Laurits/Loki as a queer character in Netflix’s Ragnarok

[Note: this was originally published on February 1st 2020 on my tumblr]

Spoilers for season one of Netflix’s show Ragnarok!

I binged the first season of the Netflix show Ragnarok yesterday, and felt compelled to write something about it. This is somewhat hastely written, so I apologise if the arguments are not as well thought out as they could be, but I wanted to write something. So here we go:

In the Netflix show Ragnarok we meet the two brothers Magne and Laurits as they move to the Norwegian town of Edda with their mother (Ragnarok 2020a). The audience and the characters soon realise that this town is not quite normal, and something mysterious is afoot… It becomes clear that Magne has been bestowed with some sort of magical powers and has been put in the role of Thor in the battle between Norse gods and giants. However, it is less clear what role Laurits is supposed to play. In this text I will claim that he is the Loki to Magne’s Thor, and that is especially interesting in regards to the queerness of his character.  

So, first of all, why do I think Laurits is Loki? I think the first point that should be made here is his and Magne’s physical descriptions.

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Here we see Laurits sitting furthest to the left, with a green jacket, and Magne sitting to the right of him (with blue jeans and a red t-shirt). Magne and Laurits very much look like how one would imagine Thor and Loki, especially a contemporary audience who has seen the Marvel version of them:

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But even beyond Laurits’ looks and brotherly relation to the Thor character, there are parallels between Loki and Laurits. There is his slightly deceptive and trickster like nature, such as when he plays pranks on Magne (for instance by messing up his essay for class when he was supposed to look over the spelling) (Ragnarok 2020a, 22 min). Then there’s also his affinity with the Jutul family, who are actually giants (the name seems to be a play on the old Norse word for giants, jǫtunn). The Loki of Norse myth is often associated with giants as well and might be giant or half-giant (Hume 2019). In the series it is also hinted at several times that Laurits has some sort of magical connection to the giants, for instance at the school dance (Ragnarok 2002b, 31 min). It is also hinted at that the father of the Jutul family, Vidar, has had an affair with Laurits’ mother Turid previously (for example: Ragnarok 2002b, 11:30 min). This makes me wonder if Laurits’ parents are in fact Turid and Vidar, making him half giant… If that is the case, he would have a sort of double cultural heritage, that of humans and that of giants.

Another cultural aspect that is interesting to look at is the parallels between the Loki of myth and the culture of the indigenous Sámi people in northern Scandinavia and Russia (Laidoner 2012). For one, the land of the giants seems to somewhat resemble the description of the Sámi peoples land, in regards to geographical location (north, on the borderlands). Similar to how Sámi was (and are) seen as “other” by Scandinavian people, so were the jǫtunn seen by the æsir (the gods). Laidoner also sees parallels between Loki and historical Sámi shamanism (noadi). She writes:

Loki’s potential links to the cultural world of the Sámi might perhaps first and foremost lie in his combination of being both a jǫtunn and (possibly) an áss and the fact that he seems to lack a home and a clear cultural background (…). This certainly makes him a very untrustworthy outsider among the æsir who, irrespective of the fact that their own ancestry goes back to the jǫtnar, frequently show hostility towards them. Loki’s jǫtunn background, and the possible connection between the Sámi and the jǫtnar whose headquarters seem to have been placed in an area that corresponded to the Sámi territories, allow us to place the focus of the following discussion on Loki’s potential affiliation with Sámi culture, where ideas of symbolic soul travels, cosmic oppositions and ambiguity seem to form a natural part of human existence, something most clearly reflected in the noaidi-tradition. It is difficult to overlook the fact that many dualistic ideas of the same kind are also embodied in the Loki figure. Besides being borderline jǫtunn and áss, a curious relic of Loki’s possible connection to the Sámi-world can perhaps be found in his everpresent duality. This duality is shown in several contrasting qualities, such as existing in both male and female form and being a father and a mother, representing aspects of both good and evil (to the extent that such clear distinctions existed in pre-Christian times), being a causer and resolver of problems, a thief and a bringer of valuable objects, all of which again seems to be in accordance with the functions of a noaidi. (Laidoner 2012, 69)

So, as we can see, Loki crosses borders between both cultures and genders, and both of these aspects make him seem untrustworthy. We can also see a parallel here to how indigenous people have been seen and are seen still today. Now, to return to Laurits, we can see some of these aspects here. Laurits move between different worlds, from the luxury of the Jutuls and the popular kids at school, to his rather less glamorous home-life. As I mentioned above, I also think there’s a possibility of him being half Jutul. But he also most definitely plays with gender borders.

I have previously written on this blog about characters moving between genders, for instance regarding Varys in ASOIAF/GoT and Alex in the “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard” series by Rick Riordan. As mentioned in the latter text, in that story Loki is presented as genderfluid for similar reasons as I outlined above with his changing of sex/gender. In the analysis of Varys, I wrote about how he was perceived as a transgressor of both borders of gender and ethnicity, with being a eunuch from “the East”. (I there relied on texts about the historical eunuchs in for instance Ancient Greece (Llewyn-Jones 2002; Nikoloutsos 2008)). Similar to what Laidoner writes about Loki, one can see that the fluidity of Varys is connected to his movement between different gender expressions as well as cultures. Here I want to briefly touch on some more theoretical background that might be useful when understanding the crossing of borders with gender and ethnicity. Emma Bond writes about the experiences of trans people who also crosses borders of nations, and how they are seen as transgressors in double ways (2018, 71). She further writes that those who permanently inhabit this liminal space between borders, this site is often experienced as a place of alienation and violence (2018, 97). So, throughout these different examples we can see that people who cross borders of gender and ethnicity are seen as suspicious, and perhaps doubly queer (in the sense of non-conformity to norms of sex/gender/sexuality, which is of course also bound up with norms of ethnicity).

In the show, Laurits is seen crossing gender borders several times. One clear example is during the school dance, where he shows up with eyeliner, skinny jeans, and his mother’s old shirt (Ragnarok 2020b, 22:30 min). At the same dance it becomes clear that he has somewhat of a crush on the popular boy Fjor Jotul (who might be his half-brother if my theory is correct… but I’m also not sure if the Jutul family is actually related in the way they claim…) (Ragnarok 2020b, 24:36 min). This is of course also a break with gender norms, that dictate that men should be attracted to women. Then in the last episode of season one Laurits shows up to the school’s celebration of the national day dressed as the school’s headmistress Ran Jutul to mock and criticise her (Ragnarok 2020c, 31:40 min). Here he cross-dresses, perhaps in a similar way as the mythological Loki has done at times. He also plays the role of the trickster very well. Throughout the season it has been somewhat unclear on whose side he is on, but here at the end he helps the “good guys” (mainly his brother), but of course in a mocking manner. This illuminates the dualistic nature of Loki that Laidoner describes (2012).

Overall, Laurits can be seen as portraying several aspects of Loki. He is a trickster, but also a somewhat fluid character in regards to his heritage/culture and gender/sexuality. He moves between different spaces, inhabiting the liminal space between borders of good/evil, feminine/masculine, etc. This portrayal of a queer character is very interesting, and I hope in the event that the show is renewed for a second season it will explore this further. I should however mention the risk of showing a queer character as a deceiver, this could of course play into stereotypes about queer and/or trans characters. This is something that I write about in the previously mentioned text about Alex from the Magnus Chase novels. But I also think this can be portrayed well and interestingly if the audience is shown a contrast between how Laurits is perceived and who he is. A similar element was most definitely present with Magne in season one. So overall, this portrayal of a queer Laurits/Loki is quite interesting and promising.

References

Bond, Emma. 2018. Writing Migration through the Body. Springer: Cham

Hume, Kathryn. 2019. “Loki and Odin: Old Gods Repurposed by Neil Gaiman, A. S. Byatt, and Klas Östergren.” Studies in the Novel, (51)2: 237-308.

Laidoner, Triin. “The Flying Noaidi of the North: Sámi Tradition Reflected in the Figure Loki Laufeyjarson in Old Norse Mythology.” Scripta Islandica 63 (2012): 59–91.

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. 2002. “Eunuchs and the royal harem in Achaemenid Persia (559-331 BC)”, in Eunuchs in antiquity and beyond, ed. Tougher, Shaun, 19-50. Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales.

Nikoloutsos, Konstantinos P. 2008. ”The Alexander Bromance: Male Desire and Gender Fluidity in Oliver Stone’s Historical Epic.” Helios, (35)2: 223-251

Ragnarok. 2020a. New Boy. [TV-show] Netflix, 31st of January.

Ragnarok. 2020b. 541 Meters. [TV-show] Netflix, 31st of January.

Ragnarok. 2020c. Yes, we love this country. [TV-show] Netflix, 31st of January.

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