Haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 yet? Then you might want to bookmark this page and come back later – this is about to get spoiler-heavy.
Though some people are lucky enough to experience love and protection from their biological family, that doesn’t happen for everyone – and Marvel tackles the complicated problem of biological versus chosen family in their recent release Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. Unlike most movies – which feature a main character happily reconnecting or reestablishing a relationship with a family member, or forgiving an absent or cruel relation – GOTG 2 cuts straight to the chase: There’s nothing wrong with trying to connect with your biological family, but if they aren’t treating you right, you can choose your family instead. No guilt attached.
Quill’s relationship to Ego and Yondu, as well as Gamora’s relationship with Nebula, are far more complicated and nuanced than that.
Take It to the Limit
With a heavy-handed name like “Ego”, maybe Quill should have seen some of his biological father’s neuroses coming. Early in the movie, it seems like GOTG 2 wants to follow the classic reconnecting and forgiving storyline: Quill has always wanted to meet his father, and Ego has now shown up, claiming to want that very same relationship; cue the sentimental music and father-son moments.
Biological family, though, is not infallible. When Quill finds out that his mother’s brain tumor was arranged by Ego, he snaps; stopping Ego’s plan is his top priority, even when that means destroying the planet and killing Ego. And Quill’s desire for father-son relationship? Gone. Ego killed his mother. There’s no coming back from that, no magical, heartfelt happy ending, no forgiveness. Some relationships can’t be fixed, even in Hollywood.
It is Yondu’s death, instead, that elicits anguish from Quill. Yondu may have threatened to eat him in the past, but it is Yondu’s sacrifice that allows Quill to survive Ego’s death. It is Yondu who wants to make up for his past failures. It is Yondu who cares about Quill as a person – as something more than a genetic link, a means to an end – and it is at Yondu’s death that Quill cries. This is no coincidence. Yondu represents a pseudo-father figure who, though far from perfect, had Quill’s best interests at heart. Fathers don’t have to be genetic.
Siblingship can be complicated, too: Gamora and Nebula have a tumultuous, violent relationship. They spend the entire movie fighting, and even though they share a few moments of connection – such as after Nebula “defeats” Gamora, and at the very end as Nebula leaves – there’s no perfect ending here, either. Are they on better terms at the end of this movie than at the beginning? Certainly, but like real-life relationships, years of problems can’t be fixed in a little over two hours.
If you are one of the people who has cut biological family from your life, someone who has regularly heard well-intentioned sentiments like, “What do you mean you’re not in touch with your parents? You have to love them. Don’t you miss them?”, this movie validates your decisions. It validates your father figures and stand-in siblings, the friends with whom you’re so close they became family.
You do not owe anything to someone who is mistreating you. This is true whether the toxic person is a parent, sibling, cousin, or friend. Though Google searches are quick to give advice, often advising to end toxic relationships, it was nice to see a movie validate the decision to define “family” as something more than biology. Is the movie perfect? No, but that doesn’t make the concept any less nice to see.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or neglect, contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline or your state’s DCF Hotline for assistance and advice.
Looking for a full review of Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2? Check it out on PCU here.
Featured image credit: Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 Wiki.