In the weeks since I saw Thor 2 I encountered two Frigga related things that stuck with me. One: my daughter realized that her two favorite event movie characters — Spock and Thor — shared something really sad in common. “Mommy,” she said, “Thor’s mommy died just like Spock’s mommy.”
I’m not sure what’s more depressing, that her two heroes’ mothers were written out of the story to provide motivational grief or that my eight year old noticed.
Two: this post: Why is there not a FRIGGA LIVES movement?
And that’s when I realized Frigga and Coulson have as much in common as Frigga and Amanda.
1. They are significant supporting characters. Coulson has the most accumulated screentime but the least personal connection to the main characters so their impact to the storyline may be considered equal.
2. They are maternal. Frigga and Amanda are literally the main characters’ mothers. But if the Avengers are a family Nick Fury is the Dad and Phil Coulson is the Mom.
3. They are murdered by the villain. Amanda dies with most of Vulcan when Nero attacks. Frigga dies with a fleet of Asgardian warriors when Malekith attacks. Coulson dies with unnamed SHIELD operatives when Loki’s trap is sprung.
4. They are grieved by men. Amanda by Spock and Sarek, Frigga by Thor and Loki, Coulson by Tony and Steve. While I am certain women grieved each of them we do not witness it. Uhura’s grief is for Spock, not his mother. Same with Jane. Coulson’s cellist doesn’t even have a name. We get glimpses of Sif and Natasha looking sad but the impetus of their grief is vague. In the films as written the deaths impact Spock, Thor and Loki, and Tony Stark the most.
5. Their deaths inspire teamwork. Spock is emotionally compromised by his mother’s death which leads to him kicking Kirk off the ship which leads to Kirk meeting the other Spock which leads to the ragtag Enterprise crew working together toward one purpose. And when Spock returns to the Bridge to complete their team he specifically mentions his mother.
Coulson’s death convinces Tony and Steve to rangle the rest of the misfit supers and go save the day. When Tony introduces the idea of the Avengers to Loki he specifically mentions Coulson.
And Frigga’s death inspires Thor to gather his friends and break his brother out of jail to stop Malekith’s eternal darkness. Thor and Loki specifically mention Frigga as motivation.
These three character had very similar roles in their stories. They are little more than a means to an end that they have no active role in. They are plot points. They are “fridged”. Frigga is arguably the most fully realized of the three. Amanda tells Spock she is proud of him and falls off a rock. Her husband doesn’t even admit how important she is until after she’s dead. And we learn more about Coulson’s life from Pepper’s background lines as they enter the elevator than we do in every other appearance he makes on screen. Frigga is shown making her own choices: to speak with Loki, to protect Jane. And it is clear she taught Loki to cast and to fight. All of that still relates to her sons rather than herself, but it is more than Amanda gets to do. Frigga is also the only one who gets an onscreen funeral.
Now, what happened after their stories?
In Amanda’s reality both Spock and Kirk have come back from the dead, but her function really was served at her death. There is no good reason to bring Amanda back, that would be more of a mess than a win.
Frigga, however, is part of a mythology that includes resurrection and souls body-hopping and a comic book reality where death is incredibly fluid. Every one of the MCU Avengers’s comic book equivalent has died and returned — so I can accept Coulson’s rebirth as a story point. It doesn’t bother me that #CoulsonLives. It bothers me that #FriggaLives will never be more than a fleeting hashtag. These two characters are so alike and share such a similar purpose but Coulson is considered worth revisiting and Frigga is not.
In screentime and in characterization Frigga’s role is larger and more impactful in the second film. She drives the action almost as much as Malekith does. She gets to be seen as a warrior and a sorcerer. When she dies the kingdom stops to send her away with honor. But none of this has to do with Frigga. Not even the ceremony, funerals are not for the dead but for those left behind.
It feels like a trick, like one of Loki’s or Frigga’s illusions. A pretty story about a mature maternal female character who is clever and brave and makes the ultimate sacrifice. It’s a very pretty picture but it has no substance. What’s most important, in the end, is that she died. And given that, she can’t come back. It would negate her purpose.
I wish Frigga’s life weighed more than her death. And I’ll be honest, I wish she was at the helm of Agents of SHIELD. In my head it is a far superior show.