Frigga’s Day

Fanmade poster of Thor 2 featuring Frigga

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?

I have actually seen a few #FriggaLives tags but only when I was looking for Frigga posts. It’s not a movement. It’s fans like me who don’t want to let go. But Coulson was the same, wasn’t he?

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?

Amanda

Frigga

Coulson

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.

  • Frigga’s death served another purpose not mentioned here, which I think is VERY important to the second film, so I just wanted to touch on it briefly:

    *SPOILERS*

    Frigga’s death shifts and crystallizes Odin’s character into the Mad King, unwilling to hear reason in pursuit of vengeance. Without Frigga’s death to make Odin dig in his heels on the subject of taking the fight to the Dark Elves, Thor has no oppositional force to push back against and devise his own plan to save Jane and Asgard. Thor would not have needed to team up with Loki to sneak out of Asgard at all, and Loki would have remained rotting in his cell while Thor and the Warriors Three took care of business. The way it was written, the entire plot of the rest of the movie hinges on Odin being a stubborn mule in his grief over his wife’s death.

    For the record though, if Loki can live, there is no reason why Frigga shouldn’t have been able to survive too. Not to mention the fact that Asgard has super advanced technology, and Asgardians regenerate faster than humans — there is absolutely no excuse, given all those point, why a sword to the stomach had to be a mortal wound. And I wonder if all the same things couldn’t have been accomplished just as easily with her severe injury in the service of guarding Jane. Odin could have blamed Jane and Thor for what happened, put them both on lock-down, and refused to listen to Thor’s plan because “look where letting you do what you think is right has gotten us! Your mother might die and hundreds of lives were lost because your girlfriend can’t keep her hands to herself and you can’t think beyond your own infatuation!”
    etc.

    Anyway. Yes. #FriggaLives!!!!

  • You know, reading this post I realized that as much as I hate fridging, when a mother dies in fiction my reaction sort of “Welp, that’s that.” I can be unhappy about it – and I certainly was when Frigga died – but my instinct is never to undo it the way it was to undo Coulson’s. (And then fandom got obsessed with it and it was super annoying, but bygones.) My first thought when Coulson died was “What are the ways he could have survived?” I never think that for a mother – and I think that’s because we have no narrative scripts for maternal resurrection. I’m hard pressed to think of any stories where a mother dies and comes back. (Exception: The Mummy Returns, which is part of why that franchise is so great. But I digress.)

    Anyway, this post is excellent and I’m going to do some serious thinking about why I never question the finality of maternal death in fiction. Because it’s bullshit, especially in a text based on comics.

  • Menshevik

    @Jess
    Stories in which a mother is resurrected are rare, that is true. At first blush I can only think of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale as an approximation in world literature.
    In Greek myths you have Semele, who died when she saw her lover Zeus in his true form. Her son Dionysos brought her back from Hades when he grew up and took her to Olympus where she was granted immortality (and got the new name Thyone).
    Semele’s sister Ino was struck with madness as a divine punishment and committed suiced by leaping into the sea, however instead of dying she and her son Melikertes were transformed into the sea deities Leucothea and Palaimon, who help the shipwrecked (Leucothea appears in that role in the Odyssey).
    Frigga is of course not just a mother, but also a wife, and there are a few myths where wives are brought back from death. It did not quite work out in the case of Orpheus’ wife Eurydice, but the revival of Alcestis (either through the grace of the queen of the dead, Persephone, or through the intervention of Heracles) was.

  • Menshevik

    In the comics, I forgot to mention, Mystique (mother of Nightcrawler, adoptive mother of Rogue) has come back from apparent death a number of times, but as she is a villain that is not so surprising. Her late life-partner Destiny (Rogue’s other mommy) was brought back from the dead during NecroshaX, but sadly only temporarily (she did have a lovely farewell scene with Rogue in the process, though).

  • They absolutely can and should bring Frigga back, and funeral or no, it would no more negate her point in the story of Thor 2 than Coulson coming back in his own series negated the plotline of the Avengers. In fact, it would make more sense in many ways than with Coulson. Not only are Asgardians tougher and better healers, but right before her ‘death’, we’re reminded that she’s the one who taught Loki magic and illusion, and before the end of the movie, we learn just how much she had to teach. Surely, anything the student can do, the master can do better… and that applies to cunning plans as well, methinks. And think how much more interesting her relationship with her boys would be once she came back…

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