The Thing I Like About …

Robocop (the 1987 original): the part where Emil fires the Cobra Assault Cannon and declares, “I like it!”

Emil is one of the bad guys, but he’s not (at least as far as I felt about it) one of the bad guys we’re supposed to hate. He’s a little weird, and a little different, and he certainly isn’t a nice person … but he’s quirky and sort of interesting as well. And he gets a hold of the Cobra Assault Cannon, and blows an entire store into oblivion with it, in a huge explosion. And, well, he “likes” this Cannon-thing, and he’s just really excited.

And so is the audience.

The explosion, for action-movie-goers, is a really satisfying, fire-ball sort of explosion, and the Cobra Assault Cannon is a really intriguing piece of weaponry. We all like it. We all want one. Action-movie-goers all want to blow up something, the way Emil does.

I know not everyone is an action-movie-lover, but everyone feels like Emil about something. Everybody gets weirdly excited about something that others may not understand. Everyone wants to announce their joy, and be allowed to feel passionate about things, no matter what others might think. We tend to grow up and stop feeling those things – or rather we hide that we feel those things – because we think it’s only “for kids” … but why would that be? – grown-ups are the only ones who can afford the really cool Cobra Assault Cannons.

I think we should all “grow down” – and allow ourselves to show excitement and passion and joy and all those things. Else what are we here for?

The Thing I Like About …

Spiderman II:  the scene where Peter stops the train.

From the beginning, Peter/Spiderman spends his days exploring his many super-powers – strength, casting webs, sticking to walls, swinging through the air – and trying to catch the bad guy.  But unlike Superman, Peter’s strength is only super-human, not super-galactic.  His webbing is only spider-silk-strong, not magical-strong.  And in the end, Peter is just one person, trying to catch the bad guys with an all-too-human – and barely grown-up – brain.

So how the heck is he supposed to stop a train?

We watch him, plastered to the front of the train, flinging webs desperately to each side.  But webs are stretchy – that’s usually one of their better attributes – and they don’t really have much effect on the train.  All the passengers, already traumatized and injured by the aforementioned bad guy, are screaming and panicking, and people in the surrounding houses are staring helplessly out their windows at the webs and webs and webs clinging to the brick walls.

But somehow the webs do stop the train, only inches from the end of the tracks.  Somehow Peter manages to stop the train, not because he’s Superman or because his powers are particularly extraordinary, but because he never gives up.  He works and works to the very end of his strength, and when the train stops, he falls unconscious.

So the passengers catch him, and carry him into the train, and they lay him down gently, and they see the truth: “He’s just a kid!”  They realize who their hero has been – a “kid” with little more going for him than a regular person would have.  They realize, too, that they have to carry the secret of his identity, the same way they carried his unconscious form into the train – they have to have his back.

In the movies, we get to be Spiderman (or the hero of our choice), swinging through the air, flying, shooting lasers out of our hands or our eyes or whatnot, reading minds, running really fast, picking up extraordinarily heavy things and throwing them at people.  In the movies, the heroes are superheroes, and the villains are … not numerous, and their arrogance makes them easy to trap.  In the movies, the innocent people are protected by good guys who always, always win.

In real life, the difference between the people who are heroes and the people who aren’t is that heroes don’t give up.  They do what needs to be done until they can’t do it anymore.  And all too often they’re trying to stop a train with spider webs.

In real life, the heroes need the rest of us to catch them, to do our part, to have their backs.

In real life, we don’t have superpowers.  We’re regular.  We’re “just kids”.  But we can be heroes too, if we try.