in an ideal realm that is “outside of time”)… Paradoxically, our most “cosmic” ideas are the pettiest constructs of the human imagination–in the sense that they have the least to do with the immense problem of intersubjectivity. Life/consciousness is inherently fragmented (it’s a break-up). An end is always singular. Sufficient unto itself. “The end”. Never “the ends”. Comforting, isn’t it? That’s why we make so damned many of them!

Good evenin’ friends!



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