I have a tendency to obsess. A friend put it more diplomatically when she said, “You’re the kind of person who likes to master things.” You can see it in the way that I cook – I love making minestrone because it means four hours of chopping a dozen vegetables into 1cm dice, and I made umpteen batches of various marmalades every other weekend for three months earlier this year until I could do it in my sleep.
While in Korea last month, I saw The Avengers: Age of Ultron in 4-D. The other Avengers movie had been the only other movie I’d seen from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU); I watched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a while because I love Clark Gregg and the character he plays, but I dropped it early in its first season. I liked Captain America in Age of Ultron enough (“Language!” and “It just slipped out,”) that I watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier , and then I found myself on a Marvel rampage. I inhaled Agent Carter in two sittings and watched Captain America: The First Avenger about four million times. (Yes, I know, wrong order.) I’m a compliance & ethics consultant, so in a way, it makes sense that Captain America would be my favorite Avenger, except he wasn’t until two weeks ago. Until two weeks ago, my favorite Avenger was the Hulk (I appreciate his anger issues).
Here’s the weirdest part. When the Hulk was my favorite, I didn’t feel compelled to go and buy any of his related merchandise. I own a pair of giant green fists, but I got them well before The Avengers came out (when you smash them together, the fists roar). In the last three days, I’ve bought myself two Captain America t-shirts and Captain America earrings, and I almost pulled the trigger on a Captain America lunchbox, except reality finally reared its head and reminded me that I work from home and don’t ever pack a lunch.
Y’all. This is not normal behavior for me. I’m obsessed with Captain America, which is a problem because he is (a) way older than I am and (b) A FICTIONAL COMIC BOOK CHARACTER. One of the byproducts of working with a great coach is that while I still beat myself up when I do stuff like this that’s out of the norm for me, the beating is much shorter, and it leads directly into asking “Why?”
At first I thought that I was watching these movies because of Chris Evans. It wouldn’t be unusual for me to go down this type of rabbit hole because of an actor, and he is handsome and talented and super charming in his interviews. That’s not enough for me to get sucked in like this. When this has happened in the past, it’s because the public figure resembles someone I’m dating or am interested in dating. My radar is clear at the moment (BTW, I don’t recommend eH+), though, so that’s not the reason.
Then I noticed that on my multiple rewatchings of The First Avenger, I only watched the scenes that had Peggy Carter in them. I fast-forward until Skinny Steve makes it to Camp Lehigh, and then I watch her cold-cock a sexist brute. Even after Captain America emerges glistening from the Vita-Ray pod, I skip his scenes until Hayley Atwell is in them. This means that the movie ends for me well before Captain America wakes up in NYC in the present day and freaks out. I adore the Peggy Carter that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has created, and it’s because of how much I love Peggy that I in turn love Cap. (I watch more of The Winter Soldier because I love the fight scenes and the modern banter.)
Peggy Carter is smart and strong and independent and sassy, all good things, but not enough to send me headfirst into the MCU. What sets Peggy apart for me are her integrity and her empathy and her pure heart. She has principles. She stands up and fights for them. She loves Captain America because of his integrity and willingness to stand up and fight for them (also in part because of his pecs). He loves her for the same reasons. She doesn’t mindlessly cheerlead for him. She doesn’t try to manipulate him into doing things he doesn’t think he should do. He never has to wonder where he stands with her. She treats him, and more importantly herself, with the utmost respect. She has expectations of him that match his hopes and expectations for himself, and the way she shows her faith in him makes him stronger.
I want to be Peggy Carter when I grow up. And when I get there, I’d like to think that someone smart and strong and independent with integrity and empathy who’s willing to stand up and fight for his principles is there to meet me. In the meantime, I’m going to stop feeling guilty and embarrassed about my new obsession and go with it. Y’all – “Why?” is the secret to life.