On -isms: The Hulk Metaphor

By | Thursday, November 27, 2014 Leave a Comment
Although the Hulk was initally conceived as a variation on the Jekyll and Hyde story, the character fairly quickly morphed from an id-driven brute to the green rage-monster most people are familiar with. I think the original concept didn't quite catch on (recall that The Hulk was originally cancelled after six issues) because people had trouble connecting with the idea. Everyone has some level of super-ego that keep their impulses in check. But the idea of getting so angry that you just lash out, I think that's more relatable. You might not actually be able to, and your super-ego might be strong enough to keep that in check, but the desire is still there.

Much of what writers have done with the Hulk, then, is to show the struggle Bruce Banner has keeping from getting angry. The classic line from the TV show hits right on this point: "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

But it was another line of spoken dialogue that upset a number of fans.
"That's my secret, Cap. I'm always angry."

That implies Banner is always in control of when/where the Hulk shows up. That's not the character as we've seen in the past. That's not the unmitigated unleashing of all your anger and frustration with a defeaning, unintelligble roar.

I was chatting with one of my cousins-in-law a couple months back. He was talking about how he was trying to mentor a younger guy in his early 20s, and they got into a disagreement about something. I forget the specifics, but it amounted to my cousin saying that you can't lose your shit at the drop of a hat or else you'd wind up in prison or shot. This guy responded that there was a lot of things that made him angry. To which my cousin responded that he got angry too. He was angry at the phone company for screwing up his bill. He was angry at the stupid crap some of his co-workers do. He was angry at the guy who cut him off in traffic. He was angry at his local politicians for blocking a ballot measure that his city sorely needed to pass. He was angry at what's been happening in Ferguson. He was angry that the people of Ferguson needed to get tips from activists in Palestinie and Egypt for dealing with out-of-control law enforcement. He was angry that we live in a culture that repeatedly devalues the lives of kids like Trayvon Martin. He was angry that he has to deal racism every single day.

But he can't let that out all the time. He wouldn't be able to hold a job or a secure place to live. It's not that he can't react to all that; he just reacts in a way that's rationable and reasonable. Now, if he were to get into a situation where his life was literally be threatened, that's when it'd be okay to lose your shit. If some redneck picks a fight with him in a bar. If a mugger tries to steal his wallet. You can believe he would defend himself with every bit of adreline he's saved up from the bad day at the office to Ferguson to everything else. That's when and where it'd be okay to use his anger and direct it appropriately.

"That's my secret, Cap. I'm always angry." Bruce Banner said it. Every Black person in America felt it.
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