Let’s just get this out there first: he’s awful.
First off, let’s talk about his politics. We can spend all day picking apart his diplomacy because I doubt Marvel wanted to spend much time justifying their made-up government. I suppose we should extend some credit to him in which his violence is slightly diluted from his father’s genocidal tendencies; at the very least, where Bor intended to destroy the entire race of Dark Elves, Odin at least did not do so for the Frost Giants. Though depowering Jotunheim to their bare bones after the war did as much to promote realm intergalactic peace and healing as the Versailles Treaty did to Germany after WWI, unsurprisingly. Anyway, there’s no denying that Odin has no intentions of any sort of actual peace with Jotunheim because to him, if there is no war, there is peace, but that’s not exactly how black and white international relations are. His extended hand of friendship goes as far as “please ignore the fact that my son just killed several of your men on apparent false claims so we can skedaddle and leave you to clean up his mess.” It’s a wonder, really, how any of the other Realms are not as viciously angry at Odin as Jotunheim is, though considering how very little we see of the other realms, it wouldn’t be a surprise if that truly were the case.
While we are on that, let’s talk about Odin’s racism—blatant, unrepentant racism. It’s easy to see him as not racist because he does not blow up about Frost Giants as Thor did in the past, and he was not quick to seek war when Frost Giants invaded Asgard. But let’s remember that some of the most painful and strongest forms of racism does not have to be loudmouthed. I think many people before me have investigated this—the way that he thought that hiding Loki’s racial heritage from him was a benevolent mercy, that it was something worth hiding and being protected from, how he never bothered to correct Thor in their childhood or even in adulthood when Thor branded them as inferior. And it’s not just an enemy nation that he is racist against, but also mortals. We all remember the goat comment Odin made about Jane. For all his talk about being no better than them when berating Loki, he sure as hell does not walk the walk of the talk he talks.
I’d go on to his hypocrisy and fathering abilities, but while we are still in the conversation of his kingship, we need to think about how he runs Asgard as a whole. We can be critical about Thor’s plan of dealing with the Aether problem, but let’s be real, Odin’s plan was faring no better. Keeping the Aether-possessed girl in Asgard destroyed homes and killed many lives including the queen’s the first time? Maybe we’ll have better luck if we do it again!
Anyway, his fathering: Let’s be real, I used to try to find the good in Odin. ‘of the cold and brokenhearted’ and ‘Syrgja’ have certainly tried to express that view, but now I have been disenchanted and embittered. Let’s skip over the events of Thor 1 and prior to that because we all realise that ‘no loki’ was not tactful in that particular situation by now. I think it’s no mystery that this is a really awful and heartless thing to say to a child no matter what they’ve done:
He’s basically saying, you owe your life to me, the only reason you’re alive and the only reason why you have any family or home was because of me, but you’ve messed up and let me remind you how much you didn’t and shouldn’t deserve it. And the ‘birthright to die’ thing—it’s basically negating any sort of fatherly love that he had tried to imply in the first movie. All that thing about Loki being his son and all that is negated because it’s now saying, you weren’t meant to be my son, you weren’t meant to be loved and cared for by anyone because you were meant to die alone because no one wanted you, and it’s only out of my conditionalmercy that you weren’t left to die. His mercy and his love are purely conditional—if you do what I expect of you, what doesn’t shame me, I will accept you as my son, but if not, you’re on your own, you are no son of mine. Yes, what Loki did on Earth was awful, but to reject a child for it is not what a parent should do. Children aren’t meant to live up to parents’ expectations; parents do not have children only when the children are inconvenient to them. He’s only basing Loki’s worth on what Loki does—Loki takes the wrong turn, slips up, goodbye child.
Not to mention banning his own mum to ever see him again—luckily Frigga didn’t listen to that, at least in loopholes.
This is getting really long, so I’ll stop here. But yeah, tl;dr—I know that Odin was never meant to be Father of the Year and I’m sure we all do but sometimes we just gotta hate
This is a pretty excellent summary of everything I despise about Odin, particularly that last long paragraph. I still sort of prefer to see Odin written as not actually evil but someone who screws up as much as anyone else and has a hard time admitting it, which is still pretty bad and no excuse at all but a little more nuanced than “he’s just evil”. I honestly don’t know why, because I do hate Odin, and I enjoy seeing him presented as an awful person too. I’m actually playing around with this in a few different WIPs—one’s a TDW AU and he’s kind of awful in that, but I’m still trying to be fair to him, and at the end he’s going to realize just how badly he screwed everything up, which is pretty much the only way he can be a decent person. And then in another fic he’s basically just awful.
It’s also kind of funny to me that I think I’ve read only a couple post-TDW fics where Loki and Odin actually reconciled, and it pretty much only happened because Odin knew he was about to die, so I don’t know if anybody can see a way for them to get over “your birthright was to die” etc. and actually still live together.