“So, Greg dragged you along to this, huh?”
I was standing next to one of my fiancé’s coworkers, a guy named Jim. We were outside the theater, waiting to go watch Batman V. Superman, a work-sponsored movie night. My arms were full of junk food, a case of chicken nuggets crooked in one elbow, and a bag of over-buttered popcorn in the other, while I held a pizza and hotdog for Greg so he could navigate through the crowd and hit up the bathroom before we headed in.
“What?” I said. “No. I’m more excited about this than he is.”
Jim was surprised by my answer. I could tell from the raised eyebrows and the lean back that he was expecting me to make some sort of put-upon girlfriend/wife/fiancée, ‘yes, but somehow I’ll endure’ comment. There was a script for the small talk we were supposed to engage in, that of Significant Other’s coworker and Significant Other of a coworker, and I wasn’t following it.
“Yeah, but I’m trying to keep my expectations low for this one. They’re going to try and cram a lot in, and honestly, I think this movie is just a setup for Suicide Squad in August. They need to get their new Batman out there and introduce Wonder Woman before her movie comes out.”
He stared at me a little dumbfounded as I launched into my theory about which Joker Jared Leto is actually playing – not the original Joker, but Tim Drake, one of the replacement Robins (as I like to call them) after Dick Grayson became Nightwing. In one of the many iterations Batman has gone through, Tim Drake gets kidnapped and tortured by the Joker, until he loses his mind and believes himself to be the Joker, and then assumes the persona. There are clues in the trailers for Suicide Squad that this could be the case. It would make sense because why else would Harley Quinn and the Joker be so aesthetically different from each other and on opposing sides? Jared Leto’s Joker can’t be the original Joker.
When Greg returned I was just finishing up and Jim turned to him and asked, “Are you this into DC comics?”
“She’s the DC girl, I’m more of a Marvel guy. If you want, I can tell you all about the Infinity Gauntlet.”
Jim laughed warily, and said, “maybe next time,” as he headed into the movie theater. I turned to look at Greg and he grinned at me, tossing a kernel of popcorn into his mouth before putting an arm around my shoulders.
My love of superheroes is deep-seated. Growing up I would watch X-Men: The Animated Series, every Saturday morning with my dad. I spent hours playing Batgirl and Robin with my brother, the two of us identifying more with the sidekicks than Batman. There weren’t any comic book shops near us, but the few times my brother and I could get our hands on them, we read them until the pages fell apart. Any movie, any TV show, we’d watch them. I spent hours reading summaries of comic books online of my favorites, mostly Batman or X-men, sometimes Spiderman.
I’ve never been ashamed of my geek status, especially on any of my many fandoms—Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Magicians, Game of Thrones, superheroes—but after years of friends and family teasing me for my natural talkative-ness I’ve learned to sometimes (not always) tone it down and not go on and on when people’s eyes start glazing over. Most people can hang in through Harry Potter and Buffy, and there are plenty of people who can outpace me for GoT and The Magicians, but as far as superheroes go, that was where people tended to have enough.
This was not the case with Greg. When we were still figuring out exactly what we were, nervous and giddy, he’d be able to keep up with me on Harry Potter, and I could keep up with him on GoT; he’d listen to me talk about Buffy, and I’d listen to him talk about the Fast and the Furious movies, but superheroes didn’t really come up. I’d learned not to get into it too much, especially with guys, who in the past had either decided they could test my knowledge (and then got mad when I knew more), or made fun of me because Raven was my favorite Teen Titan. It was just so much more pleasant to avoid it.
Then, one day, Captain America, Winter Soldier came up in conversation. I was excited for the movie, but I hadn’t seen the first Captain America. The Avengers had never appealed to me growing up, and Captain America’s “Rah-Rah Patriotism” seemed outdated. I’d been way more excited for Guardians of the Galaxy.
“Wait, you HAVE to see that first Captain America movie,” Greg said. “Have you not seen Thor either?”
I told him I hadn’t and he let out a long groan. “Lyss, you have to see it.”
“I’m really not into Marvel heroes. I couldn’t get into Captain America or Thor. I was a Batman and X-Men girl.”
There was a long pause. “What? You’re kidding me. Batman? And you realize X-men is Marvel, right?”
“Duh, of course I do. I just mean the big Marvel heroes, X-men excluded, never did it for me.”
“Not even Spiderman? Come on. Everyone loves Spiderman.”
“Peter Parker is not Thor or Captain America. When they make another Spiderman reboot I will happily watch it.”
“Yeah, but you’ve got to watch Captain America. All the movies are building up and adding to each other.”
For the first time in my life, I was having an actual back and forth about superheroes with someone who wasn’t my brother, and I loved it. The conversation went on for hours, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to hang up the phone, because it was so nice to talk about all of this, and to talk about it with Greg, because he got it.
“You really haven’t watched Thor?”
“Okay, I need you to watch it.”
“Because I think we’re like Thor and Jane.”
I burst out laughing. I couldn’t help it. Aside for both of them being tall and athletic, Greg looked almost nothing like Thor/Chris Hemsworth.
“I know, I know. It sounds completely douchey, and like I have an over-inflated ego on, but I really think we’re like Thor and Jane.”
“I don’t want to tell you; I want to see if you agree. Just watch it.”
Of course I was intrigued, and when I finally settled down to watch Thor the next night, my curiosity couldn’t be higher. I never thought I’d be that excited for a movie about Thor, one of my least favorite comic book characters, though one of my favorite mythic characters.
When the credits finally rolled, I stared at them without really seeing them. Jane and Thor’s dynamic wasn’t that great, at least from my perspective. It was pretty much ‘damsel in distress’ from the get-go, and Jane is all swoony over him from the beginning.
To be fair to Natalie Portman, her portrayal of Jane as an astrophysicist (Jane is a nurse in the comics) is amazing, and I am so happy she played a smart, accomplished female scientist, thus probably inspiring a whole trove of young girls to see that women can be smart and accomplished in a science field. But I HATED the dynamic between Jane and Thor. Really? He just comes into her life like a whirlwind, causes all this drama and chaos, and then she’s going to wait for him?! No, Jane! Be the smart, independent lady you are! You didn’t get to be a top astrophysicist studying wormholes by being a swoony damsel!!
Was this what Greg really thought of our relationship? Did he think he was rescuing me? I didn’t need to be rescued, and I’d never swooned over him (all right, that’s a lie. I definitely swooned over him, but not to his face). When he called me later and asked me what I’d thought, and if I agreed with him, I told him I didn’t know what to think and explained why.
On the other end of the phone there was a long silence.
“Lyss, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way at all. I’m such an idiot. I didn’t even realize someone could see it that way. I get why you did, but oh man. I’m so sorry. That’s the exact opposite of how I meant it.”
And then he explained his view. Thor gets dropped down on earth and he’s this clueless guy, barging through the world like he knows everything and then Jane comes in. She’s intelligent and has her own things going on, but for some reason decides to waste her time on this Cro-Magnon idiot who just stumbled into her life, and he learns to be better, to be stronger because of her, and through her, he’s redeemed.
There’s another long silence, but this one is because I don’t know what to say. Greg’s interpretation of Thor and Jane’s relationship is vastly different from mine. It’s sweeter, nicer to Jane’s character, and tougher and more deprecating to Thor’s. This is in part why I love books, movies, comics, or honestly stories in general. Everyone gets something different out of them based on their perspective. It’s the same text, but it can have so many different meanings. But I don’t want to compare us to Thor and Jane. I don’t want to compare us to anyone else, because what I like about us, me and Greg, is we aren’t like anyone else. We’re us.
“How about this,” I said. “How about we don’t compare ourselves to anymore comic book couples.”
“Done. Never again. Do you want to tell me about why Joss Whedon is the main reason Avengers was so successful again?”
And like that we moved passed the Thor/Jane comparison. I spent the next fifteen minutes explaining why Joss Whedon is a master of character development and dialogue, which is what makes great movies, which is why Avengers was so successful. Did it have a lot of explosions and crazy fight scenes? Of course it did, but it also had well-developed characters with heart and great dialogue, which is, in my opinion, why so many people loved the movie. Greg then let me go on talking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which he just hasn’t ever been able to get into. At no point did he make any dramatic noises, or ask me to stop. He listened, and chimed in where he could.
A few days later I listened to Greg tell me about how he thinks that Jon Snow is actually the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen , and that’s the second head of the three-headed dragon, with either Aegon or Tyrion being the third. About a month later, Greg patiently let me grill him in Harry Potter trivia until I ran out of difficult questions. Sometime after that he sent me a link to a series of Avengers-themed lamps, and he was the one who had to talk me out of purchasing them. We’ve had in-depth discussions about the lack of female superheroes and he’s listened to me rant about how Gamora was missing from the Guardians of the Galaxy toy sets and listened to me all over again when it happened with Black Widow in The Avengers and with Rey in Star Wars.
Instead of a traditional Valentine’s Day with a fancy dinner and flowers, Greg and I went to see Deadpool. I spent the entire movie hitting his arm in delight and then stuffing my face with the bag of Hershey Nuggets he’d bought for me earlier. When I told a friend what we’d done instead, she looked at me like I’d suddenly turned blue and acquired the power to teleport.
“But didn’t you want flowers? Champagne? Chocolate covered strawberries?” she asked.
“Not really,” I said. “I’d rather watch Ryan Reynolds redeem himself after the last Deadpool performance, and after ruining Green Lantern for me.”
My friend rolled her eyes at me and changed the subject before I could launch into explaining why and how the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie got Deadpool all wrong in my opinion, and all the failings of Green Lantern. I didn’t mind so much though; Greg and I had spent twenty minutes going back and forth about it after we’d gotten out of Deadpool.
The day after we saw Batman V. Superman, Greg came home, and said Jim had talked to him about me.
“He was driving home with his son after the movie last night, and told him, ‘Do what Greg did. Find someone who is into cool stuff, fun stuff, stuff you like’.”
I can’t say that’s bad advice. A few weeks after that, Greg texted me.
Advanced Tickets for Captain America Civil War. I’m not asking. I’m telling you what we’re doing.
Header image via Marvel Wikia.