Live lightly Education

How to be your own superhero

Simplicity, earnestness, and natural instincts are innate assets that will see you through tough times

Last weekend, I watched Spider-Man: Far from Home, Marvels Cinema’s latest offering to take the story ahead, post Avengers: Endgame; a 2.0 version, after the dissolution of the superhero Avengers in their last outing. The movie delivers a stronger footing to Spider-Man, the boy-hero, who must step up to fill the void and grow up to face the challenges of new, more devious threats that this world potentially faces — includes getting rid of his youthful dalliances to fulfil the expectations from a superhero.

I came back agog with many themes mirroring the contemporary choices and challenges that young adults are facing today, and I am outlining the bolder ones here.

Peter Parker, our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, is a teenage superhero caught in a conflict between what a superhero must do and what he wants to be doing as a young adult. His early exposure to success with the seasoned superheroes — aiding the senior Avengers in their campaign to thwart the formidable battery of super villains — makes it harder; a hotchpotch of young love, youthful self-doubt and adolescent enthusiasm, compounded by inexperience. There is an expectation that is foisted on him and there is also his own notion of what a superhero must give up for the sake of others.

Should versus Must

The conundrum is much like the pressured milieu that young adults find themselves in, as they step off adolescence into higher education and/or formative careers. There is an impression of the world that they bring in — an idea of what they should do to assuage expectations, including their own. A confusing mix of “should” and “must”, in a reality that is dynamic and competitive, is a virtual high-pressure chamber for making choices and decisions. No wonder there are many stumbles, and some buckle under pressure.

What may be good to remember, like in Peter Parker’s case, is that dilemmas and tight corners are inevitable. However crushing a failure does not define one’s life. The movie makes a natural case for reflection, self-assessment and re-organising to correct a wrong and create momentum for the next action. No brooding over mistakes beyond the clues and learning it leaves behind.

Another asset that youth has is simplicity and earnestness, and it serves immensely well to retreat to these soft impulses, despite what growing up seems to demand. Equating adulthood with bravado, stability, and devoid of mistakes is self-defeating. Spider-Man’s inherent earnestness makes his learning moments and mistakes softer in impact and hence, immediately fuel his redemptive decisions.

Another topical and resonant message in the movie is delivered by Mysterio, the villain. The malevolent Mysterio hatches his devious plan solely taking advantage of what he considers the general gullibility of the public. He is a manipulative trickster who declares, “It’s easy to fool people when they’re already fooling themselves”; he asserts that “people believe, and nowadays they’ll believe anything”; he boasts, “They’ll see what I want them to see,” and he explains that he creates illusions “to give the world something to believe in,” adding that his trickery is the truth. To save the world, Spider-Man has to get on the inside of the illusion, to find and defeat the villain who is creating it.

Far from Home, in this sense, boldly illustrates the differences between reality and fabricated media images — that we exist in an information heavy and news hungry world that is churning out lies and half-truths is cunning, sensational packaging. The overload is so severe that we have to learn to often retreat inward, to harness our inherent instincts, to separate from the onslaught of malevolent illusions. Like Peter Parker’s trusted ‘Peter Tingle’, we will need to access our inner knowing to judge, assess, and exercise opinion.

The movie sends a human message in its portrayal of Peter Parker and his big mistakes, and how he goes through sharp learning curves in both his masked adventures, as well as, his ordinary teenage life. The fallibility of a superhero, the earnestness to his learning moments, and his simple, brave admissions to his mistakes yet moving forward to correct them, is a refreshing reminder to remain human in growing up.

The writer is a life coach, blogger and writer who simplifies the patterns and archetypes she encounters at work and in life. nivedita@lifealigncoaching.com

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 12:50:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/be-your-own-superhero/article28805161.ece

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