I’ve been doing a lot of Hulk-based reading and watching (both films. Don’t even ask) lately. Taking what I’ve seen in the comics, the old TV show (my favourite when I was 10), and the little we get of the Ruffalo-Bruce-backstory, I got to thinking about the quote above.
"I’m always angry".
I’ve seen a lot of people who were flailing that it didn’t make sense, that if Bruce was always angry, he would always be the Hulk. But this is where Bruce’s backstory is so key. He came from an abusive household, where he was weak and he was vulnerable, and I have no doubt that he was always angry about the fact he could do nothing about it.
Bruce in the comics is made of pent-up emotion. He shows nothing. Betty repeatedly comments on it, because she can’t understand him at all. And that’s because Bruce is afraid of the anger inside him, the fact that he could become like his father, that he could and might lash out. (There’s also a whole split-personality arc apparently, but I’ve not reached that yet and whoa complicated)
Because it’s contained, it builds and builds, hidden behind the calm facade. It’s always there. People talking down at him, people calling him weak, people dismissing him. It all bothers him, but he just crushes it down. But don’t believe that for a second. Bruce Banner has no patience for idiots. He calls them on their BS all the time. He pretty much says “were you always this stupid or did you have to work at it?” when someone is blatantly dumb in front of him. He’s a man with a hell of a lot of frustration and anger seeping to the surface, just waiting for an outlet.
And then I remembered this exchange in the Avengers:
STEVE: So, this Doctor Banner was trying to replicate the serum that was used on me?
AGENT PHIL COULSON: A lot of people were.
See, this makes the “I’m always angry” thing even more painful.This may only be MCU-verse, but in this context, it really makes sense.
We’ve been told way back in Captain America: The First Avenger that this serum “makes good become great, bad become worse”. So Bruce is not only affected by gamma radiation, but by a serum which takes what is at the core of him and amplifies it to the nth degree. It takes that anger, that grief, that split between placid scientist and the fury he’s contained for so long and turns it all the way up.
Everything he’s tried to hold in for so many years bursts out in the Hulk. And understandably, he hates and fears it at first. It’s everything he’s tried not to be: feral, dangerous, violent, unthinking. He only sees the surface, just like everyone else, but little by little, he comes to see that just because he’d always tried to hide those parts of him, it didn’t mean they were bad.
That wry half-smile and look back, that “I’m always angry”, is Bruce going “you know what? I am always angry, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing”. That’s Bruce seeing what he can do with these emotions that he has smothered for so long. That’s when Bruce and the Hulk are finally on equal terms.