“I love being with people. It’s the most incredible thing in the world,” narrates the late comic book icon Stan Lee in a new trailer for upcoming films by Marvel Studios.

The Marvel Comic Universe heroes created by the late Stan Lee, in 2002, outdo Hollywood’s actors and actresses at welcoming COVID-isolated fans back to movie theaters and transporting us into another world. Reed Saxon/Associated Press

Watching this, after the year of isolation we’ve all been through, makes me bawl.

Although the trailer teases new releases, it first captivates viewers by showing familiar scenes from Marvel’s canon. One particularly riveting moment is when a character named the Falcon says, “On your left” as superheroes show up to battle.

This phrase carries much significance, but, without going too far down the multiverse time travel rabbit hole, what’s most important to note is that it means, “I’ve got your back. We’re in this, together.”

Earlier this spring, I had tuned into the 93rd Academy Awards and found myself yelling at the television like a grumpy old man: “They didn’t put the stairs in the right place. Why are there no film montages? What is with this music? Why are they playing Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ after just presenting an award for jazz?”

My complaints kept coming. Yet I was determined to stay up past 11 p.m. until the very last award was presented. There had to be some “there” there. Right?

My husband yawned, shook his head and asked, “Why do you put yourself through this?”

The truth is, I was hoping to feel something. I wanted those magic makers of Hollywood to bring a sense of nostalgia, pride and hope into my living room. I wanted meaning. I wanted to be transported. I wanted to feel seen.

The Oscars did not deliver. After an anticlimactic ending in which Best Actor was saved for the final award (instead of Best Picture) with no pre-taped thank-you speech from Anthony Hopkins, I went to bed, deflated.

The next week when I saw the Marvel trailer, after wiping away my tears, I realized this is what I was looking for during the Oscars – a reminder of why I go to the movies and why paying for overpriced popcorn and soda is worth experiencing emotional stories alongside strangers.

The Marvel Comic Universe is often looked down upon by critics and labeled as entertainment rather than art. The highbrow crowd believes the franchise is just out to make money.

It is true that the MCU is the most lucrative franchise on planet Earth, worth billions. Walk into any big box store, 5-year-old’s birthday party or college dorm room and you’re bound to find a pair of Hulk hands, an Iron Man action figure or a poster of Black Widow.

But that does not take away the fact that the MCU understands people. The creators of this universe give us superheroes who believe in doing what is right for humanity. Their stories emphasize the collective good – that the sum is greater than its parts. The Avengers are stronger together.

These are the messages of unity and hope that a pandemic-ravaged world needs right now. Although we can’t travel through time to reverse COVID-19, we can each do our part to assemble. It begins with rolling up our sleeves.

I received my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine a few days ago. I now just have a couple of weeks before I can proudly walk inside a movie theater once again, pass by a stranger and say, “On your left.”


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