Thor: Love and Thunder: Mjölnir and the Worthiness of Jane Foster
Mjölnir has had three people wield its power in the history of the MCU – Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), and now Dr. Jane Foster a.k.a. Mighty Thor (Natalie Portman). In a heartfelt moment during Thor: Love and Thunder, Thor tells Jane that she is what made him worthy to wield Mjölnir again when he was banished to New Mexico in the first Thor movie. However, the film also implies that the hammer only sees Jane as worthy because Thor unintentionally revised the rules of Mjölnir, giving it the power to protect her. Captain America didn’t need anything special for the hammer to see him as worthy – he’s able to wield it without issue in Avengers: Endgame. That same movie also makes a point to show that Thor is still worthy, even when he feels his lowest, by having him bring Mjölnir back from the past briefly. This isn’t to argue that Rogers and Thor weren’t worthy or deserving of that power in these moments, but rather to ask why Jane had to have that extra caveat in order for us to believe she is worthy of the hammer.
When Thor is first banished, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) sends Mjölnir with him as a test. Odin utters the famous phrase “whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor,” before sending them both to the deserts of New Mexico. Throughout Thor, we see the titular God of Thunder struggle to shed his cocky and entitled attitude. He fails in his first attempt to retrieve Mjölnir from S.H.I.E.L.D. custody because he still hasn’t quite had the emotional breakthrough his father was hoping for. It isn’t until he slows down and spends time with Jane that is deemed worthy of wielding his hammer. Since Thor himself tells Jane in Love and Thunder that he credits her with his transformation, shouldn’t she also be able to wield Mjölnir without Thor’s protective spell?
Steve Rogers didn’t need a special clause in Odin’s code to be considered worthy in Endgame. Even though he barely moved the hammer from the coffee table in Avengers: Age of Ultron, we’re expected to trust that everything that Cap has gone through between then and this final stand against Thanos was enough to tip the scales in his favor. And we do, gladly, because Cap has shown time and time again that he is willing to give his life to help others. But the thing is, Jane has also given a lot of her life in the pursuit of helping others. She may not have been frozen in ice for seventy years or be able to stop a helicopter with her bare hands, but her research has clearly made an impact on how much the average person understands the chaotic and magical universe they live in. As shown in Love and Thunder, she won’t hesitate to destroy a copy of her own book if it means that one more person understands how wormholes work.
But it’s not just what she does pre-transformation that should make her worthy. In her (way too short) time as Mighty Thor, Jane proves that her compassion, intelligence, and enthusiasm for the world around her are still her biggest strengths. She continues to use Mjölnir, even though doing so weakens her body and accelerates her cancer, because she wants to help Thor and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) save the children of Asgard. She dives headfirst into her role as Mighty Thor because she knows how important it is to help others, not because she dated an Avenger, but because it’s who she is.
Thor clearly holds Jane in high regard – even after they’ve broken up you can see that he still respects and admires her. Her worthiness is recognized by Thor, and I doubt any of her friends or colleagues would argue against it. But as sweet and romantic as it may seem that Thor’s love was strong enough to rewrite the laws of Mjölnir, this unfortunately puts a patronizing lens on how we view Jane’s worthiness and her transition into Mighty Thor. Instead of letting the hammer be a tool of empowerment that lets Jane take back some agency and control over her life, it diminishes her journey by implying that she needs Thor’s protection.
Avengers: Endgame goes out of its way to show that Thor is still worthy, even after everything he’s been through. When he goes back in time and is still able to call Mjölnir to him, his joy and relief is incredibly meaningful. Thor feels like he is responsible for the fall of Asgard, the loss of his family, and Thanos’ snap, but this moment shows that your heart and your intentions matter more than your actions. He’s worthy because he still cares, even if he tries to act like he doesn’t. It’s an empowering moment for Thor, and he deserves it after everything he’s been through. But in this case, Mjölnir isn’t personified as Thor’s protector – it’s a tool that helps him see his own worth.
While Jane isn’t going through the same crisis of the self as Thor is when she first picks up Mjölnir, she is still dealing with heavy personal stuff. Her cancer isn’t responding to treatments, and she feels stuck. She doesn’t want to be pitied for her sickness, so she only tells a few people about it. Becoming Mighty Thor should be an empowering moment for Jane like reclaiming Mjölnir in Endgame is for Thor. Between helping Thor become worthy again and her own Nobel Prize-nominated work, she has proven that she has qualities that most would consider worthy. Going by Odin’s original code of worthiness for Mjölnir, she should have been able to wield it on her own. Using Mjölnir as a personified protector of Jane rather than solely as a tool for her empowerment is patronizing because it automatically assumes that we wouldn’t believe Jane was worthy without Thor’s spell. It reinforces the idea that women have to jump through extra hoops to be seen as equal to men, even when they are wielding the power of a God. If Dr. Jane Foster was worthy enough to change Thor from entitled brat to worthy hero, and worthy enough to change our understanding of the world, then why wasn’t she worthy enough to wield Mjölnir on her own?