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Magical healing at the movies

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

I am going to start collecting examples of vitalism and magical healing in popular culture, especially the movies (because I’m a movie buff). It crops up in almost every genre. From Mr. Miyagi to Yoda to John Coffey, healing powers are “explained” with everything from Eastern mysticism to midi-chlorians to Christian faith. It is often the sole magical element in a story, embraced by audiences no matter how jarringly incongruous. We just love the idea of healing with what amounts to wishful thinking that works. Even skeptics who roll their eyes at real-world psychic healers and Reiki “masters” routinely enjoy the very same idea when it’s packaged as fantasy and science fiction.

To start off my collection:

In Ant Man and the Wasp (2018) Michelle Pfeiffer returns from being stuck in the “quantum realm” for decades. “It changes a person,” she tells Michael Douglas, and I guess it would! Apparently it levelled her up: Pfeiffer immediately deploys full-blown magical healing hands, rescuing Hannah John-Kamen from the severe chronic pain caused by a lifetime of ghostliness. The rescue is achieved with pure will and glowing-finger touches — classic magic hands, based on quantum hocus pocus.

Paul Rudd closes the scene with “Did you know she could do that?”

Sign of the times: the other thing that jumped out at me in this scene was the way Pfeiffer didn’t wash her hands before applying them. Obviously you should always wash your hands first thing after returning from the quantum realm!

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