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Hulk Up Close And Personal: 09/10/06

While watching The Avengers last weekend I could not help but recognize the relevance of the classic superhero the (Incredible) Hulk to a primary concern of my blog: the relationship between the mind and body, as well as and the (socio-cultural) representations of this relationship. I would like to comment briefly on this observation.

The Hulk is the alter ego of Dr. Bruce Banner. Together they are a variation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Banner is a brilliant scientist. His identity is located almost exclusively within the intellectual/scientific, where as the Hulk lacks reason and responds (violently) with uncontrolled emotion. The Hulk’s identity is situated around the corporeal. These two identities existing within the same body correlate to two distinct physical forms, two separate entities.

The Hulk is the stereotypical bodybuilder (Lou Ferrigno played the Hulk in the television series); his enormously muscular physique comes hand-in-hand with expressions of aggression and rage, as well as a lack in cognitive abilities. As Dr. Banner transforms into the Hulk something abominable emerges. Dr. Banner lives in fear of the Hulk, in fear of himself.

The Hulk stands as a microcosm. He is a metaphor for the disconnect and incompatibility of the mind and body. He is a cultural representation for the respective images associated with the mind and muscles.  As a scientist, Dr. Banner has an aversion to the Hulk, similar, in some regards, to the aversion that academia has to bodybuilding.

It seems symptomatic for the modern (super)hero to be dynamic and to suffer from serious identity conflicts, particularly in finding a balance, that is, being superhuman while maintaining their humanity. Superheroes speak to both the individual as well as the collective. The Hulk, among a multitude of other signs, presents a perceived barrier between the mind and body.

I am no expert on the Hulk, and surely there is a magnitude of socio-historical variables that construct his character, as well as a certain degree of variation and complexity within and between the numerous conceptualizations of the Hulk (in comics, television, film, etc.). I aim simply to comment on representations of the mind-body relationship within the Hulk in The Avengers that appear fairly unequivocal.

Is the Hulk a (super)hero? Or Dr. Bruce Banner? Would the amalgamation of these two identities signify the establishment of a hero, something to be admired? Can two dual entities, such as bodybuilding and academia, find coalescence? Will the Dr. Banners forever have an aversion to the Hulks, and vice-versa? Are these questions even worth asking, or should I just sit back with my 3D glasses and watch?

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