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SYFY WIRE Avengers: Endgame

Yes, Professor Hulk in Avengers: Endgame is hot and here’s why

By Kayleigh Donaldson

Oh come on, you knew this post was coming.

The moment Avengers: Endgame cut to that very weird diner scene where our intrepid heroes dine on massive plates of scrambled eggs with the new and improved Bruce Banner, you knew someone on this beautiful website write about how we want to climb that giant green man like a beanstalk. We at SYFY FANGRRLS are, as always, dedicated to exploring the strange, unusual, and totally bangable world of weird genre crushes. Hell, by our standards, this is one is actually pretty normal.

One of the things that makes Avengers: Endgame so emotionally stirring is how it depicts the various facets of trauma and its aftermath. No two people react to grief and depression in the same way, and the ensemble of Endgame offers audiences a microcosm of these various emotional responses. Captain America remains burdened by the weight of being the nation’s hero and so must react appropriately, taking on the mantle of guide and emotional support to those lost at sea. Black Widow tries to soldier on and cling to her purpose as an Avenger, even when she’s not sure why. Thor descends into apathy and guilt, so convinced he’s undeserving of his heroic status that he’ll let it rot. Hawkeye becomes violently vengeful, taking out his anger on those he feels have not earned their right to live in this new world.

But then there’s Bruce Banner, the character in the MCU who is the most wholly defined by his rage and his constant inner battles with it. He is a man of two halves who has struggled to overcome the side of him that is driven by sheer brute force and fury. In the aftermath of a horrific event that decimated trillions of lives, Bruce didn’t give into the anger like so many of his friends. Instead, he chose to stop pitting these two parts of himself against one another and unite them for the greater good of the world and his own wellbeing. And so we got Professor Hulk!

Whenever we talk about the sex appeal of the unconventional figures of genre fiction, we spend a lot of time talking about power and its romantic dynamic. We love vampires and werewolves for that instinctive alpha thrill that comes with being sexually entwined with a creature that could easily devour us without a second thought. We’re into sexy robots because their superior intellect and separation from the frailty of human emotions taps into our deepest concerns about our own mortality. Hell, even Thanos got a boost of allure through a combination of his increasing omnipotence and Shakespearean malice. Through that obvious imbalance of power comes the full-throated sexual appeal. But that doesn’t really apply to Professor Hulk.

Sure, he probably could toss you around like a ragdoll and he has the kind of structural integrity that would allow you to slide down him like a fireman’s pole. That’s definitely part of the appeal. However, in his new form, Bruce Banner isn’t angry or struggling with power or all that keen on smashing things up. It turns out that he’s pretty happy and well-adjusted. Really, this may be the most relaxed and on top of his life we’ve ever seen Bruce in the MCU. He’s always had a good sense of humor and desire to do the right thing, but he’s never been as successful at that as he is in Endgame. Look at him, eating his giant tacos and wearing well-fitting clothes and just enjoying his life, even in the face of crushing tragedy that has utterly dominated those he cares about the most. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Professor Hulk’s main style influence seems to be full-on hipster. The memes create themselves!

Frankly, there are few things more intrinsically appealing in romantic and sexual terms than someone who is comfortable in their own skin, and Bruce has never been like that in the MCU until now. Even though Mark Ruffalo is all kinds of scruffy attractive, like that surf instructor who really cares about the environment and is probably really fun to get high with, the discomfort of Bruce’s predicament confined him for most of the franchise. He may always be angry but that hasn’t done much good for him before, and any chance of a reasonably healthy relationship with Natasha disappeared before it even had an opportunity to take root. Although that subplot remains one of the weakest and most ill-inspired elements of the franchise, the abstract notion of Bruce trying to be a regular guy with romantic feelings made sense, and the ultimate conclusion of that relationship was inevitable for him at that moment in time. That narrative seemed to hammer home the accepted truth that Bruce would always be a loner at war with himself, so seeing him refute that by embracing his strangeness is refreshing, especially in a genre dominated by heroes struggling with their endless internal conflict. Why not just be the weird one, green skin and all? It’s a hell of a lot cheerier a prospect than being a prisoner in your own mind, crushed by the weight of the world.

It remains to be seen if Bruce will remain in Professor Hulk mode for future MCU movies (and that’s assuming he’s sticking around in the franchise for Phase Four). The post-Endgame world of Marvel will be one irrevocably scarred by trauma but it may be Bruce in his new green hipster glory who represents the best way forward through the pain. So hell yeah, we’re into that!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.