Thank you, Avengers

Blake Sherwyn, Contributing Writer

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The end is near. Eleven years and 21 movies in the making, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is ready to launch its final installment to the story of a group of heroes that many of us have grown up cheering for. While this may sound dramatic for a movie genre that is often dismissed as a cash grab that caters to children, there are countless lessons woven into the arcs of every single character that Marvel has graced us with.

On the surface level, these takeaways may seem very clear, but in a franchise where every little detail is so meticulously placed, there are countless messages that can be absorbed by reading in between the lines. In addition, we often interpret advice through the lens of our current life circumstances, so each person who views these films has the ability to walk away with a message and sense of inspiration unique to their own life and character arc. Below are some takeaways from the MCU’s three main heroes, and how they can help guide one through hardship and ultimately help to shape one’s character.

Captain America

“Captain America: God’s righteous man,” Ultron, the main villain of the second Avengers movie, says sarcastically. While Ultron may have just been speaking tongue and cheek, he is far from wrong. Steve Rogers (a.k.a Captain America or “Cap” as he is commonly referred to) wasn’t always the physically imposing super-soldier that we see before us today. His journey started during World War II where he was rejected from enlistment due to his abnormally small physique. Due to his strong heart, moral compass, and determination to serve his country, however, he was selected to metabolize an experimental super serum that grants him enhanced strength, agility, and endurance.

In “Captain America: Civil War,” both the U.S. government and his Avengers counterparts push him to sign the Sokovia Accords documentation that would grant ownership and command over the Avengers to the government in an effort to check their power and reel them in. Cap refuses to sign, saying, “If I see a situation pointed south, I can’t ignore it.” His refusal to cooperate with the Accords legally makes him an outlaw in the country that he lives to protect, and pins his Avengers teammates against him. He understands the sacrifice he made by not signing but does not budge because it goes against his moral code.

Steve Rogers teaches viewers to do the right thing. Unfortunately, our world is far from a perfect one. In a world where temptation is everywhere and the easy way isn’t necessarily the right way, it is important to act in ways in which you are proud of when your head hits the pillow at night. Besides doing the right thing because, well, it is the right thing, your self-esteem is dependent upon standing by your moral code.

Human beings are nothing more than a summation of their thoughts; your thoughts shape your actions, which then shape your habits, which ultimately shape your character. The second you compromise your moral compass on somebody else’s behalf, not only are you not asserting yourself confidently, but you are acting as someone who you are not because of it — a nasty combination that assaults your self-esteem. Unwaveringly doing the right thing not only benefits you and those that you are directly helping, but it also sets a good example for bystanders and others to follow. While many may disapprove of your righteous actions for their own personal reasons, there is typically a silent group of those who wanted to say what you said or act how you acted, but didn’t have the confidence to do so. Your confident display of doing the right thing shows them how easy it is and inspires them to do the same the next time a similar situation arises.

Thor

Thor, the God of Thunder. Based on ancient Norse mythology, Thor is the recently appointed King of Asgard, a planet far away from Earth. Well, Thor was the King of Asgard before his sister Hela, the Goddess of Death, assisted in its complete destruction.

The first lesson to be had with Thor here is to not let the loss get in the way of doing what you set out to do. Thor had lost everything: his home, his people, his mother, his father, and his brother. He could have easily sat down and watched this battle from the sidelines and none of us would have blinked, but he never gave up.

We will all lose things in life. Some will hurt more than others. All we can do is, like Thor, accept the losses for what they are and finish the job that we were meant to do, whether that be saving the universe or picking your child up from school every day. The second lesson is rooted similarly in tenacity, but with a more specific focus. To put it bluntly, Thanos beat Thor to a pulp the first time they met, however, this did not dissuade Thor from getting back up and preparing for the next fight.

Just because you fail at something once, doesn’t mean you will do so again. So often in life do people try something once, fail, then deem themselves “bad” at whatever it is they attempted. In every failure, there lies a lesson, and when you adopt that mentality, failure just becomes a platform for success the next time you try. Just because Thanos beats you once, doesn’t mean he will do so again.

Every human life is riddled with challenges. In the beginning, it is very easy to become terrified at the notion of failure and be petrified by its very presence. As you get older and experience what life hands you, you start to realize that your latest failure will inevitably not be your last. Next time you fail, look back on all that you have. Why should this current challenge be any different than the ones you have already overcome?

Iron Man

Tony Stark wasn’t always the quip-loving iron superhero that, without thought, would lay down his life for the better of humanity. He once saw tremendous success as a weapons manufacturer, where he enjoyed celebrity status, lived in a Malibu mansion, and on the surface level, had it all. Deep down, however, his life lacked real meaning and he often relied on externalities, like cars, to fill the void in his heart. While demonstrating his new weapon, “the Jericho Missile,” Tony was kidnapped by a group of terrorists and forced to build them one of the missiles in a cave in the Middle East.

Using his genius intellect, he used the supplies given to him by the terrorist organization to create a low-budget Iron Man suit and fight his way out of the cave. American forces eventually located him and brought him back to the states where his new perspective on war caused him to shut down the production of his weapons and pursue a new life as Iron Man. He stated, “I came to realize that I had more to offer this world than just making things that blow up.” His decision was initially scoffed at by both his inner circle and the public but, as Iron Man, he would go on to save the lives of millions, finding personal fulfillment and purpose in the process.

The multi-layered lesson that Mr. Stark teaches viewers is that taking the leap of faith necessary to follow your heart is the ticket to achieving your full potential and experiencing a more rewarding life. Before he became Iron Man, one could have very easily made the argument that Tony Stark had accomplished it all. Given the fame, the money, and the success in the public eye, what more could he achieve? Plenty. Tony returned from that cave with the knowledge that he has the ability to do more for the world, so he ignored the naysayers and listened to his heart, risking his company, his reputation, and his life in order to do so.

Many of us yearn for the day when we live out our dreams but do not act in ways that align us with them due to our natural craving for comfort. Comfort is perhaps the biggest rate-limiting factor in achievement. A leap of faith is necessary to follow your heart and shatter your comfort zone; however, doing so will cause you to grow and create fuel in the form of passion. This passion then enables you to thrive at your craft and ultimately helps to achieve your full potential, making day-to-day life better and creating a sense of fulfillment. Had Tony remained in his comfort zone and not risked everything to become Iron Man, not only would the world be worse for it, but he would have continued to live a life devoid of true substance and meaning.

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The end is near. Avengers: Endgame comes out April 25, and each of these magnificent character’s arcs will come to a close. Each of their arcs was unique, however, the one commonality that they possess is that they did not all start as heroes. They became heroes due to the circumstances that life presented them and the actions in which they took in response.

That is the final lesson to be touched upon – a hero is not born a hero, a hero is created through the choices that they make. So if you do the right thing no matter what, do not let loss stop you, always try again, maintain perspective regarding life’s challenges, and take the leap of faith necessary to follow your heart, you already are a hero. And if you aren’t a hero in your own eyes, you sure will be in someone else’s and the world will be a better place for it.

See Avengers: Endgame in theaters April 25. Tickets on sale now.

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