“Spider-Man… He spoke to me…”
In the 22nd episode of the fifth season of Modern Family titled “Message Received” we see Mitch confronted by his partner Cameron about a Spider-Man comic book Mitch has been holding on to for years.
Capitalizing on relatable moments is how I use TV in therapy. Sometimes, if appropriate and potentially helpful, I’ll make a reference to a scene from a movie or show that I know my client likes or recently watched. What occurs most of the time is that a client will bring up something recently watched or remembered.
Regarding this Mondern Family clip, a client might say they relate to how Mitch feels about the character of Spider-Man, or to how Cam felt when he realized that Mitch related to the character as a kid.
In fact, the reason why I love this scene so much is that it would probably be more effective for parents and partners as a way for them to see themselves in Cam or simply seeing someone they care about in Mitch. Hearing him talk about what Spider-Man meant to him as a kid only took 30 seconds to explain and he did so more eloquently than most people are able to. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that Modern Family has won a lot of awards.
A few weeks ago at Wondercon, I was invited to participate in a panel titled The Psychology of Cult TV and the theme was “TV Can Be Healing.” While the intention was to talk about “cult” TV shows like Buffy and Firefly, I came out of the gate talking about Full House.
I brought up a time when I remembered Bob Saget’s character in Full House being yelled at by one of his daughters and looking very hurt. The scene was similar to a fight I had recently had with my father and seeing Bob Saget (who always reminded me of my father anyway) so sad and hurt made me feel horrible for what I had done to my father. It was a big learning experience and it was very cathartic.
I saw regeneration as a metaphor for change. The 10th Doctor spends a long time traveling and visiting friends between when his regeneration starts to when he finally becomes the 11th Doctor. At the moment I watched this scene (again) it was exactly what I needed to get me from thinking about making changes to actually doing something. It got me past the belief I had at the time that the change I wanted was unattainable. It helped me remember that change is a process and it takes time.
While I usually provide examples related to comic books, video games, and sci-fi or fantasy movies and TV shows, the effect is possible within any genre. Who and how we relate to what we see on TV isn’t a science and it often happens in unexpected ways. It’s a very personal experience and it may not make sense to anyone else.
You never know when it will speak to you but when it does, great things can happen.