Gamora, Thanos and how abusive parents can break us

Contributed by
May 3, 2018, 6:43 PM EDT (Updated)

Abused kids are always a staple of sob-story tropes, and we’ve seen it in almost every famous hero to exist. There's Tony Stark, Peter Quill, the Hulk, Wolverine—but the last time I saw a female character explore the aftermath of her abuse at the hands of her parents and have it acknowledged on a major media platform was in Teen Titans, when Raven turned into like six other Ravens because her dad was basically Satan. I was 9 when I watched those episodes, and they struck me in a place I hadn’t realized existed yet.

Since her abduction by Thanos (depicted in flashback scenes from Avengers: Infinity War), Gamora was trained to be strong, to endure pain, to keep from breaking—and in a sense, so was I. My stepfather’s unchecked anger took tolls on me I used to think I couldn’t fix. Like Gamora, I grew up fighting after that. There were times I almost started looking for a fight when I couldn’t properly deal with whatever it was I was feeling.

Today, I am strong. And I am tough. Part of my ability to take criticism, racism, and hardship without flinching is due to my childhood and some of the most horrific times of my life. In the face of awful things, something inside tells me that I’ve already seen "bad," and that this isn’t it, because at least nothing’s broken. At least I’m not bruised. At least I’m not 9, with no control.

But if I got to choose between being made of vibranium and being able to love somebody the way they deserved, I’d pick second. I’d pick a life where I didn’t have to sift through hours of therapy and introspection to get it right. I’d pick a dating history where I didn’t leave a trail of people in shambles in my wake. Gamora didn't get to choose, and neither did those of us with abuse in our pasts.

Maybe it’s this lack of a choice that ensures, out of everyone in Infinity War, Gamora is the only one that manages to stick a knife in Thanos’ throat. I'm talking full-on stabby-stab in the jugular. Gamora came the absolute closest to killing Thanos and I’m upset the film didn’t make more of a spectacle about it. We’re raised hearing about how mothers will kill for their children, how fathers only release certain chemicals in the brain when bonding with their offspring—and we’re expected to believe that despite their strength, their wit, and the all-consuming role our parents play in our lives, we’re the ones who know how to dismantle them with ease. Gamora being the first one to draw blood from Thanos, even in a mirage, is a huge deal—a bigger deal than Marvel understands.

Because the same rules apply to how our parents can break us.

No one can hurt you like your parents can. As children, they’re everything we know. Our love interests, our ability to take criticism, our mental fortitude: all of that lies with our parents and what they teach us and how we’re treated. To have someone abuse that power and responsibility, to mishandle the fragility of a child’s mind and feelings, is awful. But to think that same child, after all the mishandling, is the only thing that can pick you apart bit by bit? That's downright poetic, and Marvel should’ve tapped into it more.

A lot of people are raging over Gamora’s beginning, her arc and her end, and I want to make it clear that I understand. Gamora should have been more of a character that explicitly depicts the inescapable nature of childhood abuse, the type of abuse that hinders us from moving forth until we’ve dealt with it. Her entire story stems from her ties to Thanos and her desire to stop him, and with good reason, but we never see her truly deal with it in a healthy, consistent way.

Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos and Gamora

Credit: Marvel Studios

Along her journey, we see tendrils of other things beginning to sprout throughout the Guardians films—friendship, or romantic love—but it’s important to note just how difficult it is to develop and nurture those areas of growth when you’re dealing with a crusty-lipped scallywag for a father and the trauma he left behind.
 It’s a blatant demonstration of how having abusive parents changes the way you perceive various forms of intimacy for the rest of your life. Despite his narcissism, the whole genocide thing, and having all the personality of drywall, I still wanted Thanos to love Gamora. And the old me believed, for a second, that he did. Because being abused makes you believe that being loved at all is as good as being loved properly. 

I know Thanos doesn’t love Gamora, and she does too. He thinks he loves her, though, and that’s why his scene with her in Voramir is so jarring. We already know this dude is evil. What we don’t expect is for him to be evil in one of the most terrifying, familiar ways imaginable. Thanos feels he knows best, understands more than anyone, and loves his child. So did our abusive parents.

Abuse doesn’t go away. I don’t care how many years it’s been, what type of abuse it was, or whose hands caused it. If it's not dealt with, one day, something will happen and you will snap. You’ll scream at your lover and sound just like your mother. You’ll hurl something at your kid the way your father used to hurl things at you. Which is why, even after watching the Guardians movies, I get why much of Gamora’s story still centers around her dad and his behavior—and why her end is, unfortunately, met at his hands. 

It’s important to note that Thanos, before trotting off into his f*cking mountain cabin and watching the sunset, sees little Gamora before he leaves Earth. Not big Gamora. Not rightfully angry, I-will-slit-your-throat Gamora. Little Gamora. Gamora before she understands she’s being abused. Gamora before she starts to, as she said, "hate her life every day." This is the Gamora Thanos can look at without facing the aftermath. When he sees little Gamora, she asks him, “What did it cost you?” to which he replies, “Everything.”

There's an even scarier realization than the fact that this man just wiped out trillions of people. There's the fact I still feel things outside of anger towards Thanos, as a father. There’s also disappointment, because I’ve seen all this before and it’s ugly and familiar. But there’s also that one, heartbreaking moment that only kids from abusive homes have with Thanos and his role that turns us into our little selves after being our big selves for so long: the moment we realize we want him to be better. 

And that’s why I hope Gamora comes back and beats his wack alien ass. 
Because metaphorically losing your life at the hand of parental abuse is one of the most awful ways to go. To be acknowledged as the deadliest woman in the universe and not live to see that potential because of your father is the ultimate slap in the face. How many kids in real life end up the same way?

Gamora has suffered more than anyone else at the hands of our latest villain, and it’s hardly even acknowledged in Infinity War. Unless she’s the one to kill him, tears or no tears, Marvel will miss out on a huge opportunity on a multitude of fronts. If any of them are reading this (hey boo) I’m broke and willing to write out her storyline if they’re willing to feed me and introduce me to Okoye. And if you’re, like me, still sort of f*cked up from both the truth about Gamora and her relationship with her dad (hey other boo), I hope you know it’s all good. We’re alright. And even if Gamora doesn’t get her happy ending, we will.

Top stories
Top stories

Make Your Inbox Important

Like Comic-Con. Except every week in your inbox.

Sign-up breaker