Sunday, May 22, 2016

An Ode to Captain America

Captain America: Civil War, the moment you have waited for.  No, not because it follows up the ridiculously popular and amazing Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  No, not because of its stellar critical reviews, including a 90% score on Rotten Tomatoes.  No, not because it's the longest running Marvel movie to date.  No, it is the moment you have waited so long and patiently for because it leads to my fantabulous (fangirl) review.  So here we go. (Apologies for the lateness.)

Like its predecessor, Captain America: Civil War explores political questions, specifically about government control in a world of "enhanced" people.  The film handles with masterful dexterity the question of whether or not the Avengers should fall under the United Nations' jurisdiction.  As much as I love Cap, I came into the theater thinking I might agree more with Iron Man's ideological side.  It's hard to argue against any regulation when you think of the Avengers' catastrophic collateral damage.  However, both Captain America and Iron Man were very sympathetic - both in terms of their characterization and their beliefs.  They have very clear scenes showing why they're approaching this issue the way they do.  These scenes make their conflict feel inevitable, but also understandable.  I'd explain the scenes in more detail, but I'm trying not to give spoilers.


I find it hilarious looking back at myself in 2014 when I thought Captain America 2 was a little violent for my taste.  Watching this movie, I cheered every time Cap kicked a man off a building or Black Widow did her classic thigh grab, or Iron Man got punched in every conceivable fashion.  I'm in so deep it's not even funny.  The action scenes are on point every time, which is especially important considering the plot revolves around conflict between superheroes.  Hardly a scene goes by without major ass-kicking right and left, up and down, sideways and diagonally.  (Whoever coordinated the fights deserves an award.)  People never stop jumping off bridges or buildings.  Captain America even prevents a helicopter from taking off with his unfairly large biceps.

The movie also has its funny moments, although most of them are not exactly witty or quippy like in previous Marvel films. The characters were more amusing in their humor, especially Spider-Man and Ant-Man.  Those two are bae.  Who am I kidding, everyone in this movie is bae!  Black Panther had a brief but stunning introduction, which I hope intrigues enough people to watch his standalone movie.  Civil War also expands on some of the heroes' powers, including Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man.  If these guys get any cooler, I won't be able to stand it.

Seeing a story as multi-faced as Civil War with as many characters as it has, I knew it could have no neat, solid ending.  Any ending that tried to repair a rift that has existed between Captain America and Iron Man since Avengers would have felt rushed and inappropriate, so I'm glad the movie didn't go there.  Despite me having this opinion, and even after a 2 hour 27 minute runtime, I discovered I still wanted more of the fun, more of the characters, more of the plot.  I had such a fun time watching the movie - not just because of the nonstop action (though that was awesome) or the nuanced political theme (though that was awesome too).  What I loved most was watching the characters grow into their best and worst selves as they struggle with their relationships with each other and the harsh world around them.  Captain America, you did good.  In conclusion for my review, I leave you with a simple poem:

An Ode to Captain America: Civil War

O Captain! my Captain!
With your patriotic spandex and your little metal frisbee,
You have defied all logic and raised fangirl havoc everywhere
You took on Iron Man to stand for what you believed in
While you were kicking ass and taking names,
You never lost your faith in your best friend Bucky
Or your ability to jump off twenty story buildings
O Captain! my Captain!
You have the best sequels in the MCU
Civil War is no different, as all the critics agree,
Tackling superhero battles with finesse and skill
And not being a mess like DC's BvS
O Captain! my Captain!
We salute you, dear Captain!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Don't Tell Me Not to Worry

Dear Friends & Family,

I could think of a hundred moments when you told me not to worry.  When I had a math final.   When I had a college interview.  When I had to speak in public.  Any time I feared failure.  You would list all of my blessings and tell me that grades/success/money didn’t matter and that you loved me anyway.  In light of that, what reason did I have to worry?

What reason did I have to lie in my bed shaking uncontrollably, or feel my chest tightening, or hear my breath getting shallower and shallower as the panic devoured me?  When I told you about my anxiety symptoms, you would tell me not to worry.  You would try to prevent me from sobbing so hard on your shoulder through a few Band-Aid phrases.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but that hasn’t worked.

I know that in America we’re supposed to pursue happiness.  Often, I suck at doing that.  If I have to cry, don’t stop me.  If I have to stress, let me stress.  If I have to vent, just listen to me.  If I have to feel, don’t tell me otherwise.  Because I’m tired of holding it in for your sake.

I’m sick of feeling bad for not being ‘normal.’  Of anxiety about anxiety.  Of trying not to make you worry.  I don’t want to live that way anymore, and I’m sure you don’t want me to, either.  Fiction author John Green writes: “That’s the thing about pain.  It demands to be felt.”  I should have known as soon as I first read that line that he struggles with mental health.  His words described my condition with such cutting accuracy.  My pain demands to be felt.  My worry demands to be felt.

Do you still think I shouldn’t look at my anxiety that way?

            Tell yourself to be happy.  Tell yourself to be so rip-roaring ecstatic that you want to jump out of your chair and do cartwheels and a dance number from Grease.  Tell yourself to be so giddy that you can't stop laughing.  Stop reading this letter so you can try it.  Can you do it?  I might sound extreme, but commanding yourself to rise to such heights of happiness is as ridiculous as telling me to not feel anxious—especially when I am trapped inside a tornado of fear.

            I know you don't want me to feel unhappy.  I don’t want to feel unhappy, either.  You may hope that the right words will eradicate my fears.  Your comforting speeches do offer hope when my brain is blaring red alert 24/7.  But words can't heal me.  Even less so when they command my emotions to leave or change.

            I admit these ideas aren’t mine.  I have learned a lot in the past year about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which boils down to psychological flexibility.  Psychological flexibility allows me to accept whatever I am thinking or feeling (even if it is ‘bad’) while engaging in activities that matter to me.  ACT has taught me that my thoughts, sensations, and mental images are less scary than I have interpreted them.  Does that mean that I no longer deal with anxiety?  No.  It means that I fight my anxiety less often and less intensely.  It’s okay for me to not be okay sometimes.

            I'm not saying that I never want to hear reassuring words from you, because I do.  I wish they could do even more for me.  I want you to remind me how much you love me and how many good things I have and how important I am.  In the end, however, part of me will never believe you.  Never.  The volume of that voice will vary.  Some days it will speak in a small whisper that I can easily ignore.  Some days the voice will ring louder, harsher.  Some days, my mind will scream over and over again: NONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONO!  DANGER! DANGER! YOU CAN’T DO IT YOU’RE NOT WORTH IT YOU’RE A FAILURE!

            When that happens (and it will), instead of telling me not to feel anxiety, tell me that, even as I feel it, you still care for me.  That would make me feel far less ashamed and guilty about my mental health.  Even on the days when I have my anxiety "under control," remember that it has not left forever.  I have to live with it, and if you don’t accept that, my task becomes all the more difficult.  I know you want to support me, because why else would you read this letter?  I hope this has helped you to learn how to support me even better than you already have.