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]