May 15, 2018

The MCU Roundtable: Gamora in Infinity War

Every single week this year, The Comics Cube's extended family did a roundtable on each movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For Infinity War, Tanya asked, "Do we think the death of Gamora was fridging, or was it essential to the story to bring out an important aspect of Thanos?" So..

Gamora: Love, Death, and the Soul Stone

TANYA: For me, Zoe Saldana sold me on this. She took me so many places with her confidence that Thanos got it all wrong because he loves nothing. The horror on her face, the minute he turns around and he is crying. She knows it's her, and that she is about to be sacrificed.

JD: I think the story needed a death that felt like it had weight. Loki’s death is still debatable and we know that most, if not all, of the post-snap death’s won’t stick.

SAMANTHA: I think it was essential, because we needed to see that Thanos cared about at least one life. I know not many people are buying that Thanos is capable of love, but the Soul Stone wouldn’t have appeared if he hadn’t felt love for Gamora. It could be argued that he did care for life in his own twisted way.

DUY: See, I don't think he loves Gamora. I think he loves what Gamora represents: the first planet (the one planet?) where his method worked.

SAMANTHA: That’s entirely possible, because who knows if the soul stone can distinguish what his love for the soul he sacrificed means to him or where it came from? I’m going off the typical trope where the big bad is all things evil, except for the one little flower that gets through and grips his heart.

JD: It's his hang up on halfs. There's the daughter you can torture and the one you cry over.

TANYA: He definitely loves Gamora more than Nebula.

SAMANTHA: That’s another thing for Thanos to love about her. Gamora could have gone any other way growing, but she chose to save herself when she was forced to fight Nebula. I'm not saying Gamora is the jerk here, but she chose self-preservation instead of trying to save her sister when they were kids, and that’s probably exactly what Thanos would have done.

DUY: My point is, that's not love. That's like the dad who beats up his sons so they become "men" who can handle the tough realities of life, and then favors the one who grows up to be exactly like him. He thinks he loves him because his way worked and he achieved his goal.

JD: If Thanos succeeds, he will lose a daughter. I think he knew this and knew that if the deaths were random that he wouldnt have to choose. Yet in the search for the gems he had to choose anyway. That doesnt work though. He already had chosen.

TANYA: There is a reason why they put the younger Gamora at the end.

DUY: Yes, because the younger Gamora represents the one planet where his way worked. She's a symbol of his success. He thinks he loves her, but that's not what love is. She even says it. "This is not love." And she's right.

MATT: That is a good theory. He buys into his own bullshit and thinks he has protected himself from having to care about the randomness of the deaths, but he fails. Could this actually be the seed of undoing most of his damage in part 1? It would link up with the comics explanation that he doesn't feel worthy of succeeding.

TANYA: It's like when she cried when she thought she killed Thanos. It's a twisted love nonetheless.

DUY: He's an abusive father who thinks he loves his one kid. I happen to think being abusive means you don't know how to love for real.

I know I'm being simplistic here, but when you kill your daughter, you're a piece of shit. -Duy

TANYA: Do you think this helped gain sympathy or understanding of Thanos?

DUY: Thanos has zero sympathy from me. None. He tortures one daughter and kills another for his own self-appointed goals. That is unforgivable in any circumstance. Let's put this in real world terms: if a man gets elected president, or any other sort of world leader, and the catch for him maintaining his promises is he has to kill his children, and he does, guess what? He does not love his children. I don't care how many tears they shed over it. It's an attachment, yes, and it masquerades as love, and a mind like Thanos' can justify it as love. But it's not love.

TANYA: There was a suggestion that there should have been a Gamora/Thanos movie to explore their relationship. Would that have helped? Do you feel Gamora really got much development as a character through the GOTG movies?

DUY: I got all I needed from Gamora/Thanos/Nebula in GotG 2. Look, I know I'm being simplistic here, but when you kill your daughter, you're a piece of shit. In the scene where he kills Gamora, the person we should be sympathizing with is not Thanos. He is the literal murderer in that situation, and he's doing it so he can literally murder more people.

TANYA: From what I'm reading from the directors, they definitely felt like Thanos did truly love Gamora. They explained that's why they put that image of a young Gamora at the end. I'm kinda hoping she comes back and is the one that ends Thanos.

DUY: I'm 98.75% sure she's just inside the Soul Stone.

SAMANTHA: I don’t disagree with Duy at all. The awful things he did doesn’t equal love. But, in his mind, he loved Gamora. In his mind, he saved her. She was the one living bit of proof that his genocidal agenda worked. And in his mind, Gamora made him proud and maybe somewhere in there he saw Gamora as his successor. The soul stone clearly doesn’t distinguish real love from dysfunction or delusion. So when it comes down to it, in Thanos’ mind (psychological f*ckery aside), he loved her. That’s why it was the ultimate sacrifice.

JD: I think the scene does make Thanos more sympathetic. Only in that seeing him crying evokes at least a little empathy in the audience, while highlighting that Thanos himself has no empathy because we only see him emotional over his own loss. Empathy is what separates us normal people from Nazis.

DUY: No, I don't disagree that he thinks he loves her at all. But I also think he completely buys into his own bullshit, that the only way to save the universe is through mass genocide. He buys into what he's selling completely and totally, and in his mind he's right. That's what makes him so dangerous, but we do have to remember that every terrorist ever has bought into what they're selling.

JD: That's how Tony described Steve to Peter in Civil War!

DUY: And Steve could have described Tony the same way.

JD: “He’s got a point.”

SAMANTHA: Thanos is a bonafide psycho, no doubt about it. Maybe whatever aspect Gamora’s death was meant to bring out sort of depends on the perspective of the viewer. Someone out there felt for Thanos and his sacrifice, I’m sure of it. But I hope the general reaction would have been “Holy shit, this guy is sick.”

DUY: I just cannot get behind the fact that of the two people in that scene, Thanos is the one that gets sympathy. That's like the Parkland shooter getting love letters in prison.

SAMANTHA: I don’t know that’s it sympathy so much as it might be a surprise feeling of empathy. Not cool regardless, but still. I don’t think (well, I hope) that no one was really like “Poor Thanos” but maybe it had people wondering what they’d be willing to sacrifice if they were in his shoes.

We’re letting genocidal kidnappers determine the nomenclature of their relationship to their hostages? -Ben

KATHERINE: I think most psychopaths and sociopaths believe that they love someone or something. Every monster that’s murdered their spouses and children will say they loved them and will really believe it. It’s just that they think whatever messed up, twisted, selfish version of love they’re feeling is real even if it is objectively not actual love, but it’s all that they’re capable of and all they know. I don’t feel sympathy for him at all, but I think it does make him more interesting than if he just flat out hated all of humanity.

BEN: Love is an unquantifiable thing, so it does come down to what any individual person believes is love, even psychos.

DUY: It makes him interesting, it rounds out his character, and he's the perfect exclamation point to this string of great villains they've had so far. All of them have a point. But they use that point to justify unjustifiable actions.

BEN: I guess in the most basic sense it is fridging, Starlord’s romantic interest is killed to provide him motivation, except he gets killed later so I think that negates it. Plus Gamora has more agency as a character, unlike Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend (who was literally stuffed in a refrigerator, hence the term).

KATHERINE: Does it provide him motivation? It gives him a flash of rage that baaaasically makes him responsible for half the universe dying (including himself). Y’know maybe that kind of makes it poetic and circular. Thanos “loves” Gamora and that becomes a key factor that enables him to kill half the universe. Quill actually loves Gamora and because of that he accidentally endangers half the universe. I think throughout the film a lot of the characters make some poor choices based on love. But I think ultimately that’s the best way we can understand and justify any bad decision. That’s our most common human downfall.

BEN: Motivation for revenge above all else in that moment. I think we’d all like to believe we’d put the welfare of the many over our personal few, but how many of us really would? I wouldn’t, if my child was in the balance.

KATHERINE: Totally true. I think we can all relate to being willing to trade the world for the one person we love most, even if it’s selfish. I was gonna say that we can’t all be as noble as Steve Rogers, but he also traded the world for Bucky? So conversely, is it weirdly selfless that Thanos was willing to sacrifice what he "loved" most for the supposed good of the universe?

BEN: Yes and no. Yes he is sacrificing something he believes to care about, but no because he doesn’t have to do this. He wants to.

KATHERINE: That's right, and such an important distinction. I think he truly believes that he loves her and that he had no choice... but the real truth is that of course he had a choice and he didn't have to do a damn thing. Isn't that where most of the evil and tragedy of the world originates though? People believing (or lying to themselves by saying) that they didn't have a choice? Interesting hypothetical question though - if if you were faced with the impossible choice of personally killing your own child or letting a billion people die, what do you do? And if you choose to kill your child, does that mean you don't love them?

The real truth is that of course he had a choice and he didn't have to do a damn thing. -Katherine

MATT: It's the Trolley Problem.

KATHERINE: Totally! Trolley Problem but made even more ethically murky by throwing the love question in there.

MATT: It is a thorny philosophical question that can best be answered by a bunch of yahoos on the internet. So, we are well-equipped. Thanos is actively killing one person to actively kill trillions plus. I don't think that can be untangled. He may have cared for her or convinced himself he loved her, but ultimately, he was willing to kill her (and presumably himself if the snap's truly random) to achieve his goal.

KATHERINE: Yes, but from his perspective he's also actively saving trillions plus plus plus, since he presumes this will also save future generations.

MATT: The solution is also only temporary on a long enough timeline. So really, he’s just delaying a real choice.

BEN: I think I have a problem with her even being referred to as his daughter. What, we’re letting genocidal kidnappers determine the nomenclature of their relationship to their hostages?

LAMAR: That's where I am with it...this fool killed her mother and gave her a trinket to keep her eyes off him doing it so she wouldn't have a reason to hate him-like him just being him isn't reason enough. Thanos literally weaponizes personal relationships, that's the only use he has for them. And the fact that he'd do it to a child with no qualms about his behavior is pretty indicative of how sick and savage he really is.

BEN: I have a few follow up questions: Will Gamora be revived in part 2? Should she?

MATT: For the sake of balance in GotG3, she needs to be. She's a much better foil for Quill (though he's also dust).

BEN: I’m not a “only death makes it meaningful” guy for everything, but I feel like there does need to be some ramifications at the end of this. The kneejerk reaction is that of course she’ll be back, but what if her story is done? What if she’s the love unfulfilled?

TANYA: I agree with Matt. It would be hard to have GOTG 3 without her.

MATT: I do think Thanos convinced himself he loved her and she certainly represents something he loves (success of his theory). But, no, he doesn't actually love her. He's too high on his own stuff to love anything but his motivating idea. He's also the villain, so that makes sense.

BEN: My initial thought is that they’re not going to mess up Guardians for this, but what if they are? She did finally admit she loves Quill. that’s usually a death mark. She’d definitely be gone if Whedon was writing/directing.

TANYA: I think what the movie managed to accomplish for me is make Thanos a twisted MOFO, make me hate Starlord, and wish for more Gamora. What I really liked about GOTG 2 was the development of the relationship between Gamora and Nebula. I'm sad that didn't get more scenes together in this movie.

DUY: I think you get the most mileage if she comes back but GotG also stars Thor, just heighten Quill's insecurity that he couldn't save her. And that’s my way of saying, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, featuring the Lord of Thunder. Bring it!

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