Spiderman, the Flash and why outsiders are easy prey to terrorists

(Or, why you should reach out to that young person you know who’s acting out.)

“So to become an Avenger, are there like, trials, or…?”

So call me late to the party, but I just saw the amazingness that is the Spiderman Homecoming trailer today!

I’ve loved Spidey since I was a geeky secondary school student who found in the webbed hero a template for who I could be, a hope that I could be more than I felt like I was.

The line above comes from my favourite part of the trailer: the exchange between the young Parker and Tony Stark (who he clearly adores).

And the question Parker asks is one every outsider knows painfully well.

“How do I get in?”

Interestingly this is the exact same dynamic from the Justice League trailer: the Flash jumps at the chance to be on the team because, as he puts it, “I need — friends.”

And just like Spidey asks — in the international version of the trailer — if he gets to keep the new suit…

…Flash asks if he can keep the batarang!

It’s a dynamic I know well from growing up.

It’s the dynamic of the permanent outsider, the one who’s never quite fit in anywhere, and is on the verge of giving up on ever fitting in. The one who has people they really admire, usually outsiders themselves, except those others are organised in groups or communities our friend is not a part of, but fantasises about being accepted in.

If our outsider can belong with the people they adore, it won’t matter anymore who else doesn’t accept them.

It’s very striking how well these two trailers capture the impossible-to-hide delight of two not-so-different outsiders in the moment when it dawns on them that the people they most admire are — gasp! — actually considering them for entry. And they both want to hold on to what they consider really cool mementos of their new life.

Every outsider’s fantasy come true.

The problem with being an outsider like this though: Tony Stark could just as easily be Magneto, and he would be just as successful at recruiting someone like this. The kind of overwhelming need to belong this kind of outsider has makes them just as much prey to really terrible people.

In many ways, it’s about who finds them first. Problem is, in real life, while the “good guys” are busy making fun of or being scared of outsiders, the bad guys — terrorist groups, cults and other dangerous fringe groups — are active at looking for this kind of person, and insanely good at recruiting them.

If you know any outcast, don’t leave them there. Get to them first.


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