Is mentioning that the stars of the most recent Spider-Man film introduce the movie by saying, “no spoilers” in itself a spoiler of some kind, a “meta-spoiler” perhaps? If so, read no further. Because I’m going to mention another aspect of the cinematic experience. Hopefully, the 20 million people who have dutifully watched, Spider-Man, No Way Home, will forgive the hundreds of folks who read my weekly columns on parenting.
Spider-Man is not admitted to his first choice, highly selective college. I would mention the name of the institution but am already feeling guilty enough having disclosed that Peter Parker was denied a place in the first year class.
As a result of being rejected, as a direct consequence, as surely as the night follows the day, Peter knowingly unleashes a series of events which threaten the existence of all life on the planet. I don't think it is a coincidence that, having learned of his rejection, Peter wants Dr. Strange to erase all knowledge of his existence. Freud says there are no accidents. I didn't get in to my first-choice college? Therefore the first 17 years of my life never happened. And the life of every sentient being in the multiverse is of no consequence.
Did the radioactive spider in addition to giving Peter the ability to stick to walls also suck out any semblance of common sense from his teenage brain? Because being rejected from a student’s first choice, highly selective college should be the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one. And the end of a conversation should not be the end of all life.
With great power comes great responsibility. But matriculating at Dickinson rather than Swarthmore should not merit dealing with Electro, Sandman, Dr. Octopus, the Lizard, and the Green Goblin. Putting lives at risk, rending the fabric of space time, because you have to go to this college instead of that one? This is the hill—or Statue of Liberty as the case may be—on which you are willing to die?
A less popular creator than Marvel Studios was talking about the Trojan War when he mentioned, “but when the planets In evil mixture to disorder wander, What plagues and what portents! what mutiny! What raging of the sea! shaking of earth! Commotion in the winds! fright, changes, horrors, Divert and crack, rend and deracinate."
Okay, I get it. Helen no doubt had a certain allure. And 17th century authors were big on the Great Chain of Being. You remember from your undergraduate Shakespeare class. God was above the angels, angels above kings, kings above men, men above women, people above animals. And the folks commissioning Will to write plays were royalty rather than beasts. So, there was impetus for the Bard to come out in favor of the moral order, of Menelaus keeping possession of his wife.
A thousand ships? Sure. Why not? Extramarital affairs are a threat to everyone everywhere apparently. Although for my part, I am more inclined to agree with Mel Brooks chatting with Joan of Arc about another excursion: You invade France; I’ll go wash up.
Because all this fussing and fighting may be good for the moral order of the universe, may be good for the victors, may even be good for the adults, but is harmful to children.
Grownups—some grownups anyway—seem to prefer conflict, yelling, unpleasantness, winning, and being right all the time. Whereas kids—all kids—need to feel safe and secure, know that they are supported and cared for unconditionally, have a stable emotional foundation on which to grow. Before you point out that the world is indeed harsh and that kids need to be prepared for the inevitable slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to come, let me remind you about ages and stages and that you do not take your child to Chernobyl for a playdate with The Lizard because she (your child, not the Lizard) will be exposed to radiation as an adult.
When your kids get rejected from their first choice, highly selective colleges in the weeks to come, a sensible tack to take might be, “sorry to hear that. Well, you are still the star you were before MIT rejected you. Let’s go toss a ball or maybe go see that new Spider-Man movie everyone is talking about.”
Because making a mountain out of a mole hill is what the Sandman does. Villains are overwhelmed with rage and revenge. Whereas calm and rational is the only way to defeat craziness. Be a superhero to your kids--help them understand that being rejected from their first choice college is not the end of the multiverse.