I recently saw a viral Facebook post that you might have seen as well, and it was about Loki, the trickster of Norse mythology.
Loki was a popular character in Viking lore but has recently gone through a renaissance as a Marvel character. He was first introduced to the Marvel comics in Journey into Mystery #85 (published in October of 1962), and made waves on the silver screen in Thor (2011) thanks to an outstanding performance by Tom Hiddleston.
If you’re like me, you’re eagerly awaiting the new canonical MCU series Loki, which was announced at the end of 2018 and has been experiencing a stuttered production schedule ever since. We don’t know much about how Loki will be in his new series, but we can guess he’s certainly going to be toned down a lot for Disney audiences. (Let’s not forget that Tony Stark, the guy who was trading girls with Ghostface Killah in Iron Man 2, washes dishes by hand in Endgame, which is outrageous, since the Tony Stark we know would definitely build a Kill Bot to eliminate dirty dishes with a vengeance under normal circumstances.)
Saying that Loki is “canonically” bisexual is a bit like that line in Rick James’s song Superfreak, in which Rick James says that the “very kinky girl, the kind you don’t bring home to Mother,” has “got incense, wine, and candles; It’s such a freaky scene.”
Listen, Rick James, I hate to break it to you, but “incense, wine, and candles” isn’t especially freaky. In fact it sounds like a pretty nice night between a stable, happily married couple who is celebrating a minor victory, such as successfully putting together an Ikea cupboard.
Loki isn’t simply “bisexual” any more than wine and candles are “freaky.” The truth is, he generally defies LGBTQ labeling at all. He’s all of the letters and, in order to save time, it might be better just to give him his own symbol. (An exclamation point, perhaps.)
Part of Loki’s difficult-to-define identity is due to the fact that Loki, in both Norse mythology and Marvel mythology, is a shape-shifter. In Viking lore, he was typically referred to with masculine pronouns, but that didn’t stop him from occasionally taking on a female form. Loki is genderfluid in the most literal sense of the word. And his various relationships have spanned not merely men and women, but also giants, and horses, and really anyone who was DTF. (“Can’t host, but will turn into a bird if that’s your thing.”)
In order to understand just how much Disney is going to “tone down” Loki, it’s a good idea to examine just how wild Loki is from a historical perspective.
Here are a few stories exemplifying Loki’s outrageously liberated sexual history. He’s freakier even than incense, wine, and candles.
LOKI’S GENDER AND RELATIONSHIPS GO BOTH WAYS
It might surprise you to discover that Loki is, in fact, married. He and his wife, Sigyn, have at least one son, Narfi.
Loki also fathered three sons by the giantess Angrboda: a snake, a wolf, and a half-dead girl straight out of The Ring. These children were named Jörmungandr, Fenrir, and Hel (yes, the same Hel who is Loki’s sister in the MCU).
You might wonder why in Valhalla his kids are not humanoid (minus Hel), since Loki himself is human-esque. (He’s jötunn on his father’s side and áss on his mother’s. Áss is singular for Aesir; go ahead and chuckle. Loki would want you to.) As far as we know, the Vikings never addressed this, but I suspect magical shapeshifting shenanigans were afoot.
Loki loved to use his shapeshifting powers in the pursuit of mischief, in particular sexual mischief. Like that time he turned into a mare in heat to lure away a builder’s horse, Svaðilfari. The short version of this story is, Loki had gotten the Asgardians to agree to a very iffy contract and, to avoid getting in trouble, Loki decided to cause the builder to breach the contract so they wouldn’t have to pay him. (Loki is very practical like that.) Luring the builder’s magical horse away was simple enough. But Loki apparently “exhausted” him and, after disappearing for a while, returned to Asgard having foaled a son, Sleipnir. Sleipnir’s most curious feature is that he has eight legs. Why two horses produced a spider-horse is anyone’s guess, but the point of this story is that Loki has bounced back and forth between both fatherhood and motherhood, and has a stableful of partners (sorry, couldn’t resist) who span various genders themselves.
LOKI’S NON-CONFORMING, GENDER-BENDING EXPLOITS
Loki’s ability to be male, female, both, neither, and anything in between doesn’t mean he bothers to actually conform to said genders.
For example, in one of the very most popular ancient Nordic poems, Þrymskviða, Loki hatches a brilliant plan to retrieve Thor’s stolen hammer from a giant by dressing him up as a bride. (The giant wanted to marry Freyja before he’d return the hammer.) Clearly delighted at the prospect of getting Thor into drag, Loki volunteers to go as Thor’s handmaid, and together, they doll themselves up and attend a wedding feast. Predictably, Thor does a terrible job of pretending to be a lady, eating an entire ox and eight salmon at the wedding feast, which Loki casually explains away. (Thor blows their cover a number of times with total ineptitude, and Loki keeps fixing things. An ancient, historical example of why all barbarian classes need a bard sidekick.) At the end, Thor retrieves Mjölnir and crashes his own wedding feast (still dressed as a bride), presumably while Loki laughs his head off in the background.
Considering Loki is a shape-shifter, there was absolutely zero reason for him to insist on dressing up Thor as Freyja, but clearly, when faced with a potentially world-ending crisis, Loki felt that the best method to handle the situation was a drag comedy. (And, hey, he’s not wrong.)
LOKI IS A HILARIOUS PERVERT
Loki being pansexual, poly, and genderfluid is all second to Loki’s real identity, which is that he is a very freaky girl (sometimes), the kind you wouldn’t bring home to Mother.
We saved the best mythological story for last: the marriage of Njord and Skadi. As these tales typically do, it begins with Loki being Loki and kidnapping Iðunn for the frost-giant Thjazi, and then, because he’s a double-crosser and hates getting into actual trouble with the gods, kidnaps her back by turning her into a nut and carrying her off in his mouth as a bird. You know, typical Loki stuff.
In the midst of his shenanigans, Thjazi gets killed, and his furious daughter demands that the Aesir make it up to her. The reparations she demands are actually adorable: she wants a husband and she also would like to laugh again. But none of the gods are apparently very funny.
Then in steps Loki. (You know, the “hilarious” guy who was directly responsible for the killing of her father in the first place.)
Demanding a rope and goat, Loki proceeds to drop trou’, tie one end of the rope to his genitals, the other to the goat’s beard, and play tug-of-war with it.
It got the job done, but it’s also fairly weird that Loki’s go-to plan involved masochistic exhibitionism.
LOKI IN MARVEL COMICS
Neither Marvel comics nor Marvel movies have mentioned Loki’s weird tug-of-war party trick (unless that’s what Iron Man meant in Avengers when he called Loki “Reindeer Games”), but in the comics, Loki’s gender and sexuality remain fairly true to Norse mythology in that they are completely fluid.
In fact, in Avengers: Disassembled, Ragnarok ends with the gods seeking refuge on Earth, at which point Loki cheerfully takes the (female) form meant for Sif. Dubbed “Lady Loki,” this isn’t Loki’s first jaunt as an attractive woman; he’s also shape-shifted into Scarlet Witch in the past. This is weird when you consider that Sif is Thor’s lover; it’s unclear whether or not Loki is doing this to mess with Thor, mess with Sif, and/or just because he would like to be a pretty lady now.
(Loki’s jealousy toward Sif harkens back to Nordic myth, when, in one instance, Loki snuck into her bedroom to cut off all her hair just for the lulz.) (This isn’t the first or last time Loki sneaks into someone’s bedroom, either; when he discovers Freya cheating on Odin, he immediately tattles on her and is sent to fetch evidence. Transforming into a flea, he bites her face to make her roll over, and steals away a necklace she is wearing as a token of her affair. It seems rather weird that Loki, of all people, would expose someone else’s affair, considering how often he runs off on Sigyn.)
PHASE FOUR PREDICTIONS
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS
Loki is set to premiere on Disney+ sometime in early 2021, as part of Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first season of the series will have only six episodes, and as much as we desperately hope one of them will involve goat-on-a-rope, we aren’t holding our breaths.
Rumors of his bisexuality have been “confirmed” by an unnamed industry insider, according to various sources such as Pride, Pink News, and Inside the Magic, but more excitedly, we might get to see Loki’s gender fluidity if the series chooses to incorporate Lady Loki. We have reason to believe they might. An on-set photo of Sophia Di Martino posted to Reddit’s MarvelStudiosSpoilers forum by user Csparkles123 compares her get-up to Tom Hiddleston’s, and it seems like Loki might just try on both his male and female forms in the series. The leather outfit with the gold band on the front is the same as the one Loki is wearing when he escapes from Endgame with the Tesseract.
Sophia Di Martino’s role in the Loki series has not yet been revealed, so of course, it’s possible that Lady Loki is a “different” Loki, in another timeline or multiverse, and not the same Loki. (Richard E. Grant is credited as “Classic Loki,” which hints at multiple Lokis.) But it would be entirely in-character for Loki to adopt a female form, something he’s been doing for over a millennium already.
And it would also be pretty Disney of Disney to make Loki bisexuality somehow be heteronormative, with Loki going after men in his female form and women in his male form. (No word yet on how goats or horses will fit in.)
Disney hasn’t always been fantastic at representation but, in adopting Loki, they plunged themselves into the deep end. And while they might have to “tone him down” from the goat-wrestling mess he was a thousand years ago, letting Loki blur gender and sexuality lines is a step in the right direction. Loki has long refused to confine himself to a single gender or sexuality, so why should Disney?
Loki premieres on Disney+ in early 2021. And until then, happy Transgender Awareness Week. However you identify, Loki approves of you just the way you are.