If you haven’t seen the “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” episode of Black Mirror (S5E3), then the next few paragraphs contain vague spoilers.
“Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” was the story of a pop star straining against being turned into a commodity. Except a whole ton of technology has to be involved in this, because it’s Black Mirror. One of these high-tech commodities was a robot toy named Ashley Too, which holds conversations, sings and dances to Ashley O songs, and spouts a bunch of inspirational pre-recorded phrases. Basically, a way for superfans to have their own little personal Ashleys.
When Ashley stopped voluntarily producing, she was put into a coma by her manager, leaving behind a consciousness uploaded into a ton of mass-produced machines, and a bunch of songs translated from brainwaves and carefully filtered through some chirpy demon vocaloid.
Because, apparently, going full Zechariah Sitchin but then putting in a firewall (or something?) was more cost-effective.
An adoring fan and her sister hacked her toy robot, basically liberated that digitized consciousness, liberated the real Ashley, exposed the evil manager, and everyone lived happily ever after except, sorta, for Rachel.
Wikipedia has a far more thorough synopsis.
When I was watching this episode, I thought a lot about the conversations I and another friend would have every time the typical weirdness would go down in a Lokean group we helped moderate. Or, tried to moderate. We were undermined a lot.
A theme we would hit upon fairly regularly was that we seemed to be dealing with a very different Loki than a lot of the more outspoken types were.
The Loki described in many of these posts was very one-dimensional. Suspiciously convenient in how annoying, or involved, or loving or helpful he was. Always available, always clearly recognizable, flawless visuals and audio, always somehow exactly what the poster wanted. Everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.
Yes, even when they’re getting pranked or driven up the wall, because people derive gratification from the aesthetics of hardship.
Our pet theory was that, assuming it was an external entity and not just their imaginations, these people were dealing with a very well-fed thought form. Ashley Too was a dumbed-down product that provided access to a beloved figure like Ashley O, without any of the threats involved in genuine interaction like incompatibility, rejection or pesky little boundaries. These people were talking about a Loki Too, basically.
Irrespective of whether people were interacting with some kind of egregore, or if they were all simply allowing their imaginations to align, they related to Loki as an instrument to get their needs met. He’s commodified. He’s a sanitized product with all the rough edges sanded off, and simplified to this lazy idea of some red-headed iron woobie, who likes to relentlessly prank everyone and endlessly tolerate being blamed for it, because trickster.
That’s not how it works. And even the trickster label is an oversimplification. They get pigeonholed as villains, or “chaos,” or whatever is most convenient for the audience at that particular moment. Every so often I will come across very simplistic assumptions based on Loki being variable. “He’s whatever he needs to be,” and “well, he’s a shapeshifter,” may be true. But they also miss the point entirely when we are talking about people projecting their own desires onto a god.
Which happens a lot.
But, why did it so often happen that whatever Loki allegedly needed to be somehow lined up so perfectly with what people, very obviously reaching out for attention, needed him to be? How does someone like Loki become a cosmic vending machine that you can just endlessly take from, without any regard for reciprocation, or compensation, or autonomy? How does Loki become a product for consumption?
I don’t think it’s coincidence that literal products based on the gods have been rather popular for the past eight years, and Loki just so happened to have a spike in popularity that fits in that timeline.
Not every Lokean is in this for Hiddles. Obviously. But we can’t pretend like these two things don’t have a definite correlation, and probably a causative correlation. And quite frankly, if people lack the discernment skills to tell the difference between “Marvel is involved” (what I am saying) and “you’re not a real Heathen” (what I’m not saying), then I’m no longer interested in their bruised egos.
The simple fact is that the suits and desk-jockeys at Marvel headquarters are not your friends.
They do not care about you, or your gods, or your practice, or your dreams, or your amusing anecdotes, or your UPG. They want your money.
They want your fics and your fanart and your fandom fights and your Marvel Loki figurines on your shrine, because they’re free advertising. They profit off of your emotional responses and your defensiveness.
When we allow our gods to be simplified and packaged for sale, we are allowing them to be forgotten as fully-formed personalities. We allow them to be stripped of their individualities, their complexities, and our ability to think of them as entire entities. We allow our gods to disappear into a list of attributes and correspondences and listicles of the top five most fucked up incidents in Norse Mythology.
We allow our gods to become objects.