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Grief and Anger: Life Lessons from Batman v. Superman

I'm a nerd, both about superheroes and movies. So, when they announced in 2013 that Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice was going into production, I was ecstatic. I could barely contain my excitement. I basically slow danced with myself similar to that weird scene in Ghost, except without Whoopie Goldberg. While reviews were mixed on its predecessor, Man Of Steel, I loved that film. It really brought Superman back to life on the big screen. So for three years, I have been counting down this movie with the kind of glee that young children get when they see piles of presents under their Christmas tree.

Fast-forward to opening night: My wife and I went and to see the film with her brother and wife. We arrived several hours early hoping to be the first ones in the theater with our choice of seats. Sitting down was like buckling into a fighter jet preparing for a thrilling ride. This was probably how I somehow spilled half my popcorn on the floor in front of us. (I might have told my wife that I spilled the popcorn while being attacked by bullies, and that her brother and I barely made it out alive...)

I'm a nerd, but I'm also a realist. I saw the initial movie reviews for this film. They were less than positive to say the least. But that's never stopped me before. I mean, I do have a strange love for Outbreak, Robocop and Con Air, proving that reviews mean nothing! I felt like I would at least enjoy this film as a big fan of Superman and all things comic-related.

After the movie, all I could do was walk out of the theater in silence. I wasn't just disappointed; I was absolutely FURIOUS. I felt like I could have changed my name to Nick Fury, and at any moment Vin Diesel was going show up with a ridiculously suped-up 70's muscle car. Heck, a one-armed woman driving a big-rig truck full of escaped female prisoners was on the verge of arriving. That's how furious I was. (Too far with the film references?)

When I got home, all I could think about was how angry I was with this film. My poor wife had to hear me go on a rant about all the problems with the film. No spoilers here, for that isn't the purpose of this blog. But I will say that I have a long history with Superman. Between the early pictures of me dressed as him, my memories of turning anything into a cape so I could run around and save the day, or even my first time walking into a comic book store and using my hard-earned 7th grade income on a highly popular Superman comic book series - I've had a long history with the handsome alien with perfect hair.

I stayed up till 2am, still consumed with anger. I watched numerous Youtube reviews and spoiler discussions, trying to make sense of anything I could. But all I did was get angrier. When I woke up, I still felt the same way, and went right back to watching videos and discussions.

Why did this one movie bother me so much? I've never left the theater angry at a movie before, let alone to the point of being consumed by it. I've seen plenty of bad or disappointing films, including comic book movies. I've still found enjoyment in them. I rarely see a movie that I can't find some form of entertainment with. Heck, I've even attended viewing parties for Sharknado and The Room. I'm pretty easy to please.

Was it because it was a waste of a good source material? Sure. Did I feel like they made terrible choices with the story? Yep. Was there an element of studio greed in attempts to rush the development of the DC cinematic universe to compete with Marvel? Of course. But after reflecting this morning, those were just part of it.

So again, I ask: Why?

Because I miss my mom.

Huh? What does that have to do with anything?

My mom and I shared Superman together. She loved the old Christopher Reeves movies. She made sure to pay extra attention every time he was about to fly around the earth and give the camera that beautiful, charming smile. "Oh, here it comes, here it comes." There's something about Superman that brings my mom's memory to life. It's something that I feel like I can still share with her, and every time I look at something Superman-related, I'm instantly reminded of her.

So to see this film waste such potential doesn't just affect the film and comic book lover in me. It hit me on a much deeper and illogical level that only grief can explain. Anger is a pretty substantial part of grief, whether it's directed at someone specific or hiding beneath the surface wreaking havoc. And what I recognized this morning is that my anger towards Zach Snyder and Warner Brothers Studios is really because I felt robbed of a great Superman experience that I could share with my mom. Both because the movie wasn't good, and because my mom isn't around to talk about it with. The studio doing a disservice to the character of Superman feels like they are doing a disservice to my mom. And I felt angry as a result. Granted, I'm fairly sure that studio execs weren't reviewing the script in a conference room, discussing ways to tarnish Superman and put me into a state of irrational anger. But sometimes anger in grief doesn't make sense until we recognize it and process it.

Now that I'm aware, I can deal with it. No, this doesn't mean writing hateful tweets to Zach Snyder telling him how he has single handedly ruined my life (although I did think about that). It means that I need to grieve. It means letting go of my anger towards this movie and those involved in making it instead of going on a Doomsday-style rampage on those around me who like this film. I need to look at pictures of mom and cherish the memories that come. It means I need to smile, cry, and share those stories with others. And it might even mean finding a large towel, tying it around my neck, and creating my next Superman adventure.

Action Steps

A great tool we used at New Hope Center for Grief Support is The Five A's of working through anger:

1. Awareness: Become aware of your anger. Take an honest inventory. Ask yourself questions - Am I angry? Is there someone I'm angry at? Are there ways that anger is "leaking" out of me?

2. Admit it: Recognize and name your feelings. What type of anger am I feeling?

3. Analyze it: Why do you feel this way? What happened? Is my response appropriate?

4. Act on it in a constructive way: Journal about the situation. Do something physical to release the aggression (in a safe and appropriate way). Talk with someone you trust.

5. Abandon it: Act like Elsa and Let It Go. Release the blame.

For a list of other grief support services, visit

Join The Conversation

Have you ever misdirected your anger as a result of grief? Or as a result of something else? What are some ways that have helped you process anger. Share them in the comments below or contact me on Twitter @RickGuttersohn.

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