Racist Backlash Didn’t Impact Huge Box Office Weekend For ‘Thor: Ragnorak’

Adrienne Samuels Gibbs
Written by Adrienne Samuels Gibbs

When Marvel and Walt Disney announced that Tessa Thompson would portray Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnorak, a lot of people cheered. And a vocal minority didn’t.

Thompson, who is of multiracial heritage, was cast to portray a character that was originally written as a white woman. Some Thor enthusiasts were quite upset, taking to social media and saying that character would never do well as a non-white woman and the movie would suffer. Welp. They were wrong. Really wrong.

Thor: Ragnorak opened to a remarkable $109 million international box office and, on the Friday of its U.S. debut, hauled in $47 million domestically (with an additional $14.5 million on Thursday) plus a $44 million haul on Saturday. With early estimates of a $122 million domestic weekend box office, the numbers clearly show that America, and the world, weren’t that upset by director Taika Waititi’s inclusive vision for the series reboot.

Prior to the U.S. debut, Thompson spoke to BET about the racist overtones of some of the criticism facing her in this role. While she acknowledged that superfans have very high expectations for their favorite characters, she was largely unbothered by other people – who might not even be fans at all – sitting in a “basement” talking smack about her role.

Thor: Ragnorak
Tessa Thompson arrives at the world premiere of “Thor: Ragnarok” at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Rather the hardest part of this, she says, was “wanting to capture the spirit of the character and wanting to do the fight choreography.”

The Creed and Westworld actor also discussed the impact of diversity in film.

“I never in a million years grew up thinking that I would be or could be in a superhero movie. I think it’s important for us culturally to be able to see who we can be. What we can be. For me to get to do that and to have a young girl as a result have a more expansive idea of who or what she can be? That’s exciting for me.”


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About Adrienne Samuels Gibbs
I'm a Pulitzer-nominated, independent journalist, and I love reporting on arts and culture. TV, music and movies are my jam. You've seen my byline as a staff reporter at The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald and The Chicago Sun-Times. I'm the former senior editor of Ebony magazine. Recent stories have appeared in Chicago, Marie Claire, Pitchfork and Vice. Follow me on Twitter: @adriennewrites. Story tip? Head to www.adriennewrites.com and contact me there