(Photo by Selma Komisky)
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WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Power of Touch
By Cherise Stewart
Touch. A crucial part of the human experience that many of us take for granted.
You need it.
I need it.
Superheroes even need it.
In Marvel movies, touch is often underrated. It is weaved between scenes of friends comforting each other, lovers in an embrace, and between siblings who both love and hate each other. Most of the time we are not even aware that it is happening on the screen in front of us, it’s subtle and nested in our unconscious brain.
Even though we may not recognize it, touch shows up in almost every scene whether is to express anger or compassion, it a crucial part of the Marvel story. By showing that even the strongest, bravest, and most fierce heroes need connection and comfort is also showing that underneath all their powers they can relate to the human inside of us too. It’s fundamentally why we love these characters; they can awe us with their power’s while also connecting with us on an emotional level.
Touch communicates what we have a difficult time putting into words. In Marvel, it is not just reserved for the lovers, the power of touch is also highlighted between mentors, siblings, and friends.
Here are some examples of touch that impact relationships in Marvel:
In Endgame: Ironman (Tony) hugged Spiderman (Peter) to signify his love for him and his sacrifice. Love projected into a heartfelt embrace.
In Thor: Thor and Loki, are allies, enemies, and ultimately brothers who fought against and for each other. In those moments, it was the hugs and embraces that kept that relationship connected until the end.
In Captain American: Civil War: Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) comes to comfort her friend Steve Rodgers (Capt. America) and make sure he wasn’t alone while mourning the death of his first love, Peggy.
Why is touch important?
Our skin is the largest organ in our bodies and responds negatively and positively to being touched. When we engage in pleasant touch: a hug, holding a hand, sitting side by side with someone, our bodies release a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin makes us feel connected to another person and decreases feelings of anxiety and fear. This hormone tells our brain that we are safe and not alone.
When humans are not getting enough healthy touch, like so many people experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, cortisol levels rise (ie: our stress hormone) which leads to feelings of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, poor sleep, and lowers our immune response. There is a new term for not having enough touch in our lives: Touch Starvation. (https://www.webmd.com/balance/touch-starvation)
Many Marvel characters suffered from being touched starved. One, in particular, is Rouge. She is represented in the X-Men movies as a beautiful, sensitive girl, who “with the onset of her mutation, Rogue not only loses this essential part of her humanity, but gains an identity as an “other” and, even worse, an “other” that hurts people simply by trying to connect with them.”( https://aiptcomics.com/2018/11/23/explaining-rogues-actions-in-x-men-2000-using-psychology/) Her mutation led to her being feared, rejected by her family, and starved from the connection with others she so desperately needed.
How does touch show up In our spiritual lives?
If you think about it, so many of our prayers revolve around asking and/or seeking a touch from God. We pray to feel his peace, to touch our hearts, to feel his spirit. To be “wrapped” in his love and protected under his wing. When we pray, we lay hands on each other -the act of touching is an encouragement in our faith. Even though he didn’t need to, Jesus healed with touch. Touch is seen as an act of faith like the example of the woman who had been bleeding for many years, the act of just “touching” the edge of Jesus’s garment healed her-this was because of her faith not because of Jesus’ clothes having a special power.
When we watch our superheroes being human, needing to be comforted, embraced, and reaching out to those they care about it, I hope it also permits you to reach out to others too. Human or Superhuman we all need to feel connected to the people around us. Touch is essential to our growth as functioning human beings, both physically and spiritually.