Doctor Octavius: A Lesson in Accepting Help

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doctor octavius - But Why Tho

There is a reason Spider-Man has been a prominent character in media for almost 60 years. Peter Parker is a down on his luck guy who will move mountains for those he loves even when the odds are stacked against him. His arc in the recent Spider-Man game from Insomniac Games is no different. In the game, Peter Parker works for Doctor Otto Octavius, building prosthetics that respond to neurological commands. Throughout the project, Otto is haunted by his past with Oscorp as well as his own failures on previous projects. Despite this, Peter is a great friend and mentee. While he might be late because he spent to much time on “the web,” Peter is supportive. In addition to recalibrating data and standing with Octavius even after the funding dries up, he constantly reminds the doctor of how brilliant he is.

While Peter is a kind and selfless friend, the lesson and emotional connection I took away from the game was actually from Octavius.

When Octavius reveals that he is sick with a degenerative neurological disorder, Peter is understandably worried but still supportive. Octavius remarks that the disease is most likely caused by overexposure to toxic chemicals. While it isn’t said directly, it is later implied that his work at Oscorp eventually led to the condition. Octavius describes that the disease “only affects the muscles- the mind continues to work but I can no longer ‘do.’” Octavius would do anything to feel like he can “do” again, including risk his own body, mind, and moral compass.

While anyone who has read the comics, watched the Sam Raimi trilogy or played the recent game knows, he does lose his mind. Octavius later becomes the famed Spider-Man villain known as Doctor Ock and in the comics, he even helms the mantle of Spider-Man via Peter’s body in The Superior Spider-Man. Octavius has a history of underestimating himself and his own talent to the point where he becomes self-destructive and jealous.

Throughout The Superior Spider-Man, Octavius struggles with the responsibility of being a hero and knowing that Peter Parker, not Dr. Otto Octavius, will earn the recognition for all the good he has done and created. Throughout the comic Octavius clearly enjoys being in Peter’s body because of what Peter can physically do while not completely understanding that the reason Superior Spider-Man is, well “superior” is actually because of what Octavius has done with the power.

Octavius is so absorbed in his own situation that it has made him jealous, and in doing so he pushes away anyone would offer help. Despite not being on a team, Spider-Man could not be Spider-Man without help. Peter has a strong support system in Mary Jane and Aunt May. Peter loses his footing the most when they aren’t a part of his life. 

In the arc “Doomed Affairs” from Amazing Spider-Man #49-50 Peter and Mary Jane finally get back together after having been separated in their marriage. In the comic Peter says to Mary Jane, “I am nothing without you. Come home. Come home to me.” Prior to rekindling their relationship, Peter is living in a disarray and not taking proper care of himself. Peter knows he cannot do it alone and is willing to seek the help of the ones he loves. This isn’t there for Octavius. 

At the final boss of the game, Peter subdues Doctor Otto Octavius, now Doc Ock, and says “I worshipped you. Your mind, your conscience, wanting to help people…the way you never gave up.” Peter is clearly devastated. He has lost a father figure because he refuses to accept help or his own self-worth. This is ever the more clear when Peter tells Octavius he will get him “the best help,” heavily implying that he [Peter] won’t help Octavius anymore.

Octavius responds with concern that if anyone but Peter helps him, they will take his arms and he will “be trapped in this useless body.” Peter cannot help a man who refuses to help himself, no one can. It’s easy to argue that Octavius is only evil because the neural transmitter is affecting his mood and altering his state of mind but so does alcohol. Anything said by a drunk person is usually how they truly feel, whether it be that Taco Bell is superior to all other fast foods, it’s not, or that they are “useless” without deadly prosthetic arms.

doctor octavius - But Why Tho

While it is unlikely people with debilitating conditions or illnesses will throw themselves into neurorobotic technology and commit bioterrorism, it is reasonable that many people, sometimes myself included, will push support away and wallow in the depressive conclusions our mind have made. I have often, like Octavius, struggled with equating my self-worth to my own health.

I have multiple chronic illnesses, which I have mentioned in multiple pieces, and while my chronic illness is not nearly as debilitating as a degenerative neurological disorder I do see myself and my faults within Octavius. I do sometimes push people away, I have in the past refused help despite knowing I need it and I have often felt jealous of someone else’s health and how it’s not awful.

However, unlike Octavius, I have learned and continue to learn that all humans need help and if you find a human as good as Peter Parker, you don’t squander that relationship. If Octavius had dug himself out of his depressive, self-destructive funk and accepted Peter’s help in doing so he would be a different man.

It takes a lot of bravery to not wallow in self-pity. It takes a lot of bravery to accept help whether it be from a friend, a doctor, or a significant other. Recently it was World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10 which is the perfect time to remind everyone it is ok to need help, you have worth, you are not worthless and no matter what your condition you can be powerful.

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