Based on the character of Marvel Comics, the movie Venom (2018) follows the story of Eddie Brock, a journalist who tries to expose a fraudulent company doing experiments on humans that attempt to unite human beings with an alien race called “symbiotes” in order to colonise other planets. (Aside: I can’t help but roll my eyes at the idea of colonising other planets. It is so sad that the imperialist spirit hasn’t died, right? People from former colonised countries can tell you, it isn’t fun or fair and… nor is living a postcolonial situation and let alone a neocolonial one. But okay, back to the movie now)
Accidentally, Eddie gets bonded with one of these symbiotes called Venom who gives him extraordinary abilities and together they take down villains from both races, humans and symbiotes.
When I first watched this movie, though I liked it and found it funny and entertaining, I must admit, I also got a bit scared. The scene that scared me was the one where Venom makes himself known to Eddie (Venom 57:34-58). My hair stood on end when Venom’s head comes out of Eddie Brock and, still attached to him, faces him. He looks so frightening, with his demon-like grin and empty, milky white eyes, it sent a shiver down my spine. But it wasn’t just the visuals that did it, it was the idea it represents: the demons within.
It struck a chord. That scene made me think of the demons within ourselves that we may not know they are there but which speak to us, bringing out the worst in us. And yet, those demons eventually show us the path to enlightenment when we manage to bring them into the light.
I believe this movie hinted at the concept of the pain-body introduced by spiritual master Eckhart Tolle in his world-renowned book, The Power of Now. If you haven’t read it, please do. The world would benefit immensely if everyone heeded Tolle’s words of wisdom and put them into practice.
In The Power of Now, Eckhart defines the pain-body as the accumulated pain that we carry within our mind and body, “the shadow of our ego” (45). He also states that it can be dormant or active, and that its awakening can be triggered by situations that resonate with past pain (45).
“Some pain-bodies are obnoxious but relatively harmless, for example like a child who won’t stop whining. Others are vicious and destructive monsters, true demons. Some are physically violent; many more are emotionally violent. Some will attack people around you or close to you, while others may attack you, their host. Thoughts and feelings you have about your life then become deeply negative and self-destructive. Illnesses and accidents are often created in this way. Some pain-bodies drive their hosts to suicide” (45).
I find lots of parallels between the pain-body and the character of Venom.
In the movie, at first, Eddie is not aware that he has Venom inside him, thus, he is completely at his mercy, just as we are when we confuse our pain-bodies with our own selves. We become the negative thoughts, we become the pain, the anger, the resentment, the fury, the sadness, the anxiety… in whatever form your pain-body manifests, physical or emotional pain… we often mistake it for our true selves. Just like Eddie does at first.
Even though he gives him super strength and agility, Venom also enhances Eddie’s most destructive aspects of his being and endangers his loved ones. He not only attacks people and eats them but also turns against Eddie and harms him. He tortures him with negative thoughts: “I know everything Eddie, everything about you. I am inside your head. You are a loser, Eddie” (Venom 57:34-58). In this scene, Eddie squeezes his eyes and attempts to cover his ears, trying to shut Venom’s voice out for it verbalises Eddie’s worst thoughts about himself just like our pain-bodies do to us. In fact, Eddie later discovers that Venom is killing him from the inside.
It is only until Eddie meets Venom and they face each other that they start to work together and eventually become friends. This is a story about befriending your demons and it encourages us to do the same with our pain-bodies. Eckhart Tolle suggests that when we get out of identification with the pain-body and align with the Presence within us, we become the watcher, the observer. And when we observe our thoughts/emotions without labelling them, aligning with them, or mistaking them for our identity, when we become “the watcher, the observing presence (…) all that is unconscious in you will be brought into the light of consciousness” (35).
The solution is to disengage from the pain-body, to look at it, to face it, and to see it for what it is, to bring it into the light. To watch it, to observe it and thus, to be able to work through it and to dissolve it so that we are not at the mercy of our thoughts and emotions, reacting all the time to external events and internal conditions but rather to be able to tap into that state of Presence, of absolute Stillness where peace and light quietly reside. And it is in this state that we can become aware, awake, and alight. The pain-body is nothing more than a tool to get us into this state. The bigger, meaner, more destructive your pain-body is, the more you will have the urgency to connect with the Presence within yourself to be finally free of pain. With this awareness, just like Eddie, we can befriend our Venom, thank it for its purpose in getting us back to ourselves and let it go.
Even though I know that as a Marvel movie, Venom’s main goal is to entertain, more than launch people into a whole spiritual wondering… I think Venom’s creators were fully conscious of the parallels between Venom and the pain-body. It doesn’t seem a coincidence to me that when, at the beginning of the movie, his life is going downhill, Eddie turns to meditation, and he lays on the floor of his apartment and listens to an audiobook. That audiobook is The Power of Now, and Eckhart Tolle’s voice is heard saying one if his most quoted quotes:
Realize deeply that the Present moment is all you ever have.Eckhart Tolle
At this, I smiled at the screen as I thought, Okay, I see what you did there.
Bibliography & Filmography:
Fleischer, Ruben. Venom. Marvel Entertainment, 2018.
Tolle, Eckhart. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. New World Library, 2004. PDF.