A Marvellous Cure For Stress
Seeing others having a worse time than yourself is strangely calming.
Sometimes the public is right. In Alwyn Turner’s ‘All In It Together’, his study of England in the 21st century, a pattern becomes discernible. Turner has been obsessively chronicling decades of political and social rule and misrule for years, and has now reached events in the very recent past. What he finds is that Public Opinion, such a real thing that it becomes a living character in Offenbach’s ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’, usually has the final say. A median is uncovered that reveals how far we will go, how far we can be pushed. At least, until the present apathy of the post-pandemic nation has settled over us like a damp flannel.
London was awarded the Olympic Games the day before it was horrifically bombed by suicidal fundamentalists, and none of the expected reprisal attacks on Muslims occurred. Could one mood have affected the other? Turner shows how the nation’s psyche returns to a baseline again and again, although that line moves to incorporate changing public attitudes. How could it have been unacceptable for me to get married one month and perfectly fine the next? Public Opinion.
I hear a lot more of it these days, sitting in hospitals (my NHS cancer centre melted down today, where a brief appointment turned into a four-hour stress-mess) and as a writer I would be foolish not to heed it. Under discussion by those waiting like me were appointment delays, transport problems, unruly children, popular TV dramas and books.
I try to note trends and fashions, longstanding loyalties and dislikes, which all authors should do to stay relevant. When I returned home feeling tense and sore my first instinct was to play something soothing and fall asleep in a hot bath. Instead I bought doughnuts and chocolate and began to binge-watch every single Marvel movie and one-shot in the correct order.
Well, it’s already working. Marvel Phases 1 – 4 are proving to be something of a wondrous pick-me-up. My history with the stories goes back to when I was nine. We still have Stan Lee on a video call somewhere, him ever the huckster, still hyping himself just before his death. So when I hear someone say that they would never watch such trash, part of me gets riled.
Seeing the films placed together you can’t help but be amazed by the care and complexity with which each part of the puzzle interlocks. And seeing others having a worse time than yourself is strangely calming.
My vein getting torn up this morning was nothing compared to Gwyneth Paltrow having to put her entire hand into Robert Downey Jr’s chest. I thought my blood work was bad? Iron Man is at 56% toxicity! Does Asgard exist in Spidey’s world? Is the metaverse around in Captain America’s? And a thousand engineering questions are thrown up along the way. Tony Stark is just human, so what cushions him when his alloy suit is hit by a missile? What’s in that chest thing, some kind of miniature nuclear reactor? How the hell did he manage to make one in a torchlit cave in Afghanistan?
The truth is that if fiction makes you care enough, you fill in the answers yourself. That’s why it de-stresses, because all the best stories require a bit of extra work, and work is wonderfully distracting.
And Public Opinion, which loves the films, is the way to go – at least for the next few days.