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We Talked to Parents Whose Kids Were Emotionally Wrecked by 'Infinity War'

"The only voice I could hear was my son beside me saying under his breath 'No, no, no, please no!'"

Luke Winkie

Luke Winkie

This article contains major spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.

In Avengers: Infinity War's instantly iconic final sequence, the mad titan Thanos rips the Mind Stone out of Vision's forehead, places it into the Infinity Gauntlet, and destroys half of the universe's sentient life with a snap of his fingers. It is about as incredible as it is devastating; the first time Marvel Studios has let its heroes try, and fail, and die. You get to see a catatonic, uncharacteristically silent Tony Stark on a barren planet, completely out of answers. You get to see T'Challa, currently the most popular film character in the world, turn to ash. (Same with Falcon, and Groot, and Dr. Strange, and Star-Lord.) Yes, they will probably reverse course in the next film and bring all of these guys back to life—nobody stays dead for good in superhero comics—but that won't diminish the shock of the moment.

That said, you have to feel for the parents who unexpectedly walked into a buzzsaw when they decided to take their kids to an Infinity War matinee. Kids are conditioned to think that the good guys always win; when they don't, it's downright disorienting. At theater I saw Infinity War in, all went silent, save for a few trembled sobs coming from a small, young family a few row behind me. The dad had nothing to offer except the vague reassurance that everything will probably be OK, probably by the summer of 2019. There's no easy way to tell a son or a daughter that even Spider-Man is mortal, so I decided to reach out to some parents and ask them how they best prepared their kids for the visceral ending of Infinity War, and what the fallout was like during the ride home.

Chris Hawes, Saskatchewan, father of an eight-year-old son

VICE: So obviously there was a lot of hype before Infinity War about how characters were probably going to die. Did you try to communicate that to your son at all? Did you warn them?Chris Hayes: I was familiar with the Infinity Gauntlet comic series and what happened in it, I explained to my son that some of the heroes might not make it through, although I wasn't sure which ones. He went into the movie knowing that many of the heroes weren't going to make it to the end of the movie.

So during that final scene, as a parent, what was going on in the theater? What was the moment your kid started to cry? Were you feeling emotional at all?
I was anticipating the "finger snap" scene but wasn't sure how they were going to do it. I was expecting it to be the final scene in the movie, and we wouldn't actually see who would disappear until the next one. When it happened, I was curious who was going to be removed and who was going to survive. Some of the choices surprised me more than others. I knew Iron Man and Captain America were going to make it out, but I didn't expect so many of the Guardians of the Galaxy to vanish and Spider-Man caught me off guard. The theater was silent. As the heroes began to vanish, no one made a sound. The only voice I could hear was my son beside me saying under his breath "No, no, no, please no!" It was heartbreaking to hear him, and I looked over, and he was covering his face with his hat but at the same time trying to keep his eyes on the screen to see who was next. As soon as Spider-Man said, "I don't feel good," he broke down. I had to put my arm around him and hold him. "Not Peter, no! Please no!" He kept repeating that over and over again. I was more concerned about him than the movie. I know Marvel wouldn't kill off that many characters without intending to have them return; no one truly stays dead in comics, so it didn't hit me very hard. To my son, on the other hand, these characters are like gods to him. For him to see his favourite heroes snuffed out at the snap of a finger hit him very hard.

How did you handle the aftermath? How much was your kid crying, and what did you do to try and console them?
We sat through the credits to watch the clips afterward, and during the credits, I tried to console him. A friend of mine who came with us tried to tell him that they will be coming back, and even a few other audience members tried to help. The only thing I could think of was to take out my cellphone and show him the Wikipedia article on the next movie and showing him the cast list. I explained to him that they are coming back. I also said that they wouldn't kill off Spider-Man because there was another movie coming out soon, and it wouldn't make sense to make a movie about Spider-Man if he was dead. This seemed to help a bit, but even after we left the movie, he was still very upset. He said that they had better bring back everyone, otherwise he would be very upset. Even when he went to bed he was still visibly upset. I could hear him mumbling to himself from his room saying, "I can't believe they killed Spider-Man!"

Do you have any advice for any other parents who might be dealing with a very sad child after the end of Infinity War ?
My best advice for other parents is to make sure their children are aware that some of their heroes are going to disappear in this movie. Explain to them that in stories like this, sometimes more popular characters get killed off to give the situation more gravity, but everyone knows in comics, no one stays dead for long. in hindsight, I might have actually thought twice about taking him to the movie with so many heroes gone if I had known beforehand. It can be hard on a kid to see this but knowing that they will come back does help make it easier.

Kyle Hicks, St. Louis, father of a nine-year-old daughter

VICE: Did you try to communicate the likelihood that a lot of the characters were probably going to die to your daughter at all? Did you warn her?
Kyle Hicks: Yes, especially on the way to the theater. I had heard a few things but no major spoilers (even went offline starting Monday until we saw it Saturday morning at an 8:15 AM showing). Her uncle and I knew some of the comic storyline, and we had discussed "the snap" prior.

During that final scene, as a parent, what was going on in the theater? What was the moment your kid started to cry? Were you feeling emotional at all?
To be honest, my wife and I were just as shocked as the rest of the theater. The two of us have seen every MCU movie in theaters. We started bringing her, I want to say, around when Ant-Man came out so we're all heavily invested in these characters at this point. I would glance over to check on the little one after every death just to make sure she was holding up but at the end it was when T'Challa turned to dust that the tears really began. Like I already mentioned, as bad as it sounds, we were so wrapped up in the end that it didn't even register to check up on her until the end credits rolled.

What was the aftermath like? How much was she crying?
She was crying but not too hard until I told her to come sit with me, and then she laid on me and started sobbing. She was upset. Heartbroken. Devastated. So well done to Marvel for breaking the hearts of millions of children. Everything we had done to prepare her for the movie wasn't quite enough.

You mentioned that you pulled back the curtain a bit, and told your kid that there are Spider-Man and Black Panther movies in the works. How effective was that technique?
Super effective. The tears quit almost immediately. She's a pretty logical kid. Plus her mom got on her a little bit because she was on the verge of making a scene. Like I said, it was pretty bad. She held it together until she sat with me, and then she let loose. It never got to the point where she did make a scene, I don't think anyone even noticed, but man. We had just lost a family member a month or so ago, so I didn't really feel the need to rehash the whole "death is part of life" thing. She was fine before we even hit the lobby in the end though. I want to go back and see it in IMAX, but she's not ready to see it again. I'm not sure my wife is, either.

Do you have any advice for any other parents who might be dealing with a very sad child after the end of Infinity War?
It's a good lesson that you or your heroes don't always win, and sometimes you suffer losses. We're so used to seeing the heroes win that it comes as a slap in the face when they lose and half the universe is wiped out and the heroes aren't exempt. Teach them death is part of life, but you have to go on regardless. Or just copy me and tell them some of the heroes already have sequels lined up.

Artist: Ryan Meinderding. Image via Marvel Studios.

Donovan Lyons, Chicago, father of a five-year old son

VICE: You communicated how the characters were probably going to die to your son before the movie. How did you go about that?
Donovan Lyons: When we saw Black Panther, he bawled his eyes during the challenge fight between T’Challa and Killmonger—I wasn’t expecting that because he’d never had that reaction to a movie before. But he really thought Black Panther was going to die. That opened my eyes and I knew I would have to prep him a lot for Infinity War.

So part of it was just trying to tell him that what happened to T’Challa might happen to, well, everybody in Infinity War. I also tried explaining that we know Black Panther, Spider-Man, and the Guardians have new movies coming out, so we know they’ll be OK. His favorite is Spidey, mine is Doctor Strange—and I told him that even Doctor Strange might die as a way to show him I might get sad too, but also that it will all be OK.

As we got closer to the release date and it was becoming apparent it was going to be even crazier than I expected, I actually read him some of the Infinity Gauntlet comics—mostly to show that Thanos might hurt all the heroes, even kill them, but they come back in the end. That also prepared him for the snap scene.

I also made sure to see the movie myself first, so then I basically spoiled it for him and asked him if he still wanted to see it. I stressed that it would be scary and sad and probably the most intense movie he’s ever seen, but he still wanted to go!

So during that final scene, as a parent, what was going on in the theater? What was the moment your kid started to cry? Were you feeling emotional at all?
Audible gasps. Then stunned silence. I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a movie where the whole theater was basically silent at the end of it.

I think because of how I prepared him, he was even a little excited for the snap. He knew it was a big deal and an iconic moment. In fact, I think he learned to snap because of this movie. Once people started disappearing though he squeezed my arm and I had to tell him it would be OK, but overall I was impressed with how he handled it. Maybe better than I did!

You mentioned you prepared him well. Does he think those characters died? Or does he think they're instead in another plane of existence or something? How is he coping with the loss?
I think he thinks they died but he’s sure they’ll come back in the next movie. Again, I explained to him the concept of sequels, showed him the old comics. I’ve been hyping Captain Marvel a lot for him too (so he totally got the post-credit scene too) and telling him that she might come save the day. So overall he’s coping with the loss very well, mostly in knowing they’ll come back somehow. Also when he plays with his friends at school he likes to be Thanos... So I don’t know, maybe he got the wrong message there.

Was there any specific character's death that he was upset about, or was he positive all the way around?
Spidey, of course. But I specifically prepared him a lot for that one after I saw the movie, especially because that one was particularly sad. He loves Black Panther, Falcon, and Bucky and was crying out "Noooo!" during those parts.

When I asked him after the movie what the scariest or saddest part was, it was actually when Thanos turned Drax and Mantis into blocks and ribbons. He said that scared him the most. Maybe because the way they just disappeared at the end was a little more abstract for him, but seeing people crumble like that was a bit more disturbing.

What advice would you give other parents who might end up with a very sad child after Infinity War?
Preparation and communication were key, so talk to them before you see it! I wouldn’t go into this movie blind with a young child, but I also grew up with these comics so I at least had somewhat of an idea of what to expect. I mean I basically spoiled the movie for him, but he’s only five so that’s not really a thing he cares about it. But I was basically like, "OK, this, this, and this are going to happen, and it’s sad and scary—do you still want to see this? It’s OK if you don’t, I totally understand."

Explain the concept of sequels, that we know some of them are coming back for sure. Like OK, there’s another Avengers movie, then Spider-Man comes out right after—so we know he’s going to be fine, we just don’t know how yet. Explaining to them that they might be on a different plane of existence might be good too, but that hasn't really come up with us yet. Finally, taking them to a toy store and get them a shiny new toy from the movie always works.

Michele Campbell, California, mother of a daughter, age unspecified

VICE: Did you try to communicate the likelihood that a lot of the characters were probably going to die to your daughter at all? Did you warn her?
Michelle Campbell: No, I assumed it was just a superhero movie, so I was shocked as well.

So during that final scene, as a parent, what was going on in the theater? What was the moment when your kid started to cry? Were you feeling emotional at all?
My daughter started to cry after Gamora died. Mine was Spider-Man. So the last 40 minutes were the hardest. And when the movie was over, the theater was the quietest ever after a movie, even when I know it's going to be sad.

What was the aftermath like? How much was she crying?
She cried most of the way home and it took days before she watched another superhero movie. I still don't want to watch any. All five of us that went to the movies were not happy with how the end made us feel.

How did you handle that aftermath? What did you do to try and console your kid?
My husband used Groot as an example of how the superhero can "die" and then they be brought back to "life." And he used the Star Wars movie where Han Solo gets frozen then comes back in the next film.

What character death did your kid take the hardest?
Gamora, and mine was Spider-Man. We still stayed in the theater till the very end as most of us know that there's a little bit more after the credits. It didn't help the mood at all. It actually made me more irritated. I know it's just a movie, but I don't go to movies to cry or feel upset.

What advice would you give other parents who might end up with a very sad child after Infinity War?
I wouldn't tell them to go see it the first place. I really don't have anything nice to say about that movie.

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This article originally appeared on VICE US.