No Escape AFK Blog #2: What Does God of War’s Thor Really Do For Fatness Representation?

Kaile Hultner
6 min readOct 21, 2021

Santa Monica Studios recently announced some of the secondary characters in God of War: Ragnarok. Prominent on the list is Thor, Norse god of thunder, sacred trees and groves, fertility, and hallowing. He’s a no-brainer choice for a series like God of War, but the way he’s portrayed is a bit different than other modern (superheroic) interpretations of the character. Rather than being a musclebound beefcake buff boy like Disney’s Marvel’s Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is, God of War Thor is fat.

When I first saw this, I thought, “oh shit, rad.” When put in conversation with that other Thor performance especially, instead portraying a big belly beef boy Thor also seems like a no-brainer (and something a little closer to realistic for the kind of god Thor is described as being). Considering this Thor is much closer to my body type than Chris Hemsworth’s is (even with that god-awful fat suit he put on in Endgame), my first thoughts were about how cool it was to see a strong, powerful, confident, FAT Thor in a piece of popular media.

But I’ve been sitting with that thought for a minute. It seemed like too easy a take to make. Something’s been bugging me about it.

Now to be clear, I’m not trying to shit on this version of Thor. I think he should exist, absolutely. I AM happy he exists, considering the typical way fatness is displayed in games and other popular media (to say nothing of that fucking fat suit in Endgame, god dammit I’m still so mad about that) — if fatness isn’t played up for laughs it’s played up for cheap scares, most of the time. Having any character who elides those common traits is a positive thing.

The problem I’m having with this thought is that not all fat is created equal. Showing off a fat cisgender, presumably heterosexual white dude’s body in a positive, even aspirational light in a video game is good in a narrow, “representation for representation’s sake” sense, but outside of fat cishet white dudes, who does this portrayal serve? I can’t really think of a good answer to that.

Not all fat is created equal. Race, gender, sexual orientation all effect and are effected by fatness. In Da’Shaun L. Harrison’s book Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness, they demonstrate repeatedly how the medical establishment has, for centuries, pathologized and medicalized Black bodies, including (and especially) along weight lines.

“For anti-Blackness and anti-fatness to be legitimate subjugating and objectifying structures, their existence had to be predicated on a Thing unobtainable by Black fat subjects,” Harrison writes. “That Thing is health. In other words, to legitimize race, sex, and class statuses, health had a job to do. That job was to ensure that the Black — which is, too, the fat — was always fixed to be something that Black fat subjects could not be.”

During Hurricane Katrina, Harrison pointed out on Twitter a few months ago, doctors forcibly euthanized several hospital patients, including Black fat patients, because they were allegedly too tricky to move. That fact in itself is horrifying, but it is by far not the only instance of horrific actions taken at the intersection of weight and race, to say nothing of gender and sexuality.

When it comes to gender and fatness, especially trans healthcare, weight plays a significant role in the gatekeeping of transition care, whether medical or surgical. For fat cis women, serious medical issues are too often ignored or misconstrued as merely a symptom of their fatness. While this is acknowledged by the medical community as a stigmatizing approach to healthcare, this article from 2015 flat out says right up front that “Recent US Preventive Services Task Force guidelines recommend screening adults for obesity and offering behavioural interventions to those with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 kg m−2.” If I might wax anecdotal for a bit, I had a coworker who was considerably fat, and actively trying to access care that could help him lose weight, if the procedure was done; he was prevented from getting that care for three years because the procedure required him to lose the weight he was having trouble losing in the fucking first place.

Harrison: “Fatness and health, like race, are also double agents. They are all used to tell Black fat people who and what they are, but they are also used to tell white people who they should not want to become. When they fail to model that, it can be deadly for them too. Not in the same way as it is for the Black, but deadly as a result of even unintentionally aligning oneself with what exists as the obverse of whiteness.”

So again: who does Fat Thor, a fictional god-character in a video game, serve in this case? What good does his representation do for us?

Health isn’t the only facet of fatness worth looking at. There’s also the social facet of fatness and how it relates along gender, sexuality and desire/ability lines. Right away as Fat Thor was unveiled to the world, people were rushing to his defense with pictures of powerlifters and World’s Strongest Man competitors, big burly dudes in their own right but none of which I’d call “classically fat,” not like Thor’s depiction. The idea is well-intentioned — show other “large” bodies in positions of strength and power — but ultimately I think this harms fat folks more than simply letting the big guy speak for himself in-game and letting gamers die mad about it. And the reason I say this is because trying to connect Fat Thor to powerlifters and tire-throwers and car-pullers, etc. unintentionally draws a line between acceptable and unacceptable fatness. It’s fine if you’re a little, uh, chubby as long as you’ve got a super muscular core! Don’t worry about that icky flab, we know you’ve got MUSCLES underneath!

Like when I think about Big people in queer spaces, I am drawn to think of bear culture specifically first. Bears are cute, of course, but they’re not fat. They’re closer to a powerlifter than Fat Thor by a wide margin, and then there’s also the classic gay dating profile line of “no fats no femmes” to think about. True fatness is implicitly not allowed in much of the queer community, not in our depiction or in reality. If fat people are let in, it’s because of some “redeeming” quality, something to latch onto “in spite of” fatness.

The way we talk about fat women is similar, especially fat celebrity women. We scrutinize their bodies for the first sign of weight loss while putting up vapid posts about how much they “inspire” us for having the “bravery” to be fat in public. Then, if/when they do lose weight, we explode with effusive praise, “Oh my GOD, look at how amazing she looks! I-I mean, she’s always looked amazing, so BRAVE, but NOW she’s STUNNING!” Look ay what happened when a skinnier Adele showed herself off in a photo shoot for the first time in years.

Does Fat Thor serve anyone? Largely, no. He doesn’t serve fat people of color, fat trans or nonbinary people (especially not fat trans men), nor fat cis women; he isn’t meant to be an avatar for anyone other than fat, white, cishet men — arguably the group least considerably effected by fatness. So what does his inclusion in a video game matter? In terms of being marginally better than fat-as-comedy-or-tragedy-or-horror, it matters, I guess. It’s complicated. It’s better than no fat representation at all. But that bar’s so low we had to dig out a basement for it to live in.



Kaile Hultner

No Escape: Video Game Criticism in an Age of Conflict