First, the baby aspirin. I take one every day for prevention of heart attack and stroke. Should I? It’s complicated. So, no one recommended that I take those 81 mg of acetylsalicylic acid, but, frankly, it’s a habit I like because the orange babies are delicious.
Well, usually. Baby/low-dose brands vary in price—from $0.01 each to $0.77 each (“New! First and Only Liquid Filled Capsules! Vazalore). Regardless of price, I can’t taste any difference except one: HEB’s store brand tastes yucky. That’s an onomatopoeia, by the way, or so I just learned and will let you think about it.
I mix together the new set with the last. The problem arises when I forget that the HEB brand tastes terrible and when, each evening, I shake one out, I never know if I’m going to get yummy or yucky.
All of which brings me to Schrödinger’s cat and oversimplification of anything that begins “In quantum physics…” This thought experiment has nothing to do with opening a box with a cat dead-or-alive but everything to do with quantum superpositioning. The scientist in question wanted to show the absurdity of the theory, not confirm it. So, of course, scientists now believe© that the theory is correct. If we think we understood any of the possibilities either way, we were probably wrong. Radioactive material (a tiny amount and therefore unpredictable), a rigged hammer that the radiation will (or will not) trigger, and a flask of poison (he was specific—hydrocyanic acid). Complicated for a thought problem.
Another theory no one agrees might be possible? The multiverse. It’s not a new concept. The ancient Greeks 5th century BC thought all matter was made up of—guess what?—atoms which created parallel universes when they collided. Scientists are still divided about this, of course. Marvel and Sony don’t seem to be, however. They are on it. An excellent example is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) which, though animated, was thoughtful and interesting. But this list has many, many more. Narnia, but also Space Jam and Monsters, Inc.; The Golden Compass and Pacific Rim. By now, it’s a trope and we know the rules (or do we? Spock meets Spock and neither universe ends).
In Spider Man: No Way Home (2021), we learn quickly that Peter Parker’s wish to be forgotten by all except a few chosen ones results in chaos and mayhem. Granting wishes is another trope; think of “The Monkey’s Paw” AKA Pet Sematary. Yes, another trope—wishes. This is an official trailer, so no spoilers. Reviews are positive, an understatement. These from CNET contain MANY spoilers. Here’s an interview with the producers. It’s also making tons of money.
All well and good. But why does the audience applaud at the end? I have several theories.
We’ve wept. We’ve laughed. We’ve sighed. Not really a spoiler—the sighing is for a real kiss shared at the end; that superheroes never can be happy is a personal concern. The powers that be have finally agreed with me and changed storylines for Captain America, for example. Hawkeye endured pain but is fine now, mostly. Long story. So the emotions are real for an audience hungry for entertainment that is genuine, not derivative; intelligent, not condescending.
Themes are not my favorite approach to art. But one set of principles I do like and used in teaching were Boulton’s 4 Rs: recreation, recognition, revelation, and redemption. (Here is a short passage on the topic from my friend Joyce’s book, Constancy and the Ethics of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.) No Way Home hits all the marks: 1) It’s fun to watch. Not too much fighting (looking at you, new Matrix). 2) We will recognize lots of things I can’t talk about here. 3) We will see in Peter Parker traits we didn’t know he had. 4) The redeeming power of love is common, but here that doesn’t happen. The kiss has another meaning. Here there is much redemption, all around, even to the point of incredible bravery that has nothing to do with leaping and slugging against impossible odds etc.
When they started remaking another saga with Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), there was also applause. This Spider Man feels different, however. It’s much more personal and not as world changing. We don’t understand the physics or whatever science is used. It doesn’t seem to matter. Yes, tears. There is also a special kind of hope for the future. And, obviously, the joy of expectation for a sequel. Though like baby aspirin, you never know…