Marvel Cinematic Universe is arguably the world’s most loved franchise.
Ever since it began in 2008 with Tony Stark as the crowd favorite Iron Man, it has possessed the ability to make you smile and laugh through the journeys of its superheroes. Apart from the fun and laughter, it has also touched on important topics, including mental health.
While popular cinema has a complicated history of portraying mental disorders and reducing them to stereotypes, MCU has changed the narrative for the better. From Iron Man, who experienced anxiety attacks, to, more recently, Moon Knight with a dissociative identity disorder, the connection between superheroes of Marvel and mental health has improved significantly.
Probably the greatest strength of Marvel’s success as a commercial franchise and one that has carved a unique space for itself in mainstream cinema is its ability to depict superheroes as humans. It shows them as flawed characters, which makes them relatable.
At the same time, it also initiates broader conversations about mental health in society.
On that note, in this post, we will dive deeper into the connection between Marvel and mental health and understand the various disorders that your favorite superheroes deal with. Let’s get started.
Marvel Superheroes And Mental Health
First introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron, WandaVision is a character marred by immense trauma and grief. As a young child, Wanda and her brother witnessed the death of their parents. Later on, she loses her brother and watches the love of her life die in front of her eyes.
Her character is explored deeper in the show WandaVision where she deals with trauma, grief, and depression while struggling to grapple with the realities of her life. It also shows the impact of childhood trauma.
As the show progresses, Wanda works through her grief with various coping strategies offering immense hope for survivors all around.
Read more: Good Mental Health Series
2. Moon Knight
One of Marvel’s most outright depictions of mental illnesses comes from Moon Knight, a superhero who has dissociative identity disorder (DID). The protagonist has two personalities, one of a sweet and docile gift shop clerk and the other of a mercenary.
The show gets a lot of things right in terms of the depiction of the disorder. Just like Steven (the protagonist), those with DID are unaware of their condition until pointed out by others. They experience bouts of memory loss or amnesia and are unaware of the abuse or trauma they have gone through, which is rightly portrayed in the show.
However, some aspects, like dramatic light effects while changing identities and consciously creating fully formed identities are dramatic representations that aren’t medically true.
3. Tony Stark
Arguably the most loved Marvel superhero, Tony Stark, suffered from intense bouts of anxiety over the course of different films. In fact, the whole storyline of Iron Man 3 also points toward Tony having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He begins to have nightmares, panic attacks, and constant horrific flashbacks of what happened in the Avengers movie.
A specific scene that highlights PTSD is when two kids come to him for an autograph in a hotel and question him about a particular incident attached; Tony starts to feel out of breath. He rushes out of the hotel and asks Jarvis why he feels a strange contraction in his chest. It is here that Jarvis points out Tony’s panic attack.
Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the world’s largest and most successful franchises. Over time, it has covered and touched upon different topics of immense importance, including mental health. The connection between Marvel and mental health can be seen in multiple character arcs like Iron Man, WandaVision, Moon Knight, and many more.
When mainstream media portrays mental health with nuances, it paves the way for deeper conversations around the issue. Another popular series that has depicted mental health with sincerity is Stranger Things. To learn more about stranger things and mental health, click here.
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