WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Eternals.
Marvel Studios is in the final stages of its biggest year in terms of content releases, which now continues with Chloé Zhao's Eternals currently playing in theaters. Even though the MCU's 26th movie has faced a tough go on the critical front, the story is doing its part and then some to expand the MCU's cosmic story and advance the narrative on Earth as well.
One of the film's calling cards is clearly its A-list cast, along with the way it brings new levels of representation into the MCU such as a deaf superhero and an LGBTQ+ superhero. On top of all these momentous inclusions, the story itself helped to fully explore the legacy of Marvel Comics' classic race of immortals, all of whom have their unique abilities and history amongst the company's biggest heroes.
This was largely led by an impressive group of women in the movie, which started with director Chloé Zhao and went down the line to accomplished stars like Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie. In the most recent round of interviews surrounding Eternals, this duo tackled one of Jolie's character's main struggles in the movie and how it relates to real-world mental health issues.
Jolie and Hayek on Mahd Wy'ry
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Eternals stars Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie touched on Jolie's character Thena in the film. Specifically, they looked at how Thena dealt with the Eternal affliction Mahd Wy'ry, which afflicted her for centuries as she tried to handle the memories in her brain.
Hayek explained in simple terms that the illness simply drove Thena "crazy," but that it was really Thena channeling "a strong intuition" that all women have. She tied this back to the real world, describing how many people view women with a "different perspective" or a "strong intuition" as crazy and how it's been happening throughout history.
"She has a conflict and a moment where she gets an illness, where she kind of goes crazy," Hayek says. "That's how we perceive it, but in reality she's actually tapping into a very strong intuition that women have. I find this incredibly deep because a lot of times women who have a different perspective, a different vision, a strong intuition that breaks through the fakeness of the world and the hypocrisy — it's called crazy. This has been happening through the entire history of the world."
Jolie added to this by admitting that while Thena is having a hard time with her mental health, the issue also has to do with the outside perception of what she's going through. She explained that this is quite reminiscent of how real people "struggle with their mental health" and how it doesn't necessarily mean they are unfixable:
"[Thena] does have what would be, I suppose, considered a mental health [issue]. She struggles with her mental health. But I think to Salma's point, it's a question of what other people's perception is of somebody being unhealthy mentally, or unbalanced, or labeled as crazy. She's actually trying to deal with something very real, and maybe sometimes the weight of that comes out in a way that isn't understood… There are a lot of strong, amazing people also struggle with their mental health. And to Salma's point, that doesn't mean they're broken."
Eternals Legacy Tying to Real Life
Prior to Eternals' release in theaters, the Marvel Studios team gave a deep explanation of how the movie would explore the comic concept of Mahd Wy'ry. In simple terms, it's something that affects Eternals' brains due to having so many memories stored inside over thousands of years of existence, causing those memories to overlap with each other and the immortal beings to forget who or when they are at any given moment.
In the final movie, this manifested itself largely in Angelina Jolie's Thena, who became something of a danger to herself and others due to her abilities to manifest weapons and her status as the Eternals' leader in war. When Mahd Wy'ry took over her brain, she became aggressive and attacked those around her, which became a very real issue as the team made their way into the 21st century.
As has been the case through the press tour for Eternals, Jolie and Hayek helped to shine some light on how this affliction was perceived and how it tied back to real struggles that women deal with on a daily basis. Marvel has done its best to be a beacon of representation on all levels, and it appears that this is yet another example of the MCU sharing a perspective on the tougher parts of real life.
Eternals is currently playing in theaters worldwide.