An Open Letter to Marvel Studios

This post contains spoilers about the movie Thor: The Dark World.

Dear Marvel Studios,

You guys are pretty brilliant. You have taken some of the most well-loved characters of all time and carefully planned and executed a wonderful series of movies. The geeks and nerds of the world thank you.

There is, however, one thing I am upset about.

You need to kill someone permanently.

As much as viewers are relieved that their favorite character or villain has not been lost forever, I think we all feel cheated in some ways.

When we watch a character die, it is like watching a friend die. This person we have cried for, cheered for, and believed in is taken away from us.

But while a character’s reappearance initially causes relief, other emotions soon follow.

The point of death in art and stories is to help us understand death as it happens in real life. It is painful, confusing, and terrible. It illicits the most powerful and frustrating emotions we as humans are capable of experiencing.

When a character is “resurrected”, all the emotional impact from his or her death is lost. Yes, the feelings and reactions were real, but the impact and significance for the story disappears. The character was no longer sacrificed or done away with. They were put in a box and set aside.

Also, the return of dead characters creates the expectation that no one will truly die. Viewers are not afraid for their characters safety or upset at their passing because they think, “Oh, he’s not really dead. We’ll see him in the third act.”

Lest you think I dislike all of Marvel’s on-screen deaths, let me tell you about one I loved. The death of Frigga was beautifully written and executed. Not only was her funeral scene visually stunning and emotionally gut-wrenching, it created an emotional catalyst to move the story’s plot forward in a direction it could not have gone without Frigga’s death.

Death is one of the things in life we must come to grips with and understand even though we must often go through hell to get there. Stories can help us but not if they show us a clean cut or unrealistic version of death.

I realize killing characters is not good for business, but I think it is time that death has the final say.

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In years past, I have written lists about lessons I have learned throughout the year. Today, on my twenty-fourth birthday, I feel all the lessons I have learned have been focused around one central theme.

This has been an interesting year for me. There has been a lot of uncertainty and frustration. At times, I think have handled myself well and acted like an adult. Other times, I have responded like an annoyed teenager or a child.

But what I have come to realize is that both responses are perfectly alright–even normal.

How we respond to the the events in our life is what defines the human experience. We may not like the feelings and emotions we have, but they are what they are and they are real. I should not be upset or mad at myself for responding as a human being would since that it was I am.

There are a couple of lines from  Taylor Swift’s song “22” that capture this idea. The first pre-chorus says, “We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. It’s miserable and magical.” The second pre-chorus changes just slightly: “We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely in the best way. It’s miserable and magical.” Happiness, freedom, confusion, and loneliness can be experienced in different ways and somehow still be miserable and magical at the same time.

The things we experience are not happy or sad, good or bad, beautiful or ugly. They are a strange, mystery combination of great sorrow and unspeakable joy, devastating lows and miserable lows, and enlightened understanding and complete confusion.

As I write this, I have been awake since four in the morning, and am frustrated about the long day ahead of me. I hope and pray by writing these words, I remind myself that I do in some way understand that each and every moment of my life has purpose even–or perhaps especially–when I cannot make sense of it.

___________________

*emphasis in Taylor Swift’s song lyrics added by the author.