Peter Parker

I finally saw Spider-man 2--AGAIN. It's going to take me hours to get through all the special features on this DVD, but I thought I'd take a break and try and write a decent blog entry, at least once this week. Readers who haven't seen the film should beware possible spoilers ahead.

I've been watching some of the special features, and I've seen interviews on television and I've read articles. Every nerd on the planet is coming out of the woodwork to say how he identifies with Peter, how the movie works because the hero is so human and faces the same problems we do. I've seen Stan break down the formula for the comics success in just about every comic book movie commentary I've seen lately. The underdog is the one everyone roots for in movies. The guy who can't win, who never gets the girl. Everyone appreciates unrequited love. So anything I say about how I identify will have been said countless times already. Still, besides everything I'd ever taken from the comics, there were a few new things from this film. Seeing how stress affected him, how he lost(or more accurately suppressed) his powers struck a chord with me both when I saw it in the theater, and now. Back in the Summer I was struggling with symptoms following what doctors suspected was just a panic attack. I was exhausted and dizzy, but pushed forward. I had a job to keep, and friends and family with real, diagnosed medical problems. I doubted my problem was stress, but with each test that gave me a clean bill of health, I began to wonder if it wasn't all in my mind. It's very frustrating to be feeling very real symptoms and be presented with evidence that there's no physical cause. One doesn't want to become a hypochondriac and yet, at the same time, doesn't want to risk ignoring something that needs fixing. As I changed my diet, began getting more than 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night, and started taking vitamins, I gradually started feeling better, if not my old self. When I saw Spider-man 2 in the theaters, it was near the beginning of my problems, and several times during the movie I had the sensation that I was passing out, and feared missing it. I stayed conscious and walked out of the theater with some swollen glands in my neck, made it home, and later that evening even played in a concert.

I've always tended to be weak, like Peter Parker before the spider-bite. When bullies would sucker-punch me in the stomach, I would cringe rather than fight back. When my dad would call me in the morning to wake up, it was a protracted ritual of stretching and falling back asleep occasionally, requiring yelling. Even now it's a struggle to get up in the morning and get moving. My arms are numb. My legs are weak. My back is stiff. Strong willpower is in my family, although I've mostly inherited the stubbornness. I've heard tales of my paternal grandmother carrying a burning cast-iron stove out of a house and saving her five children. My mother and father, plagued with asthma and clogged arteries respectively, have never slowed down, even now. My mom toils in the garden, volunteers at an arboretum, and designs arts-and-crafts for various shows and competitions. My dad still does mechanical work, plays in parades and does major work around the house when I'm not around. There have been days when I've come home from work and my dad is complaining about his carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis in his hip, and my mom rebukes him for climbing up a ladder and doing stuff on the roof, at which point he gets mad at her for “telling”.

Sometimes you have to push past your limits, to really achieve something great, and really live to your full potential. Sometimes giving in to your fear and weakness means living a shell of a life. Other times, you need to listen to your body and rest, and all the willpower in the world won't change things. When they were younger, it was good that my parents worked as hard as they did. These days, it can be dangerous. In the movie while Peter is still recovering, there's a point where he tries to get back to where he was with intense focus and concentration, and literally falls flat on his face. When he finally does overcome his weakness it's partly from a strong enough motivation, but also after his body has gone through a natural healing process. I think stress is like that in real life like any other illness, and some of the episodes I've had driving my car have been subsiding, although tonight I had to pull over for a bit on my commute home. But seeing the movie in the summer when this all began, and now when some of these problems are still lingering, is definitely inspirational in showing me that I too will get my “powers” back with the right blend of confidence, desire, and rest.

I'm running out of space, but I do want to touch on one other aspect of the movie. For all his woes, for all his being a “nerd” and a “loser”, there are many instances of women noticing Peter Parker. He walks down the street as a geek, and yet the confidence of his stride earns him some looks from some pretty ladies. MJ gives him many hints that she's in love with him(after blatantly saying it in the first movie), and he still feels he needs to earn it, taking Octavius' suggestion to woo her with poetry. A pretty and endearingly awkward blonde girl has a visible crush on him, and yet he seems oblivious. He feels the media has turned the city against him even as Spider-man, and yet women cheer Spidey throughout the film. When he rescues Aunt May, several ladies run up as he swings away, asking him to “rescue” them. As MJ says, Peter “complicates things.”

Every geek wonders if he's destined to be alone forever. It's a fantasy-come-true watching someone like Peter who has nothing find out that everything he needs is right there, if he'll just open his eyes and let it in. Just as his vision literally improves as his powers return, so too does his metaphorical vision at the end when MJ opens his eyes to this truth. Maybe there is someone out there for me. There was once, and though I was skeptical of the fact, I have photographic evidence of this girl gazing up at me, dancing at a coworker's wedding, her eyes literally sparkling. That inexplicable love faded somehow after a few years, and I was frustrated to find I'd reverted to the same lone, brooding geek I'd been most of my life. That too, was a bit like falling in mid webswing and landing in a very dark and familiar alley.

Spider-man 2 is by far my favorite comic book movie so far. Sure, it's faithful to the source material and the cast does an outstanding job. Deeper than that, the spirit of the comics pervades and one message rings loudly. For all the crap life throws at us, our own fear and self-doubt can make it worse and blind us to something as essential and simple as HOPE.


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