The Hulk Is a 9: An Enneagram Adventure | Part One: "I'm Sorry, That Was Mean"

For the rationale for this running series of posts on the enneagram, click here.

We first meet Bruce Banner, in the first act of The Avengers, in a remote village in Kolkata. He has taken himself off the grid and entered a monkish life: celibacy, solitude, service. Serenity. His life there is interrupted when an emissary (Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow) is sent to “persuade” him to help confront an imminent threat. She marvels at the fact that he hasn’t had “an incident” (by which she means becoming the Hulk) in over a year. She’s all the more impressed given that he’s set up shop in a deeply impoverished, justice-deprived corner of the world - not exactly the best place to avoid stress.

”Avoiding stress isn’t the secret,” he replies, and we are introduced to a running theme for Bruce throughout the film. We won’t learn the secret until the world is about to end.

Turns out it’s not the Hulk that Natasha is looking for. The government needs Bruce’s expertise in gamma radiation to track down a weapon. But come for Bruce and you get the Hulk as a bonus, whether you want him or not.

Bruce is savvy. As we’ll see in future scenes, he’s always assessing the situation, considering what might cause the “other guy” (his language for the Hulk) to emerge. ”You brought me to the edge of the city—” he notes to Natasha. ”That’s smart.” He even tests the situation, startling Natasha to react instinctively with her military training. He apologizes as she pulls a gun on him. “I’m sorry. That was mean. ... Why don’t we do this the easy way where you don’t use that and the other guy doesn’t make a mess?” An entire military contingent stands down, and Bruce/Hulk joins the Avengers. He has made peace, in a manner of speaking.

We next see Bruce at a flying military base. (Remember - it’s a comic book movie. Don’t overthink it.) All the members of the fledgling Avengers are being introduced to each other, taking stock of each other. Bruce, unlike the others, moves to the margins, avoiding direct encounters. We’ll learn from Natasha in a future film what drives this behavior.

Two people—Loki, god of mischief, and Tony Stark, the insatiably curious Iron Man—are interested in seeing Bruce release the beast. Loki has scornful, malevolent reasons: He mocks Bruce as “a mindless beast who makes play he’s still a man” and wants to manipulate him for his own purposes. But Tony, a self-made superhero who clearly enjoys the savior business, is convinced that the Hulk is inherently heroic.

Bruce is unconvinced. Unlike Tony, whose heroic persona is securely encased in armor, “I’m exposed, like a nerve—it’s a nightmare.” As tensions mount, he gives voice to his motivation to keep the Hulk contained. “I moved on. I focused on helping other people. I was good" — note that he equates goodness with the active suppression of a central aspect of himself — "until you dragged me back into this freak show and put everyone here at risk.” The enneagram 9, it is widely understood, is happily left alone. No people, no problems. A lonely existence is a small price to pay for peace.

We return to the film’s steady tease: “You want to know my secret? ... You want to know how I stay calm?” He’s interrupted before he can tell us. Soon enough, his anger takes over and the Hulk finally emerges. Chaos ensues. Loki wins this battle, and we watch Hulk fall to the earth.

But we learn quickly that the Hulk is not the mindless beast Loki takes him for. We learn that he took care that no one would be hurt by his fall. “Son,” says an observer,” you’ve got a condition.” But whatever condition he has, the Hulk is human, created good, capable of good.

***

Check back here in a couple weeks for part two.

Comments

Matt Mikalatos said…
I am a 9 and I resonate with this completely.
David Zimmerman said…
Oh my heart.

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