Choosing Who We Become: Bucky Barnes and Past Trauma Jan22

Choosing Who We Become: Bucky Barnes and Past Trauma...

After Bucky Barnes falls from the train in Captain America: The First Avenger, he loses a limb, along with so much more. Captured by the evil HYDRA, he is turned into a living weapon and brainwashed into forgetting who he really is. All he can do is follow orders, without any concept of his old identity. Then, decades later, Bucky is sent to kill his former best friend, Steve Rogers. Steve recognizes Bucky and tries to remind him who he is, but Bucky’s identity has been reduced to vague memories. Bucky senses that he’s missing a part of himself, but after all the trauma he’s endured, he doesn’t know how to restore his old identity. Bucky eventually disobeys his orders and saves Steve, then disappears and researches his past life. He ends up living undercover in Bucharest, trying to regain his memories so he can return to the man he used to be. Bucky realizes he can’t be the man he was, but he can choose who he becomes. The sad events of Captain America: Civil War make it clear that Bucky can’t fully escape the trauma of his past. Although he wants to be a decent person again, the “programming” that the enemy built into his brain enables Zemo to unleash Bucky—as the Winter Soldier—on the Avengers, sparking the rift that tears the team apart. Grief and trauma can make us feel like we’ve lost ourselves. A few months ago, my dog passed away due to cancer, and I felt like I’d been robbed of a limb. My dog provided so much joy and stability that, without her, I didn’t feel like myself. As time went on and the sorrow gradually receded, I realized I would never return to my old “normal.” The...

The Mysteries of the Secret Sister Feb06

The Mysteries of the Secret Sister

“For there is no friend like a sister…” —Christina Rossetti In the latest—and perhaps last—series of BBC’s Sherlock, co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat deftly wade into the murky waters of Holmes non-canon by introducing Sherlock’s third sibling as the series’ Big Bad. The show has included an extended subtextual examination of family dynamics—Sherlock’s sibling rivalry with his older brother, Mycroft; John and Mary’s marriage and family; Sherlock and John’s chosen family; and Sherlock’s role as John and Mary’s “child.” With the revelation of Eurus, another, smarter Holmes[i], Sherlock further develops its ongoing interest in familial bonds, both blood family and chosen family, while providing Holmes with a much needed foil of equal, perhaps superior, abilities who threatens his emotionally detached perspective. His sister is not only Sherlock’s greatest adversary, but, by forcing him to confront his feelings by engaging his sympathy and empathy, also serves as the catalyst to his maturation. One of the major limitations of adapting the Holmes stories is the lack of strong antagonists, ones who can match Holmes’s superior mental (and, when it’s convenient, physical) prowess. When Arthur Conan Doyle introduced his “Napoleon of crime,” Professor James Moriarty, the sole purpose was to find a way to end the series Conan Doyle had grown tired of writing. Moriarty, though universally hailed as Holmes’s arch-nemesis, appears in only one short story, “The Final Problem” and in a late and very inferior novel, The Valley of Fear. But even within these original short stories, Moriarty’s place as Holmes’s equal is subtly drawn by characterizing him as a symbolic brother, a technique Conan Doyle used a number of times throughout the stories and identified by Michael Atkinson in the excellent The Secret Marriage of Sherlock Holmes and Other Eccentric Readings. In Moriarty and Holmes, we see traces of ancient brother battles, Cain and Abel, Gilgamesh. Sherlock made excellent use of Moriarty (played with menacing camp by Andrew Scott), emphasizing his importance as Sherlock’s equal by alluding to his presence and showing his influence throughout Series One and Two, and then (sort of) bringing him back at the end of Series Three as a surprise postlude. But, like the canonical Holmes stories, once Moriarty exits the narratives, all other criminals seem somehow second rate by comparison. She has a unique way of challenging Sherlock’s very identity and ways of perceiving the world. In introducing Eurus, a Holmes sister, Gatiss and Moffat create an antagonist who pushes Holmes not only mentally but emotionally and further some of the interesting feminist groundwork laid in Victorian-era special, “The Abominable Bride.” She actualizes the archetypal relationship Conan Doyle often uses—she’s his actual sister and therefore his equal—but she has a unique way of challenging Sherlock’s very identity and ways of perceiving the world. Her attempts to battle Holmes require him to push himself further, engaging honestly with the strong emotional connections he has made despite his cold, logical perspective. As emotions are traditionally considered “female,” the revelation of a secret sister allows Gatiss and Moffat to reimagine the overly masculine source material in which Holmes is frequently dismissive of women and emotions to explore the power of feelings. Eurus pushes Holmes with logical problems behind a backdrop of emotional manipulation. With each puzzle, Holmes must also directly confront his own powerful feelings and attachments; he must face an endangered child, choose whether to kill Mycroft (his blood brother) or John (his chosen brother), and (most gutwrenchingly) manipulate Molly Hooper into saying “I love you.” One of the strengths of Sherlock has been its awkward relationship to the course material. While generally faithful to spirit of the law, though not the letter, Gatiss and Moffat have created an intelligent and engaging show that’s as much an exploration of human relationships as it is of mystery. They took minor characters like Mycroft (who only appears in two stories and is mentioned in two others)...

Team Iron Man: Keeping Us Accountable Jun08

Team Iron Man: Keeping Us Accountable...

Tony Stark knows the people of Earth are in danger and he’s going to protect them whether they want him to or not. He is so determined to shield them that he rides a nuclear bomb through a wormhole in The Avengers. In Iron Man 3, he builds dozens of suits, planning for any and every possible scenario, always fearing it won’t be enough. In Age of Ultron, he finally sees a way to keep the world safe (though it backfires horribly). “I see a suit of armour around the world,” he says. Every action he takes is a means towards that end. That’s how deeply the knowledge of imminent danger has rooted itself in Iron Man’s mind. When the Avengers themselves start being held to account for the deaths caused by their world-saving actions, Stark sees a huge problem. Vision spells it out in Civil War: “Our very strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict… breeds catastrophe.” Stark is burdened with the knowledge that catastrophe is coming, and he wants the Avengers to be the solution, not the cause. That’s why the idea of accountability is so important to him. Each time they save the planet, hundreds—maybe thousands—of innocent people die in the process. Each of those deaths weigh heavily on Stark’s conscience. Captain America is asking the world to trust a team of people who could destroy the planet on a bad day. Captain America is asking the world to trust a team of people who could destroy the planet on a bad day. By signing the Sokovia Accords, Stark is attempting to put some accountability in place. I also think he might feel the lives of thousands of people should not be in his hands alone. While Captain America is a soldier and has had...