Dr. Strange is a Marvel Superhero set in the Avengers Universe. The Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) has rolled out a fair number of movies in these past years. Dr. Strange is one of it’s top grossing hits for a single Marvel super hero (beating Iron Man, Ant Man, Thor and Hulk).
Some success of this movie is partly due to the brilliant acting by Benedict Cumberbatch, who excels in playing roles which have a strong character. Dr. Strange as a character is just that … before as a neuro-surgeon and after as a mystic wizard, both the characters have very specific nuances, and Benedict Cumberbatch effortlessly brings them to life.
Not just a movie review
However, this post is not just a movie review. It’s a take on how Dr. Strange uses mental models to defeat his heroes. These mental models aren’t the magic (like how during the titles, Thor’s beer glass is filled again), but these are very very real.
Let’s take the most powerful mental model that was used by the good Doctor. It was that of a victim.
“The Victim” as a mental model
** SPOILER ALERT **
In the first half of movie, the hugely successful neuro-surgeon undergoes an accident that renders his hands useless. He see’s himself as a victim of his circumstances, and he starts shunning his friends and romantic interests away in his frustration. This is the time when he chances upon the Ancient One and subsequently embraces the learnings.
This illustration might be missed by a lot, however the next one of the Victim cannot be missed by anyone since it involves the grand finale and face-off of Dr. Strange v/s the supereme being Dormammu.
Incidentally, the voice over and the face of Dormammu is also played by Benedit Cumberbatch. The rationale behind this being that a supreme being such as Dormammu mimics Dr. Strange to put him off balance.
In the MCU, Dormammu is a god-level entity with huge powers. Powers using which he can destroy the current universe as it is and consume it entirely. Let us pause and digest this … this is a bad-ass, powerful villain. A god who can consume galaxies and destroy the known universe.
The Victimization of Dormammu
Dr. Strange has learnt to control the flow of time using the Eye of Agamotto. He can create time loops, go forward in time and pause time – among other things.
In the grand finale, Dr. Strange traps Dormammu in a simple time loop. Thus trapped, Dormammu tries to take his frustration out on Dr. Strange in a million different ways, however, the time loop keeps snapping back in place and ensuring that Dormammu cannot destroy the Earth.
Suddenly, the all powerful being who can destroy universes, is now stuck in a time loop. He is unable to get out of this loop. Thus, he is powerless to do anything. He is a victim and he has been effectively victimized by Dr. Strange.
Do as he may, he is stuck in that time loop for ever. He gets to kill Dr. Strange every once in a while, but that’s about it. 5 minutes later, the loop resets and he is back where he was, trying to understand what just happened.
This feeling of desperation … of being completely helpless, is the Victim mental model. It’s a disabling construct, since once an individual (even as powerful as Dormammu) accepts that he is a victim, then that individual gives in and stops postively engaging with his environment.
What could’ve Dormammu done?
Well, he has an eternity to figure out the Eye of Agamotto. He could have taken that and spent some time trying to reverse the effects. This is what Dr. Strange finally does to release Dormammu in exchange for sparing Earth and the universe.
What Dormammu (and other victims) do not realize is that the solution of their state is in their own hands. It’s just that the victim needs to shift from the disabling mindset of being a Victim to the one of being a Creator of their own Destiny.
Here’s an interesting read on Reclaiming your intentionality – From a Victim to a Creator of your own Destiny.
The reason I refer to this as a disabling construct is because there is nothing new that’s created in victimhood. What is done is that a new state is introduced in the mind of the user. A state which disables the user from any action.
There are several such constructs which disables people. Victimhood being one of them. Another prime such example is the concept of Destiny. It deserves it’s own post.
The true wizardry of Dr. Strange was to recognize these constructs and apply them in the right moments.