E.J. Beaton has written a fabulous thing at Tor.com about the appeal of Loki — particular as portrayed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by Tom Hiddleston, and even more particularly as he is depicted in the Disney+ series Loki:
On July 2, 2021, something gloriously purposeful occurred: fans expressed their fervent and untempered admiration for Loki.
Or at least, certain demographics did. “GOD BLESS FEMALE DIRECTORS” stated a now-viral tweet, accompanied by an image of the eponymous character from the Loki series. Kneeling, wearing a collar, and with his hands folded in his lap, Loki appeared to be gazing upward in submission. At my last glance, the post had over 59,000 likes. Multiple commenters referred to the “female gaze” evident in the shot; others referenced sexuality, the specific pose, and a newly “awakened” desire for something different.
But what is about about Hiddleston’s Loki that is so appealing?
It is telling that the other gods insult Loki by calling him “womanish.” (165) His shape-shifting can be read an extension of the alternative masculinity that shapes his powers and skills: by changing into women, animals and other creatures, he avoids the need for physical altercations. While most versions of the myths use “he/him” pronouns for Loki, modern queer readers might refer to his character as genderfluid or non-binary. Loki’s positioning as an ambiguous, border-crossing figure means that both interpretations (and more) are likely to continue–few other characters encompass the breadth of marginalized identity so well as a body-hopping trickster who appears both male and female, human and monstrous, silenced and outspoken.
In the MCU, Loki’s physical alterity and gender-fluidity similarly mark him out as different from the collective of superheroes. Marvel’s Thor and Loki form a binary where Thor is the hyper-masculine standard and Loki the representative of all that is othered: the feminine, the genderfluid, the atypical male, the queer. Given the importance of costumes and appearances in superhero movies and the long tradition of muscular male bodies in the genre, the visual contrast between Thor and Loki holds symbolic power.
I think this begins to get at Loki’s appeal: He presents an alternative view on masculinity that isn’t about machismo or violence or physical strength. (These are the same reasons why, say David Tennant’s and Matt Smith’s Doctor on Doctor Who were so hugely attractive to so many people.)
Do read the whole thing. It’s terrific.