It’s been over a year since Avengers Endgame opened in theaters and it feels different when we reflect on it through the lens of our pandemic.
Almost exactly one year ago today I was watching Avengers Endgame on opening night at my local theater, then shortly afterward frantically typing out a review through my tears (Avengers Endgame Punched Me In The Feels) as I dealt with the emotional gut-punch it gave me. It was intense and I cried a lot. Then I went on with life and that was that. It was a big deal, but it was, at the end of the day, just a film.
At the time I had no idea a pandemic was looming just a few months down the line, nor did I know that many little moments from the film would feel remarkably prescient and relatable. I didn’t know that I’d end up looking backward at the film for comfort, using this piece of media as a cathartic tool to deal with my anxiety and as a vehicle to process the intense stress that the world is going through. But here we are 365 days later and I’m doing just that.
This isn’t the only apocalyptic narrative that may feel weirdly predictive, and there are many out there where the circumstances are actually a lot closer to our own now. Contagion, for example, is about an actual virus that forces the world into lockdown while they work on a vaccine. That was (is) alarmingly close, whereas Endgame is definitely more fantastical in nature. Half our planet hasn’t been wiped out by a genocidal alien and there isn’t a group of superheroes jumping through time to fix things. I get that.
But still, there are moments that just feel different now that we’re going through our own global event regardless of the differences in triggers and they are worth noting and analyzing. And it’s helpful to process this through characters we’ve known and grown to love over the years, too.
The Return of Nature in Endgame
Captain America tells Natasha that when he was heading into Manhattan he saw a pod of whales in the Hudson. There’s less traffic and fewer people out polluting the world, so nature is returning to places it had been previously pushed out of by humans. And that’s exactly what’s happening right now in our real world, too.
The Venice canals are cleaner, mountain goats are wandering around a Welsh town, wild turkeys are roaming Oakland, and, to get even more eerily close to the film, there are more whales and dolphins visible in the Adriatic.
I think I just got a group of goats in Llandudno arrested.
Let me explain… first, I saw this from inside a dark pub (the one I live in currently). I thought I was seeing things. So I took some video: pic.twitter.com/RtxYG6htLC
— Andrew Stuart (@AndrewStuart) March 27, 2020
The world just looks cleaner, too. The Himalayas, for example, can be seen from Jalandhar for the first time in 30 years. This was just a few days after the country went on lockdown. I can’t imagine what things would look like after five years of reduced pollution.
What nature really is and how we screwed it up.
This is Dhauladhar mountain range of Himachal, visible after 30 yrs, from Jalandhar (Punjab) after pollution drops to its lowest level. This is approx. 200 km away straight. #Lockdown21 #MotherNature #Global healing. pic.twitter.com/cvZqbWd6MR
— Diksha Walia (@Deewalia) April 3, 2020
Whereas in Endgame this is possible because half of the planet has disappeared from the Snap, it’s happening now because half the planet is on lockdown. The circumstances are different, but the results are the same. Nature is thriving in the absence of humans and we’re seeing a return to what the world was like before our current levels of pollution and population came into being.
As we are celebrating the return of nature, however, I do want to caution people about the fake photos floating around. Yes, there are more whales and dolphins being spotted in the Adriatic sea, but no, there are no dolphins in the Venitian canals. That one went viral and is pretty much the first thing people bring up when discussing the return of nature during the pandemic, but it was false.
There’s no need to make up these cool stories when real examples are happening everywhere, so just be cautious about the stories you share, okay? Okay.
Now back to the topic at hand…
Thor’s Grief and Anxiety
Everyone handles grief and anxiety differently, and when the entire world is going through the same stressful global event it may feel like your method of coping is inadequate when compared to others. When Rocket reminds him that everyone is going through this tragedy, it struck very close to home. I, too, have been feeling rather inadequate with how I’m choosing to cope with all that’s going on. And I have been a bit hesitant to be open about my struggles because of the exact thing Rocket did to Thor here. I know everyone is grieving, but this is just how I’m coping,
Thor’s grief manifests it as a series of seemingly unhealthy coping mechanisms. While the constant jokes about his weight gain were fairly unnecessary, the core of that storyline was still arguably important. He’s not dealing with what’s happening well and he’s let himself go.
And, let’s be real, if the memes I’m seeing across social media are any indicator, a lot of us are doing the same. Raise your hand if you’re eating your feelings and playing video games as a distraction from everything? I am! You all should see the estate I built in Minecraft. It’s, uh, it’s a lot.
It’s important to remember, though, that the ultimate lesson from all of this was that Thor was still worthy. Even though he’s gained weight, is lacking good hygiene, and has isolated himself from his support network, Thor was still able to wield mjolnir. And you’re still worthy too. You don’t need to compare your coping mechanism with others or feel guilt for not dealing with things like other people are dealing with them.
It’s a good idea to address our mental health struggles, however, and I found this article from the Harvard Health Blog to be very useful with quality tips and advice:
Work toward separating out where your feelings are coming from
Doing this work can allow you to take a breath and divvy up the different emotional contributions that feed how you’re feeling.
- Try saying this, for example: “Of course, I’m more concerned than (my roommate/my friend/my family), because I’m practiced at feeling anxious or helpless.”
- The next step is to recognize that the percentage of feelings that stem from the past do not have to govern how you necessarily feel in the present. Try saying this out loud: “Well that was then, this is now.” A simple statement like this can actually open the door to some significant relief.
- Gently remind yourself of this crucial separation, cleaving the past from the present. And kindly and reassuringly remind yourself that you have the resources — both internal and external — to manage your feelings and reactions in the now. This is crucially important.
We’re all different. How we cope with this situation is going to be different. Maybe we’ll be a Rocket or maybe we’ll be a Thor. Maybe we’ll be like Cap or maybe we’ll be like Nat. Some of us, unfortunately, may end up being a Clint, as frightening as that may be. But we’re all going to react differently and it’s important to recognize that and work on dealing with our anxiety in a way that’s unique to us.
Do not let the differences in how we cope make you feel even worse about yourself. You don’t need that added stress right now.
Captain America’s Support Group Therapy Session
We are all basically experiencing an adjustment disorder right now, and many of us will likely show signs of PTSD when all of this is over. Almost 200,000 people have died as a result of this, and while that’s a long way off from half the population of earth, it’s still a large number of people who have lost someone due to this horrible global event. That’s a lot of grief to deal with for many people, and a lot of us will likely need counseling to get through this change.
The full toll of not just the loss of life, but the economic impact and societal changes that are coming out of this, have not been fully realized yet. This scene will likely hit harder a bit further down the line, so when all of this is said and done, I’m going to revisit this.
Will we need group therapy sessions or support groups to deal with the adjustment to a post pandemic society? I would not be surprised.
A lot of us are already seeking help in one on one sessions as we work through this because group sessions are definitely not recommended while we practice social distancing. But we’ll be together again on the other side and we’ll have to move on. We’ll have to deal with our grief and our anxiety and move forward.
Scott Lang and the Wall of the Vanished
When Scott Lang comes back to society, he’s blindsided by what happened while he was gone. The world is completely different from what it was like when he got stuck in the quantum realm five years prior. I have a feeling that we’ll relate to him wandering around trying to figure out what the new world is like to some degree, but the part of it that struck me most was when he stumbled across the monument to the fallen and missing – The Wall of the Vanished.
These types of monuments are common after major tragic events and it’s strange to think there will likely be similar monuments set up in response to this. But this is a tragedy and people will want a way to memorialize it somehow.
The part of this that will make it different than other monuments is the scale of the event. This is a global event happening, just like the Snap. This won’t be a single monument in a single location where something tragic occurred, but dozens if not hundreds of monuments around the world dedicated to different communities that suffered a great loss from this.
The only thing I can think of that would be comparable is possibly WWII monuments. A lot of countries were involved during that and there are many monuments to it around the world. We’ll see, I suppose.
This is even further down the line than Captain America’s group therapy session, so it’ll something worth revisiting later once we’ve popped out the other side of it all. While I’m not an oracle and can’t accurately predict what these monuments will look like, I do hope something somewhere is dedicated to the healthcare workers who are caring for the ill right now. I can’t imagine what they are going through.
What can we learn from Endgame?
This is a tricky question as Endgame didn’t set out to teach us a lesson about a global catastrophe. It set out to entertain and to provide a satisfying conclusion to the Infinity Saga. But that doesn’t mean we can’t seek comfort in these similarities in retrospect. It’s a valid coping mechanism and there’s no shame looking for relief in media like that.
It’s also worth noting that there is a therapeutic value to watching media that we can relate to in such a way. In an interview with Forbes, Dr. Jorge Barraza, Ph.D., a professor in the online Master of Science in Applied Psychology program at the University of Southern California, explains why we might do this:
It is completely natural for people to engage with content that they deem relevant to them or what is going on around them. In these times of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear, we want to gain a sense of control. For some, it may also serve as a sort of detachment from the reality that the world is currently facing.
The article cautions against overdoing it and does warn that for some it may be self-destructive, but this type of coping mechanism isn’t one size fits all. For a lot of us, it provides psychological relief. And that’s totally fine.
So, what we can learn from this, I suppose, is that our feelings are valid, we are all experiencing a major adjustment even if we deal with it differently, and there will be world on the other side of all of this even if it looks quite different. Just keep hanging on, and we’ll meet up together when we can.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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