Valkyrie

Bae Watch Wednesday: Valkyrie

Welcome to Bae Watch Wednesday, where I tell you all about the fictional characters you ought to be crushing on. This month I’m hyped for Avengers: Infinity War, so I’m showcasing MCU baes all April. Up this week is my new favorite Asgardian (sorry, Loki): Valkyrie.

Who is Valkyrie?

Valkyrie, also known as Scrapper-142 or Brunnhilde, is a character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She was first introduced in Thor: Ragnarok, though she has a longer history in the comics. Although we haven’t seen a lot of her yet, Valkyrie definitely made an impression on audiences — especially this viewer.

We first meet Scrapper-142 on Sakaar, where she is working as a sort of bounty hunter/slaver for the Grand Master. She finds champions for his gladiatorial games and is a favorite of the Grand Master for her successes. In fact, she was the one who found the Grand Master’s personal favorite champion: the Hulk.

When Thor first lands on Sakaar after fighting against his newly discovered sister, Hela, he doesn’t know what he’s in for. A group of Sakaarans finds him and attack, intending to turn him into food. That’s no problem for Thor; he’s a born fighter and can easily defend himself. Except, in this case, he doesn’t need to.

Scrapper-142 shows up and stops the Sakaarans’ attack because she sees Thor’s potential as a fighter. She easily decimates the competition, but before Thor can thank her for saving his life, she knocks him out and drags him onto her ship. She shows no deference to the prince of Asgard. To her, he is just another piece of garbage that will get her paid.

Later, she turns Thor into the Grand Master and receives a very generous payment. He sees the potential in Thor as well. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Scrapper-142 knows just how to play the vain Grand Master. There’s a reason she’s one of his favorites. She then walks away, leaving Thor to his fate.

Guardian of Asgard

Thor then sees Scrapper-142 at the bar before his big fight and is astonished to learn that she’s an Asgardian like himself. Given her lack of deference and honor, he never would have guessed. He tries to reason with her, explaining that Asgard is in grave danger and he needs to be freed so he can save it. But she won’t budge.

That’s when Thor sees her tattoo and realizes she was once a member of the Valkyries, an all-female warrior troop dedicated to defending Asgard against all enemies. Thor’s thrilled. For one thing, he always wanted to be a Valkyrie, so he’s excited to meet one in person. He’s also hoping to appeal to her past as a way to get her help — but it’s no dice.

We later find out that the Valkyries were assigned to stop Hela from conquering Asgard when her ambition grew too large. Though they fought valiantly, they weren’t really a match for the goddess of death. They were all slain except Brunnhilde, who fell through a wormhole and ended up in Sakaar.

Understandably, Valkyrie’s a little bitter about watching her sisters-in-arms die. She has turned to excessive drinking to cope with her dark past, which she funds by capturing new gladiators for the Grand Master. This also allows her to use her strength and combat skills. She has no interest in going back to Asgard or helping another Asgardian royal fight for the throne.

Although she will not help him defeat Hela, Valkyrie still proves invaluable to Thor’s escape plan. She has a good relationship with Hulk, as they share similar interests of drinking and mass destruction. Thor uses that to his advantage, manipulating Valkyrie into releasing him. She doesn’t actively try to help Thor — but neither does she try to stop him.

A Hero Returned

When Thor escapes, Valkyrie is brought before the Grand Master and tasked with finding him. Loki is also given the challenge, as he is Thor’s brother. They fight to be the one to find him since it would ensure the Grand Master’s favor. During the fight, Loki brings up Valkyrie’s memories of her final battle, shaking her to the core.

It’s this experience that changes Valkyrie. She can move past the tragedy and remember her sisters with fondness and pride. She decides that killing Hela would be satisfying closure, so she will help Thor. Together with Thor and Bruce Banner, who has un-Hulked, they plan to escape Sakaar and return to Asgard.

This presents some amusing scenes. Valkyrie was close with Hulk but has no clue who Bruce is — though they get along smashingly. They both agree that it feels like they know each other, leading to a great reveal when Bruce Hulks out later. Yeah, okay, I ship it.

Our team of heroes makes it back to Asgard, where they must face not only Hela but her army of undead soldiers. Valkyrie redons her uniform and proceeds to decimate the army while looking fabulous. In the end, though, she is unable to stop Hela, even with Thor’s help. It’s not easy to defeat the goddess of death. Thor decides that Ragnarok is the only way to stop her.

The remaining Asgardians flee on a massive ship Loki stole from the Grand Master. They watch their home be destroyed, but at least they are still alive. Thor is crowned the new king of Asgard, with Loki and Valkyrie at his side. They move on to an uncertain future — Infinity War doesn’t look too good for our favorite Asgardians.

Why is Valkyrie Bae?

First of all, have you seen Tessa Thompson?? Talk about GORGEOUS. She’s flawless. Beautiful. Stunning.

The Asgardian get-up also works for her really well. I love how much detail the face paint adds. I mean, Tessa Thompson is gorgeous no matter what (I mean, Jesus, have you seen the video for PYNK?? talk about a queer girl’s dream) but she looks really good as an Asgardian warrior.

Strong Female Character

Normally I hate the term Strong Female Character because it’s such a problematic idea. Strong Female Characters are usually one-dimensional, anti-feminine, and flat. But when done properly, a Strong Female Character can actually be a strong character, fully-developed, interesting, and just so happens to be female. Valkyrie fits that model.

Multi-dimensional is a term that really works. Valkyrie is not just one thing. At first, it seems like she might just fulfill the role of Scrapper-142. She’s a smug, angry, violent drunk. She doesn’t care about anything, she just does what she needs to scrape by. That would have been pretty disappointing, and I’m glad they went another dimension.

Valkyrie’s relationship with Hulk/Bruce Banner really demonstrates this. Sure, she was the one to capture him for the games. But Hulk doesn’t hold it against her. He calls her “Angry Girl” and appreciates that there is someone like him around. Although Bruce is definitely different, he still gets along with and appreciates Valkyrie, demonstrating her multi-faceted appeal.

The biggest thing that makes Valkyrie actually a strong female character is the growth and development that we see. We see her change from a proud warrior to an angry drunk, back to a proud warrior. The glimpse of her past proves that she hasn’t always been Scrapper-142.

But it’s not just that. When we see Valkyrie back in uniform and defending Asgard at the end of the movie, it would be easy to say that they’re just undoing her time as Scrapper-142 and she’s reverting. But little moments show that that’s not true.

She remarks that she plans to keep drinking, for instance. After all, she’s been through a lot. But she has accepted her painful past and can now live a fuller future.

Representation Matters

The MCU is making good strides toward better diversity in their movies, but until recently it’s been a pretty narrow representation. Valkyrie ticks a lot of diversity boxes. But she’s not a token character there to fill some quota. She’s a well-developed character who happens to be a representation of a more realistically diverse world.

There was a lot of uproar at first when Marvel announced that Tessa Thompson would be playing Valkyrie. In the comics, Brunnhilde is a typical Scandinavian: white, blonde. Casting the multi-racial Thompson was seen as “political correctness gone too far” or simply a political move on Marvel’s part.

Whether or not Marvel made a deliberate choice to cast a non-white actress, it’s important that an interesting hero in the MCU is a woman of color. Asgard in the MCU has already shown a diverse population, so why not make Valkyrie non-white? Women of color deserve good representation just as much as any other group.

And note women of color. Most of the heroes we’ve met so far have been male. We’ve had a few offerings here and there: Natasha Romanoff and Wanda Maximoff, in the Avengers, for example. But adding more women helps make the MCU more friendly to marginalized groups. With Valkyrie and Black Panther‘s Dora Milaje, women of color are proving they can kick as much ass as anyone else.

Also worth mentioning is that Valkyrie is bisexual. Although it was cut from the final movie, there was a plan to show that Brunnhilde was in a relationship with another Valkyrie. Although it’s sad the scene was cut, even having Thompson confirm that that’s how it was played is still good representation. Bisexuality doesn’t get great treatment in pop culture, so I’m glad to claim Valkyrie as one of our own.

What’s Not To Love?

I loved Thor: Ragnarok all around. It may very well be my favorite MCU offering. But what stood out the most to me while watching the movie is how great Valkyrie is. She’s a kickass female warrior dealing with a troubled past but still facing each day. She’s multi-dimensional, interesting, conflicted, and not a Strong Female Character. Bisexual and multi-racial is just the icing on the cake.

I don’t know what’s up next for Valkyrie. She’s been spotted on set for Infinity War, so it’s likely she’ll show up. Given that things look grim for Asgard, I don’t know what role she’ll play, but I have my fingers crossed for more awesomeness.

After that, who knows? There may not be any more Thor movies, but Thompson has advocated for an all-female hero MCU movie. How cool would that be?? In the comics, Valkyrie is also a member of the Defenders. I would love to see her interact with my Marvel Netflix faves, and I can see her getting along smashingly (pun intended) with Jessica Jones.

No matter where she goes from here, though, Valkyrie has done the MCU a great service. She has captured audience attention (and my heart). She breathed new life into the Thor franchise. Through Valkyrie, we’ve seen a great example of how well representation can be done. More Valkyrie would be amazing, but what we’ve already gotten has already been fantastic.

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