I’m wondering where the phrase “Loki apologist” came from and why there are, apparently, only two sides to that debate. Either you erase his complexity and his character arc entirely, or you’re relegated to “apologist” and deemed to have zero moral fabric.
Where’s the “I acknowledge what he’s done, I just don’t care” option?
Because at the end of the day? The morality of a story’s meta will always always mean more to me than the morality of any one character. My morality is not a character’s morality, all I ask is that it makes sense to me in the context of the story.
The same in Once Upon a Time - Regina is hands-down my favorite character, because of that damage and that complexity, and many of the things she’s done make perfect sense in the context of where she came from and why she wanted power. The deeply religious overtones of the series and the anti-adoption message bother me 10,000 times more than a single thing she does, because in the context of the society I live in, religious themes are often used as an oppressive force. Regina’s morality is irrelevant, but the overarching theme of the story relates directly to my daily life in what I see as a very hostile way.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Faith Lehane (and to a lesser extent, Spike) was my favorite character. Faith did some pretty terrible things - she came from a bad place, and she went to an even worse place. She was Buffy’s Shadow Archetype. She killed people (and liked it), she almost raped Xander, she tried to help the Mayor bring about the apocalypse, and for a while she did her best to tear down everything that meant anything to Buffy, all while nourishing a deep, toxic self-loathing.
The thing about Faith, and how she connects to Loki imo, is that she could have been a hero, too. If things had gone just a bit differently, if she hadn’t killed the Mayor’s assistant and found herself in even more trouble, if Giles had been her Watcher instead of Wesley, etc. Yes, she did terrible things, but her narrative was still incredibly interesting and one I was very invested in, because we always knew Buffy was going to win, because Buffy’s the hero. We never knew if Faith would be happy or not, for a long time, it wasn’t obvious if she would crawl out of that pit she dug herself into, and I for one always wanted her to overcome that, one way or another. There were times in the story where she was clearly not overcoming it, but I was drawn to her character by the potential for her to defeat her demons. This didn’t mean I hated Buffy and the Scoobies and wanted Faith and the Mayor to bring about the apocalypse, and it didn’t mean I ignored the things she did - I just didn’t care, because in terms of a story arch about a character that is struggling to find themselves, it just doesn’t matter. In the context of the story, she was still one of the most compelling characters Whedon included.
Which brings me back to MCU Loki (IMO, comics Loki is irrelevant, because you can’t compare the needs of story and character [and the reliance on status quo] to the needs of story and character for cinema, they’re two very different mediums). I don’t deny the story as it’s laid out, I don’t deny the things he’s done, I just look at him as the hero of his own story. (The Avengers characters have their own stories, Fury is the hero of his own story, Maria is the hero of her own story.) The line that bothered me most was “mewling quim”, and that wasn’t because it was just something a character in a movie was saying, it was because I was seeing the perpetuation of misogynist language in a modern movie.
Denying the things he’s done denies an essential part of his arc and his continued development, but denying his complexity or his potential just for the sake of being contrary isn’t any more of a service. It doesn’t matter, because good and evil don’t necessarily matter in fiction. Characters must be looked at as objectively as possible, and are only “good” or “bad” in the context of the story. Does this make me an “apologist”? Just because my parameters and definitions for good and evil in fiction are different? Or because the thing that interests me most as a writer about Loki is the potential for a redemption arc?
This goes for all the characters I’ve talked about here, not just Loki.
However, this debate about “apologetism” has reached the point where all someone has to do is call someone an “apologist” to have their argument immediately discounted to anyone who hates the idea. Anything even slightly sympathetic or nuanced is smacked down under that label, and that’s not discussion. I kind of feel like people naturally do this - meaning even in a completely casual context, put themselves into groups, then sub-groupings, and reinforce a dynamic that encourages hostility between those groups - as if their existence as a group relies on the demonization of the other group. It becomes less about the individual perspective and more about the ideology of the group, which creates hostility and friction between those individuals. Ship wars are another really good example of something that seems to serve no logical function except to reinforce the bond between members of a certain group. This pattern of grouping and hostility? It’s a pattern that repeats throughout culture (and nature, for that matter).
That’s much more disturbing to me than a single damn thing a fictional character does.