Saw Captain Marvel this week
I liked it a lot - truth be told I don’t watch much TV at all these days. Go to the movies even less. But it was one of those “kinda cold” days in Florida where the sun aint shining so why not check out the hype?
Captain Marvel has been making waves most notably because of its leading role - a women by the name of Brie Larson, who plays Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel).
It’s still a relatively new thing to have a big superhero movie headed up by a woman. Comic superheroes have been largely dominated by male characters since they were a thing. More leading roles are being filled women in recent times - Rey from Starwars, Wonder Woman (terrible movie), Ella from Frozen and now Miss Marvel.
This is a reflection of the changing times - expect to see more women as the starring role in typically male-centric movies. I’m all for it. I think this is super cool and long overdue.
On the surface, this movie seems like little more than a classic superhero tale - hero realizes power and saves the world, the end. However, Captain marvel was steeped in metaphors, symbolism and parallels to very real-life challenges that many people face, regardless of whether you’re the savior of the earth or a cubicle slave.
When looked at through this lens it becomes apparent, in my opinion at least, what the movie is trying to convey - the battle with oneself. The battle with the mind. Overcoming self-limiting beliefs. Transcendence.
Throughout the movie there are numerous scenes that are analogous to the overarching themes of mind management. Early on it shows the Danvers kneeling on some futuristic machine, tentacles rise form the ground, engulfing her body and infusing her with some mysterious substance. This transports her to another realm. In the movie they call this the “Supreme Intelligence”. In our world (or mine at least) I call it consciousness. Here Danvers meets her mind.
If you where to meet your mind it would be quite an experience. I often draw the analogy that it would be like having someone knock on your door, a familiar stranger that lets themselves in and proceeds to follow you everywhere you go, all throughout your day, incessantly talking and rambling to you. Sometimes loudly, sometimes little more than a murmur, but always talking. You quickly learn that the person that has been following you about your day is relentless, often negative in their words, a needling and suffering character, to say the least. This character is like meeting your mind.
Those who have tried meditation will know this all too well - when you try to quiet the mind, you have already lost the game. For the mind thinks automatically, just like the heart beats automatically. To try and stop either of those with conscious thought, is of course futile.
Danvers experiences a similar thing when she straps in to go visit the supreme intelligence. Her rambling mind, depicted by a character she knows not (yet) gives her nudges in the right direction, only as frequently as she tells her stories that confuse Danvers. Again, much like trying to make sense of our own rambling mind - a monumental task.
In another scene she has a particular dark meeting with supreme intelligence. She is greeted, upon arrival back to the real world, by her “guide”, who smiles warmly and asks “bad trip?” - of course this is analogous to the Ancient ritual of shamanism and the use of plant medicines as a mind vehicle to meet consciousness, or supreme intelligence, if you’re making a multi million dollar movie and can’t be so crude :)
Of course, Danvers spends a large amount of time unpacking these messages she receives from her trips to the “other” world, trying to make sense of them, trying to understand what they mean, trying to piece together the lessons and fragmented memories to make sense of her life - she feels out of place, out of touch with reality, like she has some unidentified purpose, like she had a past life that is right on the edges of her grasp, yet wildly out of reach.
A series of fortunate events occur in Danvers life, as would only happen to an extraterrestrial Kree warrior who finds herself caught in the middle of an intergalactic battle between her people and the Skrulls. Another (not so hidden) message that Captain Marvel presents - how ludicrous it is that the different species are fighting and killing each other, all under the guise of protecting their own, when the real motives lie behind a small few looking to gain absolute power and control, at any cost…Sound familiar?
There is a bunch of filler type stuff in the middle of the movie, cool fight scenes, aliens doing alien stuff and a succinctly timed jab at the classic 1994 movie “True Lies” fronted by good ol’ Arny Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, a true misogynistic masterpiece. Spoiler alert - Danvers wasn’t a fan of the gender roles presented in true lies and decides to chop Arny’s head off. Lol.
Throughout the trials and tribulations Danvers starts to piece her past together and in doing so, starts to uncover her story and find her power. The interesting part here is that she has had the power all along. It was inside of her. Harnessed in her being. Suppressed by emotional trauma and her conditioning, yet nonetheless, present in her the whole time.
She meets Supreme intelligence once again, in a final visit with consciousness. Here she faces her mind yet again, she fights back, metaphorically, owning it all, seeing it all, understanding the puzzle pieces and rearranging them in a way that finally allows her to see the whole puzzle.
It is upon this self actualization, this realization of her true power, her transcendence, that she finally realizes her destiny and her true potential. She comes back from her trip and says “I have been fighting my whole life with one hand tied behind my back…what happens when I’m finally set free?”. Danvers then proceeds to murder all the bad guys and save the world (for now - you know the world in never saved in Marvel land).
The power in her being “set free” has little to do with anything else other than harnessing her true power, which she had all along. Being set free was a way of saying that she had won the battle over her mind. For isn’t that the only battle that needs to fought?
These battles with the mind have been depicted in a great many movies. The movies often use a grandiose setting to tell this tale. Starships, intergalactic battles, fight scenes in the Coliseum, war grounds, jail cells, court rooms, dysfunctional relationships. Movie makers have been telling this very story, with different packaging for decades. The story of the battle with our minds. The greatest fight we will ever face. Our most worthy adversary, and if worked with or triumphed over, our greatest ally (Ally: alligare, meaning "to bind to”)
This is famously shown in one of my favorite movies of all time: Starwars: The Empire Strikes Back.
Luke Skywalker finds himself flying (takin a pilgrimage) to Dagobah, to meet a wise old master by the name of Yoda (Yoda is the sage/shaman in this tale). Yoda agrees to train the stubborn Skywalker to become a Jedi. The Jedi are the light to the dark. The yin to the yang. The order to the chaos. The good to the bad. Of course we cannot have one without the other. The key is balance. For if one get’s too powerful, the results are catastrophic. This, again, is analogous to our life.
Human life is a battle ground, for we all have as much dark in us as we have light. The goal, of course, is to firstly accept that and then work to keep the order, or restore the order when balance has been lost…just like the Rebellion fighting the Empire in Starwars - The Empire wants control, domination and submission of the good. It is a cancer. One, if not addressed, will take over and destroy all life.
On Dagobah, Lukes training requires that he enter a cave. Yoda instructs Luke about the challenge ahead, to which Luke confidently states that he is not scared. Yoda, being wise and old, knowing what lies ahead for young Luke retorts; “Oh, you will be”.
When Luke enters the cave, he meets Darth Vader. His sworn enemy (and father - wowzers). The most feared man in the galaxy, the baddest mofo around. Scary stuff. Luke stands tall and adorns his lightsaber. He actually conquers Darth Vader and chops his head off. Vaders head topples to the ground, his helmet rolling over to reveal his face…only if isn’t the face of Vader that Luke sees. It is his own.
A very powerful metaphor that Luke, just like Captain Marvel, and just like many of us, in facing their greatest test, are actually just facing themselves. The mind. The battle against oneself is the greatest challenge. It is the final boss. One you can choose to face, if you are brave enough. One you will face if you go into the darkness, into the hard stuff, into the unknown. The “boss” you will face if you enter the cave.
Joseph Campbell once famously wrote; “the cave you fear to enter, has the treasure you need the most”. These heroes on the big screen have entered that cave innumerably. However, contrary to popular belief, the cave is not found in the Himalayas (or on Dagobah). The cave is within ourselves. We just have to be brave enough to enter.
What we find in our own caves is surely not easy, but holds the treasure we need the most. Meaning, purpose, transcendence, strength. It is the archetypal heroes journey. The only journey that is ALWAYS worth taking.
These movies, watched through the typical lens of mindless escapism and a few fist fulls of popcorn present little more than entertainment and a cool story of good beats evil. However, I feel these tales carry a much greater message: That we can ALL be the super hero in our own movie. We can all play the starring role, if we choose to accept it.
Now this isn’t to be confused with flying through space, shooting lasers from your eye balls or looking like Thor (sorry). This is all about finding meaning in life. Your life. To do so, one must accept the heroes journey. They must be willing to face the bad guys, they must be willing to enter the cave.
If one is brave enough to do those things, then one can find the treasure that they most seek. This treasure probably won’t be a pot of gold, at the end of the proverbial rainbow, it will be much more than that, so much so that no amount of gold could buy or replace it, for this is something that cannot be manipulated by currency, or gold, or greed, or fear. After all, it is the treasure that you most need.
This blog post was taken from my "Sunday's with Ste" email that goes out once weekly - if you liked it, you can subscribe to that list here