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Shrink at the Movies: “The Avengers” (2012)

“The Avengers” (2012) — Well, saw this last night, and I certainly join the ranks of the fans who have made this already one of the most successful movies of all time.

It’s a fun, fast-moving superhero movie, made more endearing by assembling the heroes of recent previous Marvel hero movies such as “Thor”, “The Hulk”, “Iron Man”, and “Captain America” (my personal favorite, even though with my long-ish blonde hair and deep-set blue eyes, I could be Thor’s MUCH older, and not nearly as buff, uncle LOL..). “Avengers” reminds me a little bit of the 1966 “Batman” movie, where they assembled all the star villains from the TV series for one big villain-fest movie.

It’s hard to take a “popcorn summer blockbuster” and interpret it from a shrink’s POV, but I think some themes emerge. I like how self-empowered each hero (and heroine, in Scarlett Johannsen’s Black Widow) is, possessing admirable qualities of focus, determination, and certainly strength. They have each made a moral decision to use their super-gifts and talents for good, which is a lesson we could all adopt.

I also think of the actors, who certainly have plenty of time and money to train their bodies with the best of trainers, food, equipment, and support. Their characters seem to look incredible “naturally”, but those actors worked hard to be in pristine physical fitness for the shoot. I’ve made a sort of amateur study on healthy aging, and I’ve noted that people who have kept the most fit during their lifetimes tend to be much healthier and well-functioning into their old age (example: my 96-year-old great aunt, who lives alone in a little house in Virginia, and when she gets bored, rides the LifeCycle she keeps in her basement, after a long history of tennis and physical activity). Chris Evans (“Captain America”) has detailed in interviews his diet and training regimen, which sounds exhausting. But whether it’s the characters or the actors, we can take a lesson in the positive self-esteem that comes with taking care of our physical bodies, even if most of us are not in superhero shape.

We can also take a lesson from the villain, Loki, evil brother of Thor, who is consumed with greed and lust for power. He is almost a stock-character villain, but who among us has no regrets about acts of greed or pride in our own past? Despite the overall aims of the Republican Party, greed at the expense of all other is NOT a good trait when it comes to character. Is there a Loki in all of us? Take any given day: Are we being more like Loki, selfish, greedy, insecure, and Narcissistic, or are we being more like Thor, generous, selfless, and dedicated to the well-being of others?

Another positive trait the film implies is the power of teamwork. In a number of sequences, one of the heroes “saves” another. They got our back. Whose “back” do we have? Who are we looking out for? Who are we a “hero” to? There should be someone, even if it’s just working for a cause we believe in.

We could ponder lots of other positive mental health traits implied in the film, such as hope, determination, resiliency, innovation, and perseverance, but you get the idea. I highly recommend you see the movie, if you haven’t already, even if you don’t usually go for superhero action flicks. For me, I’m sticking with my original observation, and heading to the gym. I’ve got catching up to do.

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