As is the case when I have a few free moments, I was letting myself fall down the YouTube rabbit hole last week when I came across a short video that I thought was some sort of Spider-Man fan fiction. I enjoy Spider-Man as much as the next comic enthusiast and it was only a four-minute video, so I clicked on it to see what it contained. It turns out that it was the ending to “Marvel’s Spider-Man” video game on the Playstation 4 and it was emotionally crushing…
I’ll link the YouTube video at the end so that you can watch for yourself but despite the lesser graphics involved in the facial expressions, this is the first time that the ending to a video game nearly moved me to tears. Anyone who’s read any of the comics or watched any of the movies is likely aware that Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man’s Aunt May is the one who deals with raising a super-powered teenager on her own after her husband dies.
I haven’t played this video game; in fact, I haven’t had a game system in this house since I sold my xBox 360 last year. But the game seems to involve a sickness of some sort that requires inoculation through a serum. The clip I watched shows Aunt May laid up in a surgical bed, apparently dying of this sickness with Spider-Man standing nearby holding the only vial of serum. The doctor who’s apparently overseeing things tells Spider-Man that he can give May the serum and she’ll live, but the cost will be that there will none left to replicate and millions will die. Or he can let Aunt May die and allow the serum to be replicate, thereby stopping the sickness and saving uncountable lives.
The scene is powerful and emotional, and you can feel the tortured effort as Spider-Man makes the difficult yet apparently correct choice by slamming the vial down and walking away. The YouTube clip ends with the scene of May’s burial, where her headstone reads, “When you help someone, you help everyone.” Despite the dim, cold basement I was watching this from, I felt the heat rise in my face and the telltale lump in my throat that predicted the tears that would inevitably start welling up. In the midst of my emotional vulnerability, it led me to wonder: could I have made that choice? Could I have let someone I love die in order to save millions?
This isn’t the first time that an impossible dilemma is presented to a protagonist. I’m reminded of “Sophie’s Choice,” a movie from 1982 where the lead character portrays a polish immigrant who had to choose which one of her two children would be killed and which one would accompany her to a concentration camp. The terror and internal struggle, not to mention living with the decision afterwards, is unimaginable. There have been plenty of other such examples in cinema and books but that ones sticks with me.
Imagine this scenario for a moment… You’re sitting by a loved one’s bedside. Maybe it’s a spouse or a child. And you’re given a choice: cure them and let them live but others will die or let your loved one die and possibly save the lives of multiple people. Could you make that choice? WOULD you make that choice? I think that at the heart of it, we’re all aware of what the right thing to do would be, but acknowledging it and being capable of it are two entirely different things. I’ve always considered myself a good person, yet I don’t know if I could bring myself to let my wife or one of my children die, even if meant saving multiple lives. Some would call this selfish, but it’s part of the internal morals we all have that sees us want to protect the ones we love above all.
Anyway, I know this isn’t a bright, happy post but it’s certainly one to get you thinking. We often take life for granted and the reality is that choices that are depicted in the clip below often do happen, albeit maybe not including costumed heroes and a city-wide sickness. People are forced to make “live or die” choices for loved ones on a daily basis and I can’t imagine the torture involved in making such a choice. Hug your loved ones close, folks. And pray that such a choice is never yours to make. Here’s the video clip… ☯