We’ve had enough episodes of Marvel’s Hero Project to see that the season is being arranged thoughtfully so far. For example, after the intense, sometimes raw emotion of Adonis and his family week we have a gentler – though still moving – story with ‘Here Comes Hailey.’ It’s exactly the right thing to watch with family this weekend.
I was provided free Marvel’s Hero Project screeners from Disney+ for review. The opinions are my own.
During the intro of every Hero Project episode, the editing team throws out a couple of characters they feel speak to the Hero’s specific style. One is usually kind of predictable – of course, they brought up Daredevil for ‘Unstoppable Adonis‘ last week – but the other can be more unpredictable. In ‘Here Comes Hailey’ they use Jean Grey for the “almost psychic connection” Hailey has with her Grandma Ruth. Cool, Jean’s fine, not my favorite but a solid character who’s been treated terribly by X-Men films. Then Stephen Wacker talks about how Hailey works to build bridges between generations and draws a parallel to Captain America.
Okay, that got my attention. I love Captain America as much as I love watching Gail Simone play with Twitter trolls. Hearing a comparison to Cap got me invested right off. For the first time, I feel like that early intro did more than fill time until the Hero showed up with their story.
Maybe this is how people whose favorites were mentioned earlier have been feeling all along? Awesome. I’m for it. On to Hailey’s episode!
Even without the specific call-out, I think Hailey’s demeanor would remind me of MCU Captain America, especially thinking back to when Steve is visiting Peggy Carter in the hospital. She has a kind of sunny serenity to her that’s very appealing. When her grandma seems a bit confused Hailey just goes along with things in a way that makes Ruth comfortable. Sometimes she’s a little uncomfortable with the cameras but we never get the idea she’s putting on a show or deflecting.
Also, Hailey has one of those smiles that makes you smile back reflexively. That’s nice. This is such a nice episode, you guys. I’m so glad Disney dropped it for Thanksgiving weekend. It’s exactly right for sitting around with your relatives in a food coma.
There is a thread of melancholy that runs through ‘Here Comes Hailey’. It’s about elder care, specifically connecting with elders who have Alzheimer’s disease. There’s just no way to dismiss how hard that is on families. Hailey tells a story about her Grandma Ruth not recognizing her and getting scared enough to slap her. I really felt for both Hailey and Ruth there. Hailey, because her grandma is her “first and best friend.” Ruth, because you can see how much she loves Hailey even when she seems a little sad.
Hailey has what feels like a healthy perspective on the situation, thanks in part to her parents Emma and Lee. “My mom told me, I could go into her world. It’s hard for everyone to go into their world at first, but now I’m fine with it. Half of me is Hailey and half of me is Emma in her world.”
Just like that. She loves her grandmother, so if Grandma Ruth gets upset or thinks she’s Emma sometimes, that’s fine. They’re still spending time together and that’s what matters.
As sweet as that is, you know there’s gonna be more. Marvel picked Heroes who are influencing their whole communities. In ‘Here Comes Hailey’ we learn about two different initiatives Hailey started. One is her organization Kid Caregivers, an online support group for children who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s. “There are I think 1.8 million kid caregivers around the world. I can connect with those kids.”
Kid Caregivers was inspired by Hailey trying to find a way to cope with the nightmares she had after her grandmother’s diagnosis. “I was researching support groups for kids. And we would see support groups for adults, support groups for this, but none of them with kids in them. So I thought, why don’t I become the first support group for kids?”
I did a little Googling, and WOW was Hailey not understating how badly Kid Caregivers is needed. There just aren’t good resources for children affected by Alzheimer’s. Everything is either a bland educational page or aimed at adult children of Alzheimer’s.
I’d love to see the Alzheimer’s Association connect with Hailey to overhaul their kid’s section. Her website, though a little simple, is much more personal and approachable than the polished-but-limited section on the association website. I think they would have an easier time reaching out to kids with – gasp – an actual kid’s help.
Something that stands out to me: Hailey finds a way not only to help seniors with dementia but to relate to them in a way that turns challenges into benefits. Specifically, she uses her Grandma Ruth’s tendency to repeat herself to help her study. A lot of adults might get impatient or bored with that kind of repetition but for Ruth and Hailey, it was a benefit.
Hailey’s second initiative is Puzzle Time, which connects kids with Alzheimer’s patients in local care homes for hour-long puzzle building sessions. She works it into Kid Caregivers as the “action” element of her group. That’s clever. Puzzle Time gives people a way to specifically take the KC ideals out into the world while also being a source of good by itself.
It’s a growing organization. There are Puzzle Time groups in 14 US states. Besides the US, they have groups in Canada, South Africa, Russia, Portugal, Brazil, and Jamaica so far. “Seniors everywhere who have Alzheimer’s can benefit from puzzles,” she says. “I want thousands of people to become Puzzle Time ambassadors, so the Puzzle Time can be everywhere.”
Some of the earlier episodes have the Big Presentation happening at big speeches or open-air marches. For ‘Here Comes Hailey’ Marvel took a cue from Hailey herself and went more personalized. She gets her box and comic at the care home where Puzzle Time started.
Bad news: her grandmother isn’t able to be at the presentation. They don’t say why, but I’m guessing she wasn’t well.
Good news: on top of her Marvel box Hailey gets a little custom surprise from the residents. The small intimate gathering was definitely a good choice here.
Hailey seems happy but pretty chill about the Hero Project jacket. She doesn’t get overwhelmed until she hears that Marvel is making a donation to a cognitive-impairment charity. Even though I’m a huge comic nerd I can’t help but like her juuust a little more for that. She does geek out over her comic, so that was fun to see.
Just to warn you if you haven’t watched yet – right at the end when Hailey goes to show her grandmother the comic, her grandmother touches the pages and says, “It’s so good to see you, Emma.” My HEART. Hailey takes it in stride and here I am, a grown woman crying into my leftover pumpkin pie.
Get your family (or your family of choice) together and watch ‘Here Comes Hailey’ tonight even if you haven’t seen any of the other episodes. Maybe it’s sad in parts, but watching Hailey approach everything with kindness is sure to put you in the right spirit for the holidays.
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology being published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.
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