Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness and vulnerability: a failure of Steven Strange?

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Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness showed much more than different variants of Steven Strange ( Benedict Cumberbatch ) and the evolution of Wanda Maximoff ( Elizabeth Olsen ) within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a much more mature production than the bulk of the stories in the narrative. This allows us to talk about key issues in contemporary society, such as vulnerability, through Christine Palmer.

Although the following text, which includes spoilers, focuses on who was the Sorcerer Supreme, several of the ideas associated with him could also apply to Wanda Maximoff. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness stands out for being a more philosophical, dramatic, and dark film than action and easy jokes. It has them, of course, as well as explosions and fantasy. But these resources are not the center of the story.

Yes, it is the transformation of the characters. Two of the most powerful superheroes on Earth (and perhaps in the universe) are going through different crises. The most obvious, that of The Scarlet Witch, began in WandaVision; while that of Steven Strange was revealed with the passing of the minutes in the film.

Steven Strange and hubris

Since Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme, the character played by Benedict Cumberbatch has been haughty, sure of himself, and capable of solving almost any medical case in which there was the hope of life and he felt some kind of interest. To better understand his way of being, he should pay attention to the weight that the narrative gives to the clock and the passage of time, that which he can control up to a point.

Doctor Strange, Wong, and America Chavez in the Multiverse of Madness

For Steven Strange, his hands and knowledge were all that was necessary to achieve success. He had fame, recognition, and confidence in his abilities, too arrogant levels. As he got to tell Christine Palmer, played by Rachel McAdams, he only thought of himself; to the point of hurting her with actions and comments. The accident changed everything. That person who felt beyond good and the sea loses his security.

Whoever had the last word in the different contexts in which he handled himself had to learn to listen in Kamar-Taj, to believe in forces outside the sciences on which he based his life. Steven Strange opened himself to an unknown universe with the aim of trying, initially, to recover his old life. Until he recognized that that past no longer represented him as the present that he had.

So, that robust, arrogant, megalomaniac personality that revealed himself as a doctor, influenced this new stage as a magician. It is what it is and nothing more. The detail, in the case of Steven Strange, was that he began to think beyond himself in favor of humanity.

Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness and consciousness of the protagonist

Steven Strange, now the Sorcerer Supreme, embraces that advice from the Old Woman: ” Silence your ego. (…) Stop thinking about yourself .” He acknowledges that his work as an activator and defender of mystical forces is beyond his hands and his time. Initially, he must take care of the Earth and then some of the dynamics of the various timelines, as demonstrated in Spider-Man: No Way Home

Although his powers allowed him to act as Sorcerer Supreme, after the snap of Thanos and the subsequent snap of the Hulk, his role changed. Wong, who was his mentor, had such a title. Still positioned above his partner, Doctor Strange refused to acknowledge him. That is why it is not minor when Wong explains to him that, as part of an ancestral tradition, all sorcerers bow before the Supreme. All but one, for much of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

A subtle way of saying that Steven Strange was still sticking to his old role; one that he may or may not exercise autonomously, but which, in the new context, did not belong to him. What happens to the character during all this time, from the detachment of his profession to his new role within the magical forces? He progressively forgets himself.

Doctor Strange, the evolution and vulnerability of the character

At this point, Doctor Strange emerges as someone capable of facing the Scarlet Witch, perhaps the most powerful being among those who have magic as their main argument. But before that, the role of Christine Palmer is essential. During her wedding, in a separate moment between them, she asks him if she is happy. Steven Strange, true to his rocky persona, is hesitant, perhaps suggesting that the question leads him into some dark, uncomfortable area.

Christine Palmer in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

The question is raised and the superhero makes his way to a new threat, while the wedding is still in progress. Again, during a time when he must face himself, Doctor Strange is called to duty: someone is in danger and he must act. A dynamic that repeats itself over and over again, beyond the universe in which he finds himself.

The appearance of Defender Strange and Supreme Strange, both tempted by the idea that the end justifies the means, serve to better understand Steven Strange’s roadmap: he is a character destined to look after the interests of others, even against his will or having to carry the weight of those decisions (like so many other superheroes).

The curious thing here is that Doctor Strange seems to live in a good way with that burden, including the death of his sister. Until the fate of the different variants of him shows him that side with which he talks little and that, in one or another timeline, affects him: his emotions. That unflappable being, capable of resolving almost any human and mystical conflict, feels deep fear when it comes to his emotions.

The phrase to Christine Palmer

Brené Brown, one of the most cited contemporary authors on emotionality, explained: “Vulnerability is not about winning or losing; it is having the courage to see and be seen when you have no control over the outcome.” That is exactly what Doctor Strange does when he says to Christine Palmer: “I love you, in this and in all universes”.

Doctor Strange and Christine Palmer

Release the sentence like a gunshot. Perhaps remembering that other reading that the Old Woman gave him: “You have a great capacity to help. You always stood out. But not because you yearned for success but because of your fear of failure.” Just as she cannot fully control the time on her watch, she cannot exert any kind of influence on what will happen after that message, that “I love you” made a liberating exhalation. Then she rounds off her opening, her acknowledgment of her own vulnerability: “It’s not that I don’t want to love or be loved, it’s just that I’m afraid.”

Heartbreak is not cured with a spell nor is love learned on the pages of books. Thus, with that confession, he entered an area where failure is possible and completed the transformation proposed during Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness. That haughty character allows himself, for once, perhaps the first, to surrender to his emotions and fears, with the aim of giving the truth about him to Christine Palmer without exercising any control over the result. The message is clear: the highest value is that which is manifested when the individual recognizes himself in the mirror and is not afraid to externalize it.

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