The Complex Feels of Guardians of the Galaxy v.2

The Complex Feels of Guardians of the Galaxy v.2


Today, I want to talk about, umm… …Guardians of the Galaxy. STARLORD: “Showtime, a-holes!” Yeah, I’m kind of surprised too. Despite the insistence on certain sects of the internets that there is some grand
pro-Marvel/anti-DC conspiracy — while on the whole I’d say I’m pretty sick of the media being flooded with superhero movies — I neither have a particular love nor hate
for the Marvel Cinematic Universe so much as I’m just exhausted by it.
But as for the quality of the individual films themselves? To me they run the gamut from “eh, it’s fine” to “it’s pretty good!” They rarely prompt a rewatch and they even more rarely
evoke any kind of real emotional reaction in me. So, when I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2… the third time… with whiskey… YONDU: “He may have been your father, boy,
but he wasn’t your daddy.” *sobbing* So I guess this one
is joining Moana and Too Many Cooks in the “Uh-oh, I’m drunk and there’s a movie on,
how did this happen?” club. And I was not primed to feel, you know, anything
about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 but in the end I’ve always kind of had mixed feelings
on the whole Guardians franchise. On the one hand, the first one came out at a time
between Man of Steel and Batman v Superman and even other Marvel movies that came out around
that time were trending really grounded and serious so “grimdark” looked like it might be the trend
for all of superhero-dom. [‘Come and Get Your Love’ by Redbone plays] Then enter Guardians of the Galaxy, with its neon
color scheme and its late-70s pop jazz soundtrack to suddenly throw that grimdark trend
into stark relief with something… you know, fun.
STARLORD: “They got my dick message!” So while I am glad that Guardians
helped right the ship a little bit, I don’t think that the Guardians approach
is beyond criticism. For one thing, the film features
more than a few jokey-jokes that featured more than a whiff
of the old casual sexism, like Drax’s little observation here: DRAX: “And this green whore, she too–”
GAMORA: “Oh, you must stop!” This doesn’t even make sense because
he’d literally have to think she was a prostitute! And before you f****ng pedants tell me that
there’s a cut scene where someone calls her a whore and Drax does literally think she is a literal prostitute
because he takes all of the metaphors literally, that’s not in the final cut
so this joke doesn’t even make sense! GAMORA: “Oh, you must stop!” Guardians also suffers from
possibly the weakest of any of the Marvel villains except for arguably the guy from Thor: the Dark World I couldn’t even remember his name.
I had to look it up. He was a dark elf, or something? And I was like one of the eight people
that actually kind of liked Thor: the Dark World anyway. Also, I love that this character’s name is Ronan.
Like, if you spend any time in Ireland, I dare you to find
a more common, mundane name than Ronan. THE ENCHANTER: “There are some who call me…” “…Tim?” KING ARTHUR: “Greetings, Tim the Enchanter.” Although Disney flooding the advertising market
with Baby Groot in the month before the movie came out
just really grated on me. GECKO: “Everyone is paying too much
for car insurance!” GECKO: “We’ve got to save them… money.”
BABY GROOT: “I am Groot!” Baby Groot looks like a FunkoPop toy
that’s going to fill a million landfills and be used as currency
in the post-apocalyptic hellscape. ‘That loaf of bread is gonna cost you
5½ Baby Groot FunkoPops, please.’ But I give Guardians a fairly decent pass
by being a genuinely strong narrative with likable and well-rounded characters. So again, my hope for the second movie before it came out
was that it would be, you know, fine. Like, you know, Captain America: Civil War was.
You know, it was fine. I went into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
a bit skeptical. I was not expecting: [‘Father and Son’ by Cat Stevens plays] *sobbing* Welcome to the drunk cry club, Guardians.
Prepare to be the subject of many embarrassing tweets. Because I can pull all the personal anecdotes I want, but at the end of the day, it really is kind of personal
what strikes you and what doesn’t. I also want to address some points
(subtext, if you will) that I think some out there missed. And this kind of hot take troubles me because some
out there, and therefore by extension our audience, are perhaps seeing a little too much of themselves
in our very very deeply flawed protagonist. Such to the point where they don’t understand why our
very flawed protagonist hasn’t really gotten the girl yet, like the prize all manboys are promised
at the end of every movie. But don’t worry, everyone.
I am here to explain this movie to you. GAMORA: “You will always be my sister.” *sobbing* A lot of why I responded more positively to Guardians 2
than to Guardians 1 has to do with taste, so bear that in mind while I try to explain my My favorite stories and films tend to be ones
that after a viewing, or two, or ten, (and some whiskey)
you can distill into one very strong theme that uses its plot points to branch into
several subthemes that are driven by the plot but most importantly by the characters.
That to me is the best speculative fiction: fiction that uses fantastical elements
to explore questions about the nature of humanity. In effect, all of the Guardians of the Galaxy conceit
is about terrible people, made terrible by abuse, learning to care about society as a whole
by learning to empathize with each other: finding friends where you
— a terrible person — have none, and how finding friends can make you a better person.
A galaxy guardian, even. STARLORD: “I look around at us.” “You know what I see? Losers.” “I mean, like, folks who have lost stuff,” “and we have! Man, we have. All of us.”
None of these characters were born bad. They were made: by Thanos, by Yondu, by tragedy,
or by dehumanization and disrespect from everyone. But that these people can change.
As Movies with Mikey pointed out in his episode about Guardians of the Galaxy,
it’s no coincidence that half the characters who are bad guys in the first movie
become good guys in the second. The second movie expands on this theme,
but more specifically is about parenthood. GAMORA: “Okay? It’ll be just a couple of days.
We’ll be back before Rocket’s finished fixing the ship.” Let’s take a look at that opening dance montage. [‘Mr. Blue Sky’ by Electric Light Orchestra plays] See this honestly kind of bugged me
the first time I saw it, because it didn’t have anything to do with the plot. [‘Mr. Blue Sky’ by Electric Light Orchestra continues] I kind of figured that maybe this would end up with Groot actually serving some purpose in this battle, like maybe he might accidentally
turn the tide of the battle with his dancing, or y’know the dancing might pay off in some way,
or something, but it didn’t. No, this credit sequence didn’t have anything to do
with the plot, but it had everything to do with the theme. That is to say: Every one of the Guardians
gets a parenting moment with Baby Groot. [‘Mr. Blue Sky’ by Electric Light Orchestra continues] STARLORD: “Groot!”
[‘Mr. Blue Sky’ by Electric Light Orchestra continues] [‘Mr. Blue Sky’ by Electric Light Orchestra continues] GAMORA: “Hi!”
[‘Mr. Blue Sky’ by Electric Light Orchestra continues] [‘Mr. Blue Sky’ by Electric Light Orchestra continues] ROCKET: “No! No! Spit it out!”
[‘Mr. Blue Sky’ by Electric Light Orchestra continues] ROCKET: “Spit it out! Come on!”
[‘Mr. Blue Sky’ by Electric Light Orchestra continues] And that’s another thing I really liked about
the second movie: a lot of theming was in the subtext. Like, they never sit down and have a conversation about
how difficult it is to be four parents to one Baby Groot. Like, man, so hard being one-quarter co-parent
in a galaxy with no socialized childcare. So Guardians 2 is about finding your family, but with
regard to parenthood, how your parents affect you. We’ll get to that later. But what is the greatest challenge
to the cohesion of the family? It is not Ronan, the Accuser.
It is not Thanos, Destroyer of Worlds. It is not any outside force.
The greatest threat to the cohesion of the family is: EGO: “My name is Ego.” And I do not mean Ego as in
the character played by Kurt Russell, I mean ego as in the key component of the psychic apparatus defined by Sigmund Freud in 1920. The villain in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is Ego,
but it is also the egotism of the characters. DRAX: “To make it through that,
you’d have to be the greatest pilot in the universe.” STARLORD: “Lucky for us, I–”
ROCKET: “I am.” Peter’s immaturity and near-willingness to throw
his friends under the bus at the chance of immortality, Rocket’s inability to admit that
he lashes out at his loved ones because he assumes the worst about everyone,
sabotaging everything good in his life, Yondu’s inability to be truthful about his motivations and
clinging to prestige until he has lost literally everything, even Gamora who as a child
was so fixated on her own survival that she didn’t see how much
her little sister was suffering. This is why Peter is the nucleus of the story.
And to a lesser extent, Rocket. Peter’s ego is his greatest obstacle
to becoming a fully realized person. STARLORD: “You’re jealous because I’m part god,
and you like when I’m the weak one.” GAMORA: “You were insufferable to begin with.”
And part of what makes the portrayal of Peter Quill probably the most confused element of the second film.
I don’t consider it as confused in the first because the first film isn’t terribly critical of Peter’s
immaturity outside of when he’s a basic jerk to people. Indeed, Peter’s immaturity saves the day. STARLORD: [singing ‘Ooh Child’ by The Five Stairsteps] “Ooh child, things are gonna get easier~/” STARLORD:
“Ooh child, things will get brighter~” But in the second movie, Peter’s immaturity is a major
character flaw around which the entire plot revolves, and the film much more clearly equates Peter’s love of
pop culture with the fact that, well, he needs to grow up. STARLORD: “It’s a show that doesn’t exist!
That’s why it would get zero ratings!” GAMORA: “I don’t know what Cheers is!” Sometimes that works effectively, but then there are
these really dramatic moments where it’s… distracting. Like, really? Even Ego himself seems to conflate
compassion and concern for others with immaturity. EGO: “You really need to grow up!” Egotism in these films is tied to immaturity,
and this is true for all of them. These characters have come a long way
since the beginning of the first movie. Peter has matured, but clearly has a long way to go. STARLORD: “I thought your thing was a sword?” GAMORA: “We’ve been hired to stop an
interdimensional beast from feeding on those batteries,” “and I’m gonna stop it with a sword?” STARLORD: “It’s just swords were your thing
and guns were mine,” “but I guess we’re both doing guns now.
I just didn’t know that.” And this is how we start our movie:
ego gets in the way over basically nothing. But, hey! This flows right into that big question: ‘Peter. Gamora. Why don’t they do the do?’ [‘Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang’ by Silver plays] I’ve seen a lot of confusion over this term.
Like, people hear the term ‘toxic masculinity’ and they just think it means that
being a man is bad, which It seems like the most common point of contention
is not the underlying concept, but the term itself. DRAX: “I have singlehandedly vanquished the beast!” So if you don’t like the term “toxic masculinity,”
why don’t you call it, I don’t know or Whatever. For now, ‘toxic masculinity’ is the term
we have, so that’s the one I’m going to use. When we talk about toxic masculinity,
the simplest way to describe it is men feeling the need to prove their perceived
masculinity through unhealthy means, harmful to others, but just as often
harmful to themselves. These toxic elements are attached to attributes
we as a culture tend to attach to masculinity including but not limited to: Anger, being the strongest, pwnage, … BATMAN: “Do you bleed?” …eschewing emotional attachment, …
JOHN McCLANE: “Need a hug?” JACK McCLANE: “We’re not a hugging family.”
JOHN McCLANE: “Damn straight.” Toxic masculinity eschews attributes
associated with femininity: things like emotional vulnerability, crying,
giving a shit about other people, and flowers. I say “associated with” because obviously
everyone has all of these things in them. Women get angry, and men like flowers. So
the fact that little boys are taught from a very young age that they’re not allowed to cry
or that expressing emotion is unmanly — YONDU: “Is that what she been filling your head with,
boy? Sentiment?” — that is a part of toxic masculinity. So,
with regard to the depiction of masculinity in Guardians there’s a lot you could deconstruct
and some of it is a little contradictory. STARLORD: “If I had a black light, this place
would look like a Jackson Pollock painting.” But for simplicity’s sake, let’s look at
Drax, Rocket, Yondu, and Peter. Drax serves as an interesting deconstruction
of the concept. On the surface, he reads almost like a parody of the mid-90s comic hypermasculine ideal: angry, revenge-driven,
muscle-bound, reckless, and uncaring. And the fact that he is primarily motivated by revenge for his murdered wife and daughter is noteworthy. And also this: DRAX: “And this green whore, she too–”
GAMORA: “Oh, you must stop!” But Drax also serves as
an interesting deconstruction of the trope as well. DRAX: “I am uncertain about parting ways.”
STARLORD: “God, you’re like an old woman!” DRAX: “Because I am wise?” Part of taking everything literally
means that Drax basically has no shame or insecurities. He’s not afraid of emotions associated with femininity. He has no shame in talking about
his love for his dead wife… DRAX: “The most melodic song in the world
could be playing. She wouldn’t even tap her foot.” …including how that affected him physiologically. DRAX: “It would make my nether regions engorge.”
STARLORD: “Oookay, I get it, yes.” He has no shame about bodily functions in general. DRAX: “Ha! I have famously huge turds!” In fact, his parents recounting the tale of his conception
is a thing of beauty to Drax. DRAX: “My father would tell the story of impregnating
my mother every winter solstice.” STARLORD: “That’s disgusting!”
DRAX: “It was beautiful!” DRAX: “You Earthers have hang-ups!”
Drax’s position as the Gimli of the group – more of a comic relief character —
GIMLI: “We dwarves are natural sprinters!” also makes him a bit of a wildcard in terms of
the way he relates to the other characters. He’s not above laughing at his friends’ misfortune. But there is this one scene at the end of the first
Guardians movie that I think is underappreciated: Rocket is openly weeping at the death of Groot.
Drax sits next to him and then pets him.
Rocket starts to resist but then just lets him do it. And you kind of expect
Drax to say something mean and insensitive but he doesn’t. Neither of them say anything. And this quiet moment is almost
sort of a repudiation of toxic masculinity. These two don’t self-actualize by
being the biggest or the baddest or killing the most, but by being vulnerable and validating that vulnerability. But that is not to say that Rocket has grown past
his toxic tendencies by the second movie. Far from it. ROCKET: “They told me you people were conceited douchebags…” ROCKET: “But that isn’t true at all!” As the film starts out with a dick-wagging contest
between him and Peter that nearly gets everyone killed. DRAX: “To make it through that,
you’d have to be the greatest pilot in the universe.” STARLORD: “Lucky for us, I–”
ROCKET: “I am.” …which Gamora spells out explicitly. GAMORA: “Either one of you could have gotten us through that field,” “had you flown with what’s between your ears
instead of what’s between your legs!” But Rocket’s self-sabotaging tendencies are spelled out
most explicitly with his relationship with Yondu, who is second only to Rocket
as to how much he deludes himself, especially with regard to his relationship
with his adopted son, Peter. ROCKET: “Why didn’t you deliver Quill
to Ego like you promised?” YONDU: “He was skinny.” “Could fit into places we couldn’t.” “Good for thievin’.” …whom he threatens to kill
multiple times in the first movie, but also always gives Peter an out
to save face with his boys. So much so that Peter seems aware that
that’s exactly what Yondu is doing. Which seems reinforced by the fact
that this is Yondu’s reaction when he realizes that
Peter didn’t give him an Infinity Stone. Yondu has gone to incredibly great lengths
to protect Peter, but he is completely dishonest with himself as to why. KRAGLIN: “No matter how many times Quill betrays you,
you protect him!” “Like none of the rest of us much matter!”
RAVAGERS: “Yeah!” It’s no coincidence that the guy who takes over after him
is a parody of this hypermasculine idea named “TASERFACE!” And Yondu is so attached with this construct he’s built
for himself, that only after he loses everything — his captainship,
the entirety of his crew who is loyal to him — is he finally able to be honest with himself
about why he is the way he is. And by extension, why Rocket is the way he is. YONDU: “I know you play like you’re the meanest and the
hardest but actually you’re the most scared of all!” ROCKET: “Shut up!”
YONDU: “I know you steal batteries you don’t need,” “and you push away anyone who’s willing to
put up with you, cuz just a little bit of love reminds you” “how big and empty that hole inside you actually is!”
ROCKET: “I said shut up!” And then there is Peter: womanizing, insecure, overcompensating, narcissistic, and lacking in empathy. The first movie begins with him
kicking small animals around for fun. By the second movie, he has improved a bit.
At the very least, he’s aware that diplomacy is a thing. STARLORD: “Careful what you say around these folks,
they’re easily offended.” “The cost of transgression is death.” But he was also threatened by
Gamora using the same weapon as him, and also gets into that contest of egos with Rocket
that nearly gets them all killed. STARLORD: “If what’s between my legs had a hand
on it? I guarantee I could have landed this ship with it.” GAMORA: “Peter! We almost died
because of your arrogance.” Peter, like all of us, is the product of
the values that are instilled in him. He lost his mother when he was twelve,
so most of these values he did not get from his mother or from his biological father who he does not know.
He got it from Yondu. YONDU: “Is that what she been filling your head with,
boy? Sentiment?” And deep down, maybe Yondu’s intent was ultimately
to protect Peter, but the effect was… well… …abusive. STARLORD: “You said you were going to eat me!” YONDU: “That was being funny.”
STARLORD: “Not to me!” [‘The Chain’ by Fleetwood Mac plays] (Is it time for shit to get real already?) So if a big theme of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
is parenthood, then there is the subcategory: abusive parenthood. NEBULA: “I will hunt my father like a dog
and I will tear him apart slowly, piece by piece,” “until he knows some semblance of the profound and
unceasing pain I know every. single. day.” The only parent figure
who escapes unscathed is Peter’s mother, and arguably Drax who may or may not
have been a good parent? We don’t know. Ego was absent and neglectful
and then widespread genocidal, Rocket’s creators were abusive,
Yondu’s parents sold him into slavery, YONDU: “Just like my own damn parents who sold ME,
their own little baby, into slavery!” Yondu abused Peter up until
basically the last moments of his life, and then there’s Thanos.
We’ll get to you, Thanos. And here’s a sentiment I have seen on the Tumblr fringes regarding Yondu’s redemption arc: since the movie cops to Yondu being an abusive parent
but absolves him anyway, basically condoning abuse. YONDU: “I’m sorry I didn’t do none of it right.
I’m damn lucky you’re my boy.” But I really don’t think that’s true or fair
or that any relationship is as simple as that, because this ties into another theme regarding family: choosing when to cut people out of your life,
and choosing when to forgive. It shows that neither of these things are
necessarily permanent. Peter effectively cut Yondu out and Nebula and Gamora spend the better part of
two movies trying to kill each other, but there are some relationships (as in the case of Thanos) that do need to be permanently severed. And despite the fantastical backdrop of these movies,
that Yondu is a blue alien with a whistle-pathic death arrow, and sisters Gamora
and Nebula are genetically altered cyborg-assassins, the underlying emotions are grounded in
real, basic human relationships. Maybe you haven’t been in a literal fight like this with a family member, but you’ve probably been in a fight that
felt like this with a family member. Both of these storylines end with the characters
having to do some intense self-reflection to recognize how they hurt the people they loved,
and ultimately end in forgiveness. NEBULA: “Get over it.” This doesn’t absolve bad things,
but it means forgiveness is possible. And that’s why I feel like the Gamora-Nebula subplot
is a lot more interesting than most people have given it credit for. Gamora and Nebula are the adopted daughters of Thanos. It is implied that they had other siblings who didn’t survive the process of being adopted by Thanos, NEBULA: “Out of all our siblings, I hated you least.” and it is implied that Gamora and Nebula
were close but were driven apart by their adoptive father forcing them
to compete against each other. NEBULA: “As a child, my father would have Gamora
and me battle one another in training. But she won.” “Again and again and again, never once refraining.”
And Nebula, no matter how much she hates Thanos, also resents the shit of Gamora
for being Thanos’ favorite. THANOS: “You alienated my favorite daughter, Gamora.” It’s kind of a petty sibling rivalry thing in the first movie, but this moment here in the second
casts all of that in a different light: NEBULA: “You were the one who wanted to win
and I JUST WANTED A SISTER!” The dynamic between Gamora
and Nebula might read as familiar for people who grew up in households
with abusive or addicted parents and that is the displacement of anger from the abuser (in this case, Thanos) to an older sibling or parent that failed
to stop the abuser or the addict. NEBULA: “Thanos pulled my eye from my head,” “and my brain from my skull
because of YOU.” Nebula seems to be petty and jealous, but really Gamora could have just once thrown herself under the bus to protect her little sister. But she never did. And no, it’s not fair
to put that kind of emotional burden on a child. GAMORA: “I was a child, like you.” GAMORA: “I was concerned with staying alive
until the next day, everyday.” GAMORA: “And I never considered
what Thanos was doing to you.” But that’s what it’s like
growing up in abusive households and that resentment is real and extremely common. It can be even harder for people to forgive a sibling
or a parent who failed to stop abuse than it is to forgive the abuser. And having survived
this abuse as well as a big piece of Gamora’s puzzle. Peter is obnoxious and immature, sure, but Gamora
has put up all of the walls just as a matter of survival and she’s not to a place yet
where she’s really ready to take them down. Accepting that she failed her sister over and over
for years is a bitter enough pill to swallow. The abusive parent theme also shows up with Mantis, but here is where it gets shaky. I’ve seen some criticism that I won’t dismiss that it is a shame that Gunn bore down so hard
with a “submissive Asian woman” trope. That is true. That happened. But I’m more bothered by
how all the other characters treat her with regard to the “surviving abusive parents” theme. MANTIS: “He raised me by hand
and kept me as his own.” DRAX: “So you’re a pet?” She is raised by Ego.
He is effectively the only parent she knows, but everything from her body language to the way
she talks about him shows that she is afraid of him. She is just as much a survivor of abuse
as the rest of them but Mantis’ pain is almost exclusively played for jokes.
Which is to say nothing about the way Drax talks to her. MANTIS: “I am hideous?”
DRAX: “You are horrifying to look at, yes!” It is played as a joke that he would find her unattractive.
But even if it is a joke that works in-character, it still turns her abuse into a joke.
DRAX: “This gross bug lady is my new friend.” MANTIS: “I’m learning many things,
like I’m a pet and ugly.” So it is kind of disappointing
and it muddies the waters a bit that we can acknowledge some characters’ abuse
as legitimate but in others, it is played for comedy. DRAX: “Mantis! Look out!” So now we’ve come full circle: Why don’t they do it already? So given that the dissonance we’ve discussed
between the framing of Peter’s immaturity and the fact that he is not rewarded with the girl at the end of either movie has proven confusing for some because movies are generally not critical
of our male lead’s immaturity. And the film does start to go down the road of
critiquing Peter’s type of immaturity that is so often forgiven or ignored in movies.
(Often movies starring Chris Pratt.) OWEN: “You want to consult here?
Or in my bungalow?” but the film ultimately has trouble
to really challenge Peter as a character. Maybe Gunn is saving that for the third one?
I don’t know. So what normally happens in movies like this
is our lovable, immature manchild gets the girl. This (like the nerd nostalgia thing) is because our lovable, immature manchild is the audience surrogate and his lovable immaturity isn’t really
a character flaw that needs to be overcome, so much as how the filmmakers think
the audience sees itself. SAM WITWICKY: “I’m a killer. A stone-cold killer.” And there’s definitely some of that
at work with Peter’s character and it also feeds into
the dissonance of Peter’s portrayal: his lovable immaturity is both framed as relatable,
but also as a character flaw. Observe the scene where Peter is ranting about
his sense of entitlement at Gamora because the media he grew up with
told him he is OWED a relationship. STARLORD: “You know what?
This is not Cheers after all!” “This is whatever the show is where one person is willing to open themselves up to new possibility,” “and the other person is a jerk!
That’s why it would get zero ratings!” GAMORA: “I don’t know what Cheers is!” Like, ‘yeah, why wouldn’t she find that attractive?’ But ignoring some of the framing dissonance where the movie can’t decide if Peter’s pop-culture-referencing, womanizing immaturity is fun and relatable or if he needs to grow up, STARLORD: “I’m gonna make some weird shit!” the reason why they aren’t together goes deeper than ‘Doofy Guy’ meets ‘Eyerolling Overserious Hypercompetent Female Colleague’. The reason that Gamora and Peter cannot be together is that they are not complete people —
at least, not in the way that means they have anything good and healthy to offer in a relationship. And at least one of them recognizes this. Gamora and Peter are both radioactive
spike balls of defense mechanisms. Even Peter’s womanizing,
which largely gets played as a joke, STARLORD: “This is like from a smoking-hot Rajak girl. Stabbed me with a fork.” “Didn’t like me skipping out on her at sunrise.
I got right here, a Kree Girl tried to rip out my thorax.” “She caught me with this skinny little A’askavariian who worked in Nova Records. I was trying to get information.” it’s his own defense against
letting himself get close to women. Peter is only just starting to
come to terms with his mother’s death. STARLORD: “I HAD TO WATCH HER DIE!” and this ties into a scene that
I didn’t give that much thought the first time I saw it: Peter refuses to open
the last gift his mother gave to him. Because when you lose a parent —
especially when you lose a parent that young — you seal away what little you have of them
as a way of keeping from having to let go. This is the last thing he will ever get from his mother. He has a lot of guilt
over how he handled his mother’s death MEREDITH: “Take my hand.” MEREDITH: “…Peter?” even then — as if he refused to take her hand,
she wouldn’t die. So it’s significant that Peter put off
opening this gift for twenty-some-odd years: Once he opens it, that’s the last thing
he’ll ever get from her. There is a direct line drawn between Gamora and
Peter’s mother in the first movie with this: GAMORA: “Take my hand!” MEREDITH: “Take my hand, Peter.” and in the second movie
through Ego making that connection: EGO: “Like the child I put in your mother,
or the freedom you brought Gamora.” EGO: “Brandy, you’re a fine girl.
What a good wife you would be.” And it is significant that Ego was so threatened
by his love for another person that it makes perfect sense to him
to kill that other person so his own sense of narcissism
won’t be threatened by that. EGO: “I returned to Earth to see her three times,
and I knew if I returned a fourth, I’d never leave.” EGO: “But…” EGO: “…it broke my heart to put that tumor in her head.” Gamora has not yet learned how to let people in.
But Peter is still in the process of coming to terms with his own mother’s death
and how that informs the way he relates to people. And both of them have come a long way,
but neither of them are there yet. That’s why the movie ends not in
them making out over funeral fireworks after Gamora admits that yeah she might
have feelings for him, but with platonic side-hug. So perhaps there were some that didn’t find
Guardians Vol. 2’s narratively satisfying because rather than rewarding
Chris Pratt’s egotism and immaturity with his hypercompetent female co-star as a reward, instead the film paints Peter’s narcissism, misogyny, and character flaws as an obstacle to being in a relationship. STARLORD: “Oh, I get it. You’re jealous because
I’m part god, and you like when I’m the weak one.” Which is not something you see all that often
in Hollywood movies, especially movies starring Chris Pratt. I know it can be kind of jarring having
the male protagonist’s loveable misogyny be anything but 100% vindicated by the end of the film, but the question of ‘Peter and Gamora:
will they, won’t they?’ is more of an emotional subplot. It’s not the focus of the film,
nor is it the film’s emotional core. To the surprise of pretty much everyone,
the emotional core of the movie is… Yondu. YONDU: “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” So, I know I originally framed this around my emotional reaction to the film, and then didn’t really talk about it. I lost my father about a year and a half ago. Peter lost his adoptive father to the cold, unfeeling
vacuum of space. I lost mine in a similar manner. Here on Earth, the term for it is “Parkinson’s disease.”
But it wasn’t this scene that got to me: YONDU: “He may have been your father, boy,
but he wasn’t your daddy.” It was this one: STARLORD: “I told Gamora how when I was a kid
I used to pretend David Hasselhoff was my dad.” STARLORD: “Earlier it struck me:” “Yondu didn’t have a talking car,
but he did have a flying arrow.” “He didn’t have the beautiful voice of an angel,
but he did have the whistle of one.” “I had a pretty cool dad.” Because I’ve been there. I’ve had to give a eulogy for my father
and a part of the process of figuring that out is having to put their life in a context.
And that’s always impossibly difficult. The expectation for the reaction of a child
after a parent dies is more akin to Peter’s mother: unquestioning veneration of the parent. STARLORD: “But you left the
most wonderful. woman. ever. To die! Alone!” But what do you do, how do you feel
when your parents were not… shall we say… perfect? I’m not going to get into the details, but
Parkinson’s disease changes one’s personality and changes their physiology, drastically but slowly,
over a period of many, many years. And when you lose a parent to a chronic illness like I did, it’s only after they die that you realize how much of your memory of the illness dominates your memory of them. And it’s only after they’re gone that you realize that
you’ve forgotten that there was a time before it got bad, that there was something before all this
that helped form who you are as a person. No, my dad never put a bounty on me YONDU: “Put a bounty on ‘im!” Nor did he threaten to eat me,
nor did he beat me up to teach me how to fight. STARLORD: “He kicked the crap out of me
so I could learn to fight,” “and kept me in terror by threatening to eat me.” In fact, he wouldn’t even let me take karate classes. But the last few years of his life were not him
sweetly quietly going into that good night. So this moment right here: STARLORD: “I had a pretty cool dad.” was where the broken, open weeping started.
Coming to terms with the death of a parent… well, I’ll let you know if it’s even possible
if I ever get there. Even seeing Chris Pratt tweeting about his dad on
Father’s Day made me cry for like an hour. And there are a lot of movies where parents die,
but this movie is one of the few in the mainstream that addresses the complex feeling of losing a parent
who you had a complicated relationship with. (The other obvious example being Big Fish.) Yondu let everyone down at one point: his adoptive son, his adoptive father, and his kindred spirit. But Yondu is also all of us. YONDU: “I know who you are, boy!
Because you’re ME!” And before we go, I need to
talk about Rocket for a second. Rocket is (and I mean this in its intended sense)
triggered by condescension. ROCKET: “You just want to laugh at me,
like everyone else!” STARLORD: “Rocket, you’re drunk, all right?
No-one’s laughing at you.” ROCKET: “He thinks I’m some stupid thing! He does!” People disrespecting him is
a psychological trigger for Rocket. The plot begins in earnest when Rocket steals
some batteries because he feels condescended to by the Sovereign, prompting their retaliation.
And then everyone being correctly angry at Rocket. STARLORD: “Because he stole the Anulax batteries!”
DRAX: “They’re called harbulary batteries.”
STARLORD: “No, they’re not!” Does Rocket concede to his mistake?
No, he doubles down. ROCKET: “I did it because I wanted to!”
STARLORD: “…dick.” Rocket engages in some serious self-sabotage because, deep down, he expects
to be abandoned by the people he loves. ROCKET: “Hope daddy isn’t as big of a dick as you, orphan boy.” STARLORD: “What is your goal here? To get
everybody to hate you? Because it’s working.” At the end of the film Rocket has bonded with Yondu, probably more than he ever did with Peter, and he gives Yondu one means of escape
and one means of survival. Yondu can either save himself, or Peter, but not both. And without hesitation, Yondu chooses Peter. Yondu’s sacrifice ultimately leads Rocket to
telling the Ravagers what Yondu did. ROCKET: “I sent word to Yondu’s old Ravager buddies and told them what he did.” And Yondu’s old adoptive family
forgives Yondu for his big crime, which was effectively child trafficking,
and then giving him a Ravager funeral. [‘Father and Son’ by Cat Stevens plays] KRAGLIN: “YEAAAAAH! Yeah!” And see also this moment here,
where Peter acknowledges that Rocket kind of just wants to be accepted. ROCKET: “He didn’t chase ’em away.”
STARLORD: “No.” ROCKET: “Even though he yelled at ’em.
And was always mean.” ROCKET: “…and he stole batteries he didn’t need.” Rocket’s damage centers wholly around
a fear of condescension and rejection, a fear so profound that
he creates scenarios for his friends to reject him. But then Rocket sees so much of himself in Yondu —
who himself was rejected by his surrogate father, Stakar — but especially in how both of them are so threatened
by the idea of accepting love from others. That is why this last scene of the movie
belongs to Rocket. Rocket’s entire world view is built on the expectation
that the people he loves will abandon him and that he is not deserving of being loved,
but the fact that his friends forgive him — and that the Ravagers forgive Yondu — completely shatters every foundational belief that Rocket had. In a way, that can be almost traumatic. There’s this tough thing with applying fantastical
space operas to real world ethics and relationships. The decision to forgive abusers, or even
abuse beneficiaries, is a deeply personal thing. And I like that the movie does draw a line:
sometimes people are way beyond forgiveness, but sometimes they’re not. And even if you do
decide to forgive, growing up in that environment still has influenced who you become.
Family relationships are messy, much harder to put a satisfying little bow on
than romantic relationships, but even then you can still consider someone family without
being ready to give yourself over to a relationship. And that’s the reason this film is
more interesting than your typical love story: the evolution of family dynamics
has more longevity in a franchise and in itself has proven the key to the MCU’s longevity. If nothing else, it has at long last
finally gotten me to feel a feeling. [‘Father and Son’ by Cat Stevens continues to play]

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

100 Comments

  1. I'm good with detrimental dick-wagging. Fits perfectly!

    Doesn't even seem to attack the traits typically perceived as masculine. Only the ways people try to display them.

  2. This is the epitome of what a movie video essay should be. Now when I go back and rewatch the movie I have greater appreciation for it's themes and direction. Awesome video Lindsay!

  3. Impulses can get you killed…and impulses can get you out of shit. if those impulses were not a part of the guy, it is unlikely he'd have survived long enough to be a part of either movie.

  4. My favorite scene of Guardians is in Vol. 2 when Mantis feels Drax's sadness over the death of his wife and daughter. A sense of peace comes over him. He's come to terms with his past. Yet Mantis feels his pain and bursts into tears.

    It's a sadly beautiful moment that shows Drax's depression. He is an example of a paradox I've seen as common in my life: the happiest person in the room is often one of the saddest. Even when you "leave" the mourning stage, the sadness never leaves or dissipates. Drax is a character who speaks completely literally, however his sadness is never addressed besides this scene because he avoids addressing it.

    With rumors that Moondragon (Drax's daughter) will appear in Vol. 3, Drax's chance to address his depression may be coming. I hope it does because after typing all of this, Ive realized how much I love Drax as a character.

  5. The sister dynamic is so powerful for me and I cry every time. Can’t believe my sister and I used to fight it’s such an important bond

  6. Forgive my ignorance if this is already a thing you’ve done….but I’d love to see a collaboration between the two powerhouses that are Lindsay E and Mickey N…….please either do one, or point me to that…thank you

  7. Agreed. When looking at the themes and the treatment of the characters this movie is pretty poetic and meaningful. I think people dislike having expectations challenged which is likely part of why the film was not well received. That said, originally I disliked it because I thought they hadn't come away with a device, power, connection, discovery, etc that revealed anything about the Thanos arc or would provide an advantage against him buuuut I realize now that their growth as characters IS what they took away and should have meaningfully impacted the later over-arc… but then endgame happened and threw all that away for pretty much every character marvel developed these past 10yrs (tangent)

  8. My dad died when I was 10, so I relate to almost everyone in this movie because their all emotionally damaged messes. Of all of the MCU movies, this was the only one that made me cry and it was at the same part you did. The big sacrificial moment where Yondu dies is sad, but it's that quiet moment of reflection and the love and appreciation of the people that knew him that matters the most. I don't care what genre a story is in, or if the movie is animated or populated by CG creatures; if it's well made and passionate, that's what matters.

  9. This video blew me away. I love how in depth you are with you analyse. Personally I think the joke Drax says might have been fine had they not cut out that previous scene. During the script writing process they obviously intended it to be in the films final cut so it made perfect sense with his character. But, by cutting that scene the joke suffers and as a result is taken the wrong way. Really sucks. Love ur videos.

  10. I'm crying. Thanks Lindsay. Now we're all crying.
    Thank you for sharing such a personal story about your dad.
    I promise to be thinking about him.

  11. In the first one, it's genuinely a lot more fun to watch the movie with the perspective of "this is a dnd campaign and the villain is boring and stuff because it's more comedy oriented which is fine cuz the characters are what makes it good anyway"

  12. I lost my father some years ago, and my relationship with him was a little… complex, even some friends though i didn't care
    This is really relatable, and i cried as well

  13. Nebula and Gamora: (are in the same scene together)
    My brain: (breaks out into Angelica's verse in Hamilton that start's out "I know my sister like I know my own mind")

  14. we can have it both ways. Peter doesn't need to grow out of being fun loving and nerdy but he really has to grow out of the womanizing and the sadism

  15. I had to take a 10 minute breather at those last few minutes about Rocket. And I hate the fact that someone put the thought of identifying personally to Rocket Racoon in my head. But I dont think I've ever had something that directed at an aspect of my life I've been grappling with for so damn long. And to finally have these feelings I've never spoken to another person about put into words and finally have them said out loud even if they weren't my own words, made me cry.

  16. Thanks for the video, Lindsay. Now I have to watch this movie again. Sorry to hear about your dad. I lost mine to prostate cancer in 2013. Certain things will just automatically make me think of him still. Someone once said, "You'll never get over it, but you will get through it."

  17. Dangit Lindsey, its 3 am and I have to work tomorrow but this is such a sweet and astute essay I must finish it. Curse you nuanced understanding and genuine appreciation for the art of film! You are setting a bar few can match.

  18. Another great analysis! Thank you, Lindsay. The third viewing for me had the same effect. While a lot of the jokes were forced and tiring, the subtext and the payoff were worth it.

  19. Malekith… his name is Malekith…

    And I only know that because of the infinitely superior version from Warhammer Fantasy.

  20. My take on the term “Toxic Masculinity” is this. It should just be put under the umbrella of “toxicity” because it’s not unheard of for females to engage in what could be considered toxic masculinity. It is more common for males to engage in the types of toxicity that would fall under toxic masculinity bur still. There is all types of toxic behaviours, some are more likely to be performed by males, some are more likely to be performed by females, some, neither. But I don’t think gendering it is useful even if certain elements of toxicity more likely to come from males. Especially when you think about how people would react if people started saying “toxic femininity”

  21. Just re-watched this essay and I'm not going to lie–I might have had tears in my eyes by the end. Guardians Vol. 2 also took me by surprise. I had enjoyed the first film when it came out, but really hadn't given it much thought beyond "Hey–at least it's not gritty and dark." And then I saw Guardians Vol. 2 and wept like a small child.

    Seriously though, I'm glad to see this film get some attention for how well-written its characters are–especially for a mainstream superhero flick. We'd all like to think we're like Captain America or Black Panther–"chosen ones" who have proven themselves worthy of greatness through their selflessness and goodness. Heck, we'll even take Tony Stark, who–though he has obvious flaws–is still a super cool guy with a wicked sense of humor and a brain able to tackle the world's most sophisticated technology. But I think if most of us are honest we would admit that we're a lot more like Gamora or Rocket–deeply flawed individuals whose personal baggage makes them feel broken beyond repair; but we are still able to stumble onto greatness through the love and forgiveness of others.

    Bravo, James Gunn and bravo, Lindsay Ellis.

  22. This discussion about chronic illness changing your perception of a parental figure really got me. My grandmother died of MS when I was 17, and 6 years on, this video made me realise that a lot of the reasons I hadn’t processed most of the emotions about it are because I literally didn’t know her before she was changed.

  23. I wasn't even trying to find any subtext, because I was superstitious about Marvel's movies. But, this video opened my eyes.

  24. Lindsay, I really don't know how many times I've watched then re-watched this video. This hits hard. I couldn't form how I felt about GotG2 into words, but I think this takes the cake. My own family members have been dropping dead left and right and hearing your thoughts and introspection really helps the grieving process for me. I don't know if I'll ever get over my losses either, but you sure as hell are a big help. I'm a few years late on this, but the fact that this video still holds special meaning to me all these years later means something, I think. Thanks again, and I wish you luck in your coming to terms. It's never easy. <3

  25. If ego can put cancer into anyone he wants, he could’ve just put like stage 500 cancer in everyone and render them unable to fight him

  26. I was reading Satanic Verses when my mom was terminal with Multiple Myeloma, and there's a part where Rushdie is very clearly talking about his father's Multiple Myeloma, and it was so stark that I can barely talk about what reading it was like even now, 8 years later.

  27. Seems like Mantis is Meg from Family Guy, Stewart from Big Bang Theory… A lot of American culture has that bully victim everybody decides it's absolutely fine to bully.

  28. what about the toxic behavior of certain women who clearly and explicitly could benefit from the help of a man with genuine intentions to be a helping hand without ulterior motives, but the woman refuses the help because… "she can do it on her own"

  29. The main focus of the video was all the stuff with Peter and Gamora and stuff, but the second she talked about Rocket, I had many feels. Rocket's character hits really close to home for me in how relatable he is

  30. I don't remember my father much. I was a little over 10 and a half when he died, very suddenly. Peter losing his parents hurt me in different ways. His mother because I refused to acknowledge that my dad had died for a few weeks until his funeral, and Yandu because his death was sudden and emotional. Parental death is a huge trigger for me. Endgame sent me spiraling for the rest of the day after I saw it because Scott Lang came back to his family when my own father couldn't. I can't tell you if it gets easier when you lose a parent at an older age, but when you lose one when you were as young as I was, the emotions get more attached to the idea of them rather than your own memories. He didn't get to see me start middle school, turn 13, turn 16, become an adult. I didn't get to come out to him. I didn't even realize I had something to come out about until he was already gone for 5 years. We're coming up on the 9th anniversary of his death, and the end of the year always gets hard because of that. I wish I got to know him.

    I'm sorry for sputtering on about my dad for a while. It feels good to talk about him sometimes, even if I'm just shouting into the void.

  31. I like some of your videos but as I go through your backlog I keep seeing more and more woke stuff. I thought to myself, this video should be innocent enough but not even 2 min in -_-.

  32. I saw the film before my dad died so I didn't get the same feelz when I saw it till just now watching your video about it. I had to give a eulogy too which I would have NEVER imagined I would give one before he died.

  33. This movie had a lot going for it, but somehow it didn't all come together for me. Like I liked all the good things you mentioned here, but there were a lot of weak connections and transitions between them in the film. The execution of all the stuff with his dad was kinda dumb. The first one felt way more tonally consistent to me, it's still probably my favorite Marvel movie. But this one probably ranks near the middle for me.

  34. i grew up in an abusive household. the year the first guardians movie came out, i was suicidal, and had just lost my dad and was on the verge of being kicked out of my house. (i eventually was) and this movie brought a lot of… joy to me. it was probably one of the only things that i enjoyed, that year. you putting a lot of the themes very simply makes it very obvious why i liked the movies, and why i continue TO like them. because the themes force me to process very traumatic things i was not equipped to process. so, thats cool.

  35. To be honest, Nebula's relationship with Thanos and Gamora reminds me of my own with my sister and mom. My mom was abused by my sister but still never stood up for me during the years of abuse and terror I got from my sister. I was alone for all of that and barely survived. And like Nebula, I'm completely scarred up because of it.

  36. Oh, right. I totally forgot that only completely developed and whole people get into relationships. hard eyeroll

  37. Instead of making up stupid terms for "assholes", let's not label it something people can easily get confused over like "toxic masculinity". That's a phrase that was made up by someone who wanted to inject social pressure into a simple concept: Some people are assholes. Just keep it simple. No need for a Sex Studies degree to understand what someone means when they say "that guy's an asshole". If there's nothing inherently "toxic" (ugh) about masculinity, how about we skip the "HUMDRUM FEMINISM" and call an apple an apple instead of trying to make a character flaw about their sex?

  38. In most franchises the first movie- or two- are burned off for world building and aren't really very memorable for any other reason than introducing the characters and basic set-up. Harry Potter struggles through two objectively poor films before getting us to GAS. The first GOTG film was very lightweight, but it had a lot of infrastructure to set up. It's got a bad ending. By the time the second film came along, Gunn really was on his best game. This is a great movie and it needed the fuel of GOTG 1 to get up to speed.

  39. Thank you, there's too little forgiveness in the labels of our culture. An abuser is not a demon that cannot change or be redeemed. They're not someone who can never deserve love themselves.

    Yet there's so many terms in our culture that imply just that.
    It really goes back to people trying to see the world in black and white. It's easier, it's less confusing, and it brings in less pain.

    But that doesn't make it right.

    You can support a victim of abuse without encouraging them to view an abuser as a demon for the rest of eternity. They should while they are being abusive, and be wary of being tricked into coming back when they haven't changed, but even abusers should be seen as people. Even by their victims. It's easier to get them to see that person as evil but easier is not always better. More often the truth is, deep down they are good people caught up in bad thoughts, bad emotions, seeking bad outlets.
    People are generally kinda fucked up. Sometimes they learn to do better with their fucked upness. I think Guardians of the Galaxy does a really good job of exploring that fact of human nature.

  40. I just need to give you major props your videos are all dope! And they are helping me make this 15-hour drive go by a lot faster

  41. Can we all just calmdown with the calling everything misogyni when it's not really, it gets anoyning how diluted that term becomes. Like having a singel steriotype about women or any expectation of them all the sudden makes you a misogynist.

  42. Flashlights shaped like my favorite… What? 3:37 taco bell baja blast happy hour? I know this is trying to mock a guy's web browser but I am genuinely curious now.

  43. I'm fairly new to your content Lindsay, and I have to say you are incredibly insightful and intelligent with how you compose your reviews, while being legit funny with most of your jokes. That being said, where you lose me is your intense social justice ranting. You roll your eyes at people's objection to the term toxic masculinity, but as many comments on this video have pointed out, the behavior is essentially just someone being an asshole. Women can engage in the exact same behaviors that stem from what is at it's core insecurity, but you wouldn't call it "toxic masculinity" or even "toxic femininity." It would just be someone being toxic. That is the disagreement with the term. You are obviously applying a gender to it for the purpose of attacking masculinity itself, rather than just critiquing the behavior. Its a shame because after watching your game of thrones videos I was prepared to tackle your entire library and subscribe, but such bias shows me that I will probably be rolling my eyes at you regularly. It really is a shame because so much of your insight about character, writing, and tropes are as crisp and on point as any channel I've ever watched, but if you must constantly retreat to speaking about how everything is "problematic" I'm going to have to pass.

  44. I liked the first Guardians movie more, but I think that's due to Guardians 2 being a bit bloated with the Ravager mutiny subplot, the golden skinned people subplot, and Ego's plan being a bit… meh. I think with a tighter narrative, it definitely would be in my top 5 Marvel films.

  45. As someone who has always been a dick to friends that have stayed by me, even when I was at my most dickest, and thinking I don't deserve friends, trying to get them to fuck off and abandon me, I relate to rocket just a little too much lol.
    It took me so fucking long to tell myself I deserve friends and love and that it doesn't matter if my friends are "better people than me," at the end of the day I'm not "lucky to have them" they became friends with me because they like me, they like who I am my personality my attitude and I like theirs. The hardest thing in life so far is to realize my dick, alcoholic, lazy self can be redeemed.

  46. Lyndsay shared something really personal here. I have to admit I was taken back by how she was able to articulate her feelings through the way the characters were responding to what was happening to them.

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