Speculating about the what ifs can be fun

Published 5:36 pm Friday, August 13, 2021

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There seems to always be something new happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU, as it’s often abbreviated).

For the past decade, the studios have given audiences a couple movies per year, and more recently, television shows too. For a superhero fan such as myself, it’s been fun to watch the world and storylines expand with each new installment, even though at this point it’s getting a bit unwieldy to keep up with.

All the new TV shows, for example, are on Disney+, a streaming service that I’m not subscribed to. So while plenty of people have discussed those shows in depth, I’ve been out of the loop. And that’s generally fine, because I’m sure I can fill in the missing gaps of knowledge later and still find the franchise enjoyable.

But there is one new show that looks interesting enough to almost make me wish I did have a Disney+ subscription. It’s an animated anthology called “What If…?” which, as the title suggests, explores how the MCU would be different if something else had happened instead. The first episode, which was released on Aug. 11, is entitled “What if… Captain Carter were the First Avenger?”

I do think it’d be interesting to see how Peggy Carter would fit into the role instead of Steve Rogers as Captain America. Considering that her character is British, would she become a hero named Captain UK? People who watch the episode will surely find out.

The reviews for the series are quite positive so far. It’s apparently based on a previous Marvel anthology comic series which ran off and on from the 1970s to the late 1990s. The “anthology” part of the description seems to suggest that this will be a mostly standalone series, just showcasing different interesting stories. But you never know with the MCU and its penchant for interconnected plot twists.

It’s kind of funny that I learned about the existence of this series this week when I also just had a recent conversation about “what ifs” with my best friend. She likes to occasionally ask random deep questions that make you think about life. So we talked a little bit about all the different ways life could have changed if we’d made another choice. Like if we’d turned left instead of right or missed an important phone call.

The possibilities are literally endless. (I mean, it IS just speculation after all.)

What if I’d decided to attend a different university? What if I’d taken that trip that I’d originally missed out on? What if I struck up a friendship with a random person in a bookstore? What if I hadn’t moved back home to Northampton County? What if I wasn’t such a picky eater as a kid?

So many questions, and so many potential answers. Any little seemingly inconsequential thing could make a huge difference somewhere down the line. There’s a whole multiverse of possibilities.

But as our conversation concluded, I discovered that the answers didn’t matter much at all to me. I could spend hours and hours speculating for sure, but the reality I’m living right now is really the only one that matters. I can’t go back and change the decisions I’ve made now, and for many of them, I wouldn’t want to change them anyway.

But I suppose we can also take the time to learn from past mistakes by thinking about the “what ifs” too. Like looking back at things you regret and resolving not to do the same thing again.

Not everyone likes speculating on what ifs, of course, but it can be fun for people like me who like to think of the most ridiculous scenarios possible. For example: what if I’d taken up knitting as a hobby and then I kept knitting so many things that I went bankrupt buying yarn and my whole house was covered in the colorful stuff? What would I do then? That’s silly, right? (And also impossible. I can barely crochet, let alone knit anything!)

So every now and then it might be fun to think about the what ifs of life, but in the end, we still have to live in this reality. That’s just something to think about.

I will admit, however, that when I read about Marvel’s new “What If…?” series, I did briefly think to myself… “what if I had a Disney+ subscription?”

Well, that’s something for the Holly in another universe to enjoy.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or by phone at 252-332-7206.