Hulk and Thor, the raging and smoldering fire of the MCU do not have too many opportunities to share their feelings as they tend to be used as the “final solution” to many of the problems facing the people of earth and realms beyond.
And yet, one such heartfelt moment is worth paying attention to. In Thor: Ragnarok, the two of them are stranded on a foreign world for the universe’s forgotten people and things known as Sakaar. They are both prisoners and do not have a clear way to get to their respective homes, which only Thor is really making any attempt to figure out.
It is ultimately the first time we have seen Hulk, in his emerald-colored enraged state, not prioritize smashing things. Instead, he helps a friend to name his own feelings. Let’s take a look at the scene that starts off with “Thor Sad.”
Hulk HITS Thor, bullying him into opening up.
Thor hops up, YELLS in Hulk’s face. Paces around.
I’m not sad, you idiot. I’m pissed
off! Angry. I lost my father. I
lost my hammer.
THUD! THUD! He turns to see Hulk punching his pillow.
Hulk stops. Stares.
Whining and crying. Cry like baby.
You’re not even listening.
Thor KICKS a random helmet.
Don’t kick stuff.
You’re being a really bad friend.
You bad friend!
You know what we call you?
We call you the stupid Avenger.
BLUE DRAFT 05/20/16 65.
You’re tiny Avenger!
Hulk throws a shield that nearly decapitates Thor.
What, are you crazy?
You know what? Earth does hate you.
Hulk gets sad. Wanders over to his bed to mope.
Thor realizes he went to far. Joins Hulk on the bed.
I’m sorry I said those things.
You’re not the stupid Avenger.
Nobody calls you the stupid
You just can’t go around throwing
shields at people. Could have
I know. I’m sorry. I just get so
angry all the time. Hulk always,
I know. We’re the same, you and I.
We’re just a couple of hot-headed
The strangest part of this scene is that Hulk is the one that is making sense, while Thor is the one who is overcome with anger. Hulk rightly identifies Thor’s sadness and his overly infantile attempts to deal with it. He is complaining about his fathers death, rather than feeling the pain of it. He throws things and lashes out at Hulk with insults that target the insecurities that both of them feel.
They speak the truth of what many men feel, in saying that they are “always, always angry.” It is the one emotion that they share in this moment, the one that they both understand. And they are using it to hurt one another emotionally, rather than physically, as they both miss one another with weapons and shields.
But, it is the sadness that needs to be addressed, the thing that will set them both free. Later, when the Hulk sees the face of Black Widow, the closest thing he has to an emotional connection in the MCU, asking for his help, he starts the process of letting go of the anger and once again assuming the form of Dr. Bruce Banner. The emotional connection to her, and to himself, is what helps him to access his true self.
For Thor, who does not have such a physical tell for his emotional connection, he starts the process of letting go of his anger by apologizing to his friend. He recognizes that, in fact, he was being the bad friend, the one who was lashing out when Hulk was merely trying to help.
Sadness is a strong emotion that we all feel. It is no use trying to deny it, getting angry at it, or trying to protect ourselves from it (even if we have access to an invincible alter ego that has free reign to smash things at will). The only way to move forward is to process it, ideally with the help of our caring friends who will understand if we need to let off steam by throwing things or even if we choose to lash out even as they are trying to help. And the whole process starts by saying out loud, “Thor Sad,” (but, instead of Thor, we should probably use our names instead). If we do not do this, it is likely we will continue to prove Thor right in his assessment of men as “hot headed fools.”