Forgiveness and Dr. Strange

There’s a pun somewhere there, but the whole thing lends itself to puns, which seems to be a thing that happens when you create characters in the seventies.

Anyhow, I saw Doctor Strange this past weekend, as one of the MCU movies that pops up on Netflix from time to time. (There’s also Civil War, which I should really watch but will make me yell at the screen and fume about failed analogies, so I keep putting it off even though I know it’s good.) I really liked it; I don’t see the point of making Benedict Cumberbatch do an American accent when you could have tweaked the character’s background on basically the sub-atomic level (seriously, nothing about the dude changes if he starts off an arrogant doctor in London rather than NYC) and pleased a whole section of the fanbase more; but I’m a fan of the more trippily mystic elements of comic universes in general, and the movie didn’t let me down.

(I do disagree with the casting of the Ancient One, but I feel like other people have talked about that more and better already.)

As usual, I like when people are generally adults, and don’t flail around all Personal Issues when the world needs saving (TONY STARK) (HAL FUCKING JORDAN). Strange kept his flailing to a minimum, kept it fairly relevant–hey, if the AO is actually drawing power from the eldritch abomination you’re fighting, that’s a legit concern–and got his shit together once he figured out that the danger was real. I liked that.

One of the things I give the movie particular points for was where Strange ended up regarding his ex: that they had a civil working relationship, they love each other in their own ways, but clearly (hopefully, since one can never count on screenwriters) aren’t getting back together. He was an asshole, and while he sincerely regrets it, apologizes, and isn’t an asshole now, she’s moved on. Appropriately for the movie’s theme, you can’t repair some things, and good intentions aren’t enough to reverse time.

And I love it.

I often say that I don’t believe in forgiveness, at least not for anything severe or for a long-term pattern of behavior. (Everyone flakes from time to time; everyone snaps at people when it’s been a long day; but if you harm someone, especially maliciously but not even necessarily that, or are a dick repeatedly and persistently, that’s different.) And that’s mostly true, but not entirely.

If you’ve been an asshole–say, if you’ve acted like your talent meant you didn’t have to care about people and then been horrible to someone who was trying to help you–you don’t have to stay an asshole, but that means…you don’t stay an asshole. You go off, you get whatever help you need (without expecting unpaid emotional labor from family and friends), and you essentially make yourself a different person, someone who wouldn’t do those things. Then you apologize (sincerely and without trying to justify yourself), you make what amends are possible given the situation, you consistently and for a long period of time demonstrate that you’ve changed…and you accept the consequences of what you did.

And sometimes, those consequences are that the relationships you had are no longer possible. That’s not wrong. Forgiveness isn’t obligatory. Bad memories are hard to forget, and it’s not really possible to make yourself love someone again–especially if the reason you stopped loving them in the first place is self-preservation. Nobody should have to make nice with people who hurt them, much less re-enter a romantic relationship with them.

Sometimes, the price of becoming a better person is that you have to go and be a better person somewhere else, with different people.

That’s not wrong.

One of the romance genres I have the hardest time reading is exes getting back together. There are scenarios that can make it work, but they basically all come down to either external intervention being the cause of the breakup (“sorry I have to go fight the French oh hey now you think I’m dead”) or the original relationship being a teen thing, and both of them meeting again when they’re adults (and *not* having carried a major torch for each other ever since, because…adults, FFS). Generally, if things don’t work out between two people, they’re not going to work out on the second try.

Even if you can manipulate time, you don’t get do-overs.

Well done, screenwriters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About isabelcooper

I'm Izzy. I write stuff: mostly vaguely fantasy stuff, and most notably the following books: Hickey of the Beast, published March 2011 by Candlemark and Gleam No Proper Lady, published September 2011 by Sourcebooks Lessons After Dark, forthcoming in April 2012 from Sourcebooks I also like video games, ballroom dancing, and various geeky hobbies like LARPing. I have been known to voluntarily purchase and eat circus peanuts. Like, a whole bag at once.
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2 Responses to Forgiveness and Dr. Strange

  1. Michael Mock says:

    Ye gods. I love this whole line of thought so much. And I am right there with you on forgiveness and becoming a better person.

    • isabelcooper says:

      Thanks!
      I frequently paraphrase Spider Robinson on this one: there is no absolution without solution. Not for major/repeated things.
      I’ve seen a number of people, when called on their shit, apologize and promise to do better/remedy the damage and then just…not. So these days I want two or three years of acting decently, *minimum*, before I’m willing to be on good terms with those folks again–and far longer if they don’t apologize in the first place, or if there’s something they can do to rectify things and they don’t.

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