The One Thing I Might Have in Common with Spiderman

I went to see The Amazing Spider-Man on Friday night. I wasn’t sure what to expect; I was actually surprised that they were even making another one. Fortunately, it was awesome (go see it!). In this interpretation, in which “cross-species genetics,”  emphasizes the wondrous and horrific possibilities of science, you feel the familiar chills and thrills as you watch a shy but smart young man transform into a superhero. And you get to stare at Andrew Garfield for two hours and sixteen minutes.

I’ve never actually read the Spider-Man comics, or for that matter, any comics about superheroes. Also, the violence that is generally part of action movies makes me dizzy. I cringe throughout the climax, as the beloved protagonist becomes covered in blood, bruises, and burns. Yet when I watch the scene in which Peter is too angry and resentful to help stop the robber, and that robber ends up killing Uncle Ben,  I feel like my heart is literally being wrenched out of my chest. I can only imagine how Peter is struggling to live with his remorse.  And then there are lighter moments, like when he can barely ask Gwen Stacey on a date: how can anyone who has ever had a crush on anyone else not relate to him? In the darkness of the theater, I was totally grinning from ear to ear (and blushing) as he stuttered and shrugged his way through the most awkward and adorable asking-out ever. The moments like this, in which we witness a character’s vulnerabilities,  are perhaps more meaningful than the moments in which they save the world. One could argue that their superpowers make them who they are; it is what sets them apart from the rest of the population. However, it is their vulnerabilities that dictate how they will choose to use their power. Peter is first motivated by vengeance, then by moral responsibility. But as Spiderman, he can’t bring Uncle Ben back, nor can he always protect everyone he loves. His helplessness is a reminder that he isn’t so different from us after all.

In the previous film, the memorable line from Uncle Ben that the audience and Peter are left to ponder is “With great power comes great responsibility.” In this version, I left the theater thinking about something that happened in the last scene, words from Peter’s English teacher. She says how her English teacher taught her that there were ten plots in literature, but he was wrong. There is only one. It is “Who am I?” In Spider-Man, a search for identity is the ultimate driving force: he must figure out how to use his powers to do the most good, while also learning more about his parents and their past. But if this is one common theme in all literary works, then it is perhaps the theme of our stories too. Our day to day actions can be accounted for as part of a search for our identities. We are constantly carving out our spaces in the world. We build and manage relationships that give us a sense of place and purpose. We develop and hone our own superpowers, hoping to make a difference. We express ourselves with music and art and words, so that our individual voice may be recognized and appreciated. Maybe that’s why I am writing this blog: with the hope that, by writing, I will somehow give a more definite shape to my identity.

 

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