Let’s start out with some music, shall we? Push play and then keep reading.
Hello! Hi. Yeah, over here. No no… way too far to your right. Bring it back. There we go. I’m the innocuous tall dude carrying the periodical sized plain brown paper bag filled with what some of the more austere and traditional among you undoubtedly assumed was porn. Yeah… it’s not. It’s comic books.
I went a little Whedon crazy.
Go figure. Anyway, yes, that’s me… I’m the one saying hello to you.
A few weeks back, there was an utterly awesome article about the social value, worth, and importance of the “Superhero Movie” that was written by actor Tom Hiddleston (Loki). http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2012/apr/19/avengers-assemble-tom-hiddleston-superhero (link’d). In it, he discusses not only the fact that these films (and by extension, their gloss-printed universes) develop, maintain, and explore a unique modern mythology but he also goes on to state that said mythology, with its world of the Fantastic and the seemingly impossible, is used as a lens to explore our individuality in a way that one dare not do. It is a fantastic article and if you have not already read it or clicked it, I’m not quite sure what is wrong with you :P.
As a college student and particularly an English major, one encounters an automatic resistance when it is uncovered that one enjoys “the pulps” or “genre fiction.” Oddly enough, the term Pulp used to be used in an almost derogatory manner to refer to the “low brow” literature such as science fiction and fantasy because it referred to the low quality of the paper said works were printed on. To be a comic book fanboy in a world obsessed with Jane Austen is difficult, to say the least, and garners you very little respect from the people educating you as they (like all humans) make snap judgments based on small fragments. Hell, I even had an experience in my American Lit of the 1900s class where a girl was so impressed I drew from Divine Comedy in an effort to draw in other influential sources that her comment of agreement was started with, “I never would have guessed that YOU would even be familiar with Dante…” (I read The Divine Comedy when I was in 7th grade and finished it when I was in 8th grade). My peers all seemed blown away that the dude who sits there and reads either a car magazine or a comic book happens to hold Shakespeare among his top writers.
(I feel like the memes/pictures/gifs is going to turn into me DJing your reading experience… and that’s OK)
See, I’ve come out as a great many things in my life: a gear-head, a science fiction fan, an actor, a gay man, and now I’m coming out and saying that I still day dream about saving the world. It’s who I am and it’s something that is considered something we all leave behind when we’re done growing up. Not me. And it goes FAR deeper than just “Iron Man is cool and I want to BE him.”
Like Tom Hiddleston was saying, we can use superhero movies as a way of directly looking into a reflection of ourselves that we may not ever feel comfortable staring directly at. They’re like wearing those special sunglasses during an eclipse… except these are made by Oakley and look completely bitchin’. THIS is why I like superheros. This is why I want to be one. Because when the dust settles at the end of the second act and their lives are ripped asunder, we realize that they really are just like us.
So recently there was this big fucking meltdown of a fight in my life. It SUCKED. I caused a lot of it and it’s still not quite better. For the past little while, I’ve been staring my humanity in its face… and I don’t think I’m the only one involved with this meltdown that’s been doing that. I’m a big movie buff though and I always have faith in the Good-guys (no matter HOW much I bitch and say that it is anticlimactic that they always win… and even though I have a penchant for killing off one unexpectedly, we NEED the good guys to win). That faith in the Good-Guys has kept me going a bit, even though I can liken this meltdown to the end of Act II in Avengers. SPOILERS! The Hulk had just smashed the living shit out of EVERYTHING before running off, Loki had escaped, Thor was tumbling towards the ground at 128 mph and having a bitch of a time escaping from the case he was in, an Avenger, probably the most genuine and least flawed one, had given his life in an attempt to stop Loki… and he had given the rest of them something to fight for… something to Avenge.
In the moments after all of those events, we saw these heroes as truly “lost creatures” or rather, as humans. We saw how THEY dealt with loss, with fear, with anxiety, and with even being unable to accept who they were… and we knew what was coming next. The Good Guys always win. Even when Steve Rogers had nobody left to lead, even when all of Tony Stark’s genius or money or general awesomness became meaningless… we knew that the next 45 minutes were going to be unbelievably amazing. The reason we got that feeling of goosebumps tickling our spine? Because we saw a piece of ourselves in these characters. We saw some glimmer of the trials we face and knew that, in this world and this mythology, that made us one step closer to being Iron Man or Thor or Captain America or Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, Nick Fury, or even Agent Coulston. And we knew what we would do if we were them.
Sadly enough, in real life it is actually not that often that the Good-Guys win. Look at Enron or any war or hell, even election season and try and tell me that there’s a true “Good-Guy/Gal” who even makes it… it’s hard to do (though not impossible). We live in a time of sociocultural, scientific, and economic upheaval. We live in a time where all of us feel we have to “come out” about something that makes us black sheep whether it be sexuality, nerdiness, a past we haven’t dealt with, our fears of our future, who we are, or really that on the inside, we aren’t the person we project to the world. The list goes on and on and on but the fact is that we feel we need to admit this one big part of us and that it soon becomes a defining part. The Hulk is Bruce Banner but how many people who aren’t comic book fans could remember him as anything more than The Hulk? Who we are on the inside and what we feel culturally compelled to come out about is only one tiny filament in the rope-fiber of our being. Sometimes, we get so encompassed by social pressures that we finally explode and smash everything around us. Sometimes, we even blindly punch our friend.
We all get those “Act II Finale – everything’s gone to hell” moments. What I have to step back and remember is that there’s still a third act… and in this metaphoric reflection of life through the lens of a superhero movie, I’m still one of the Avengers (though probably nobody in the film… leaning toward Deadpool for his short stint with them) and by god I’m gonna save this fucking world… even if I have to give up everything. THAT is how I know things in my personal life AND things under the larger scope of human culture WILL BE GOOD AGAIN. It may be awkward, unsettling, upsetting, or difficult now but they won’t be that way forever because I won’t let them. And if you believe for one second that I don’t have that “power” to make things right, well… I have several comic books to lend you that you could use a few hours escaping into.
To quote Nathan Fillion: “Never in my wildest. Like some sort of super-team benefactor, Joss made superheroes out of all of us complete with a super-hideout spaceship. During filming, we’d all retreat into our dressing room trailers and emerge like supermen with our alter egos. The boots, the suspenders, the gun holstered low on my hip… with a flick and a spin of that wicked awesome coat, over my shoulders, I became someone else… To become a superhero, all you have to do is want it badly enough…”
Now you go and find me something out there that allows you to take THAT INTROSPECTIVE a look at your own life and instills you with hope, faith, and strength as you prod away at personal raw nerves and fears and does so with such ease and grace while all the while still being entertaining. ANYBODY who ever tries to tell me that there’s no substance to the literature, pulp, and genre fiction, comics, movies, and TV that I love so much needs to sit down with this man and an open mind:
The man who understands the Human in the Hero and the Hero in the Human. Joss Whedon.
So you ask me how I think everything is going to be Okay… Well… I’ve got something to tell you that you should sit down for… oh shit… backing music…
There we go… just push play and turn up the volume a bit for this last part. So there’s something I gotta tell you… “I know that it’s confusing. It is one thing to question the official story and another thing entirely to make wild accusations or insinuate that I’m a superhero… I’m just not the hero type, clearly, with this laundry list of character defects and mistakes I’ve made (largely public). Truth is… I am Iron Man.” I am Justin Plasket. I am a Superhero. So fuck this shit dudes, and dudettes. Let’s fly and furthermore, let’s save this world, our world, together.