I started out by agreeing with it, and then slowly unravelled to the point where I was like, “No, no, no.”
The argument that the film is too heavily focused on Quill and that MCU!Quill is more stereotypically dudebro-y than comics!Quill has weight, but I have trouble following arguments that presuppose the film is filmed through Gunn’s personal dudebro lens, because then that becomes the lens through which you watch it. You end up *looking* for those things as opposed to watching the film as a whole, which can lead to decontextualization and an emphasis on detail over theme, not to mention the unavoidable bias. Like, any critique that wants to compare the films to the comics and how they changed the characters but only point out the things they changed for the worse smells like bias to me. Yeah, Quill is introduced as a loner not a loveable post-Han Solo space rogue in the comics. So that’s a -1 (based on your perspective), but you know what’s a plus +100? Gamora’s not a gang rape victim! Meredith Quill isn’t murdered by Badoons who’ve come to earth to kill Peter because of who his father is! These are very good changes, but you’re not going to mention them, when you have a point to prove from the beginning.
But about Peter, the loveable post-Han Solo rogue, and if that’s really as terrible as everyone is making it out to be. It makes 100% in-universe sense that Peter has an arrested sense of development. Remember, he was kidnapped—not only from his family, but his entire planet—only minutes after his mother died and raised by a gang of petty criminals. There is a reason the film drops so many dated references to pre-1988 pop culture: those are the ideas and models for Terran behavior Quill has. The styling of him after Han Solo seems particularly purposeful in this regard, particularly because it is self-styling, and I think a lot of what is being interpreted as ‘same-old-same-old’ douchebro behavior are the moments when the film is showing us how he’s actually not as capable or suave as Indiana Jones or Kevin Bacon or the other 80’s icons he understands heroism through. I didn’t think that Quill was bragging about all the hot ladies he’s banged in the prison scene where he’s trying to convince Drax not to kill Gamora; I thought he was using humor to diffuse a tense situation by talking about his failures with women. Self-deprecation and bragging are very different things.
Which, of course, brings us to Bereet (who is actually named, though people are making a lot of claims that both her and Carina aren’t), which seems to be something that is really sticking in people’s craw. I totally believe this character and their interaction was used to help establish what sort of character Peter is, so in that way she’s a disposable character*, yes, but I don’t think he forgot about her existence entirely—that just seems entirely unlikely unless he kicked her out of bed after having sex with her and made her sleep somewhere else. A much reasonable explanation would be that he knew he had to go do this job, so decided to do hop onto the planet while she was still asleep, and go back to the ship for some more sexy fun times with pretty alien girl after he was done. Except, as we see, it wasn’t an easy hop on and off of the planet, and it’s entirely reasonable that in the process of escaping for his life he forgot he had a sexy space alien waiting in his bed. Yes, it’s played for yucks, but he’s not a dick to her about it. He apologizes for forgetting about her and in the scene afterwards there doesn’t seem to be any animosity between them. If she had been angry and been like, “but peter! what we had was so special” and he said something to the effect of “lol, no. im a free agent baby,” I would be annoyed and see it as painting him as a super slick womanizer, but from what I saw it appeared to be two consenting adults who had engaged in mutually casual sex. It’s shitty that he forgot her name, yes, but I will be 100% right now and tell you I have had one night stands with dudes whose names I’m not even sure I ever bothered to learn in the first place. So some of the criticism of this scene get my back up because people seem to be equating what I personally read as casual sex with some sort of inherent personality flaw or unethical behavior.
I would also like to point out that comparing Bereet and Christine from Iron Man is kind of stupid because they serve entirely different functions. And if you think Christine’s portrayal has better gender politics simply because she had more screentime, I’m going to laugh in your face. Do you need a reminder that Tony basically had Pepper throw her out for him?
One disconnect I think people are having when they try to compare this film to previous MCU films, which have all been earth-bound (with the except of Thor, though we do spend much time on Earth in both his films) superhero movies is that they forget that these characters in GotG, while they eventually become a group of ‘heroes’, are actually outlaws and misfits. They form in prison. They do not represent the best of us the way Captain America or Thor do. So yeah, Rocket Raccoon suggests that Gamora try to seduce a guard, and that is “bad” and insulting, but Gamora objects to this suggestion… while on the other hand, Black Widow actually uses seduction techniques in her work.
All of this hand-ringing over Gamora actually gets my goat a bit, to tell you the truth. I wont argue that she doesn’t suffer from ‘only-girl-on-the-team-itis’ or that her presentation is 100% perfectly progressive because it’s very obviously not, but the post you’ve referenced claims, she “never really calls peter out on his being an asshole in a way that is supported by the movie” which I 110% disagree with heartily. She spends a lot of time calling him out. I believe the word dishonorable is used by her against him a lot. She is always very vocal about what she thinks and doesn’t shy away from criticizing ANY of the team, including and especially Peter. I don’t know if its just that this person needs to watch the movie again because there was so much that happened that they’ve forgotten, or if they’re actively chosing to ignore the fact that Gamora holds her own because it better suits their complaints.
The films sets up two instances in which they heighten the potential romantic/sexual tension between Gamora and Peter and both times Gamora refuses to have it. Once on the balcony, before they’re properly a team. She’s not stupid, she knows he’s trying to put the moves on her, and she pulls a goddamn knife on him and very explicitly states that she’s not starry-eyed and won’t be tricked by his “pelvic sorcery.” She refuses to let him reduce her to a sexual object, and there was nothing that gave me the impression the film didn’t support this. In fact, the second scene that plays up this tension seems to reinforce that a romance plotline isn’t in the cards because it gives us a moment that is OVER THE TOP dramatic hero-saves-the-damsel in distress and then immediately undercuts and satirizes it. In fact, this is a moment when ~genre~ and ~theme~ are important to remember.
Well, because GotG is a pretty straight forward movie, plotwise. It’s a story we know and have been told a million times before. It’s very, very tropey and a HUGELY referential genre film. It knows its history, it knows it place in that history. Protag stepping up to become TRUE HERO through SELF SACRIFICE to SAVE GIRL is “the way” the story goes. Hero and Girl then, obviously, get together. So after they’ve been sucked into Yondu’s ship from outerspace (after she’s had her own sort of Big Hero moment, though no one seems to want to give her credit for that) and lying on top of her, we as an audience are totally primed for ~the big kiss~ because that’s how its gone down in all of the movies we’ve seen before, but instead, Peter literalizes the flimsy motivation this trope is dependent on (“I found something inside myself, something heroic”). They undercut the tension, satirize the trope, and Gamora rolls her eyes and shoves him off of her.
The thing about Drax and the ‘green whore’ comment I’ve already discussed. Even though I understand the in-universe explanation (During the prison scene when everyone is trying to kill Gamora she is called that; Drax takes everything so literal he does not understand the concept of an insult and takes the claim at face values; he repeats it inoffensively during a line about how glad he is to be on a team with her, showing the cognitive disconnect between his speech and everyone else’s; it happens right before Nebula bursts in and calls Gamora a coward and Drax immediately defends her against such a claim and calls her a friend, highlighting the fact he meant no insult with an intended-to-be-humorous juxtaposition) I don’t like it. I think it’s cheap. I think it’s convoluted. I think it should have been left on the cutting room floor or never filmed at all.
You know what it’s on par with though? ‘Mewling quim’ from The Avengers. Which is why I do not understand any gender-based critiques of GotG that are predicated on the assumption that the MCU was suddenly this harmless femmetopia where everything was filmed with perfect gender neutrality and now ~suddenly~ we’re being inundated with sexist drivel. I’d say that when you control for genre and the fact that we’re dealing with criminal elements as our protagonists instead of heroes who are supposed to represent and appeal to our better selves, its about on par with the other films in the MCU. Which is to say, about a B, maybe a B+ when I’m feeling generous. Yeah, the Thor franchise might have a few moments that are more explicitly female-gazey, but they also fridged the fuck out of Frigga and reduced Jane Foster to a literal plot device who is unconscious for the second half of TDW so they don’t have to try and work her into conversations between Thor and Loki. And besides, I’m pretty sure the Chris Pratt shower scene was not filmed for the benefit of the male audience either.
TL;DR Guardians of the Galaxy has problems, for sure, but a lot of the popular fandom critique going around simplifies those problems/ignores complicated plays on genre and trope. I, personally, found it no less or more accessible as a female viewer than anything else in the MCU and am continually baffled by the arguments people are making that the previous films didn’t suffer from similar problems.
Yes. This is pretty much everything I’ve been thinking since seeing all these things pop up on my dash about how sexist GotG is. Yes, it has problems, but compared to a lot of the other Marvel movies it is hardly the most sexist. And Peter may not be an angel but he’s not 100% a dick… not even to women.