By Rachel Stuplich
In Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2, the questions of fatherhood and family are constantly addressed as its main themes. Being that the Guardians had just become a family at the end of the first film, the second film’s exploration of each member’s role seemed like a really natural progression. However, is Peter’s focus on finding his father putting too much pressure on the concept of father figures, and is this message something that kids should be taught?
The question of fatherhood and family in general is presented in a way that is healthy for not only kids, but everyone. Though the film can sometimes deal with the situations and conversations in a sort of ham-fisted way, the statements that Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2 makes are the perfect way to look at fatherhood, father figures, and family.
In the film, Peter consistently discusses his lack of father despite being reminded that his chosen family is just as good. When Peter’s father shows up looking to build a relationship, he eventually reveals a plan to use Peter for exclusively his own benefit.
While these themes of parental abuse seem incredibly dismal for younger audiences, it is that very demographic that benefits most from seeing the emotional progression of the film. From the start of the film, children who feel an absence of a biological father figure in their lives might feel like Peter, as though they cannot add people to their family unit because they feel their foundation is not complete or stable enough. Those children are then reminded by the film that they can choose their family and have just as much emotional support. Audiences learn and feel that they are capable of giving and receiving all the love that they need without a biological father figure.
In the film, the audiences learn through the narrative that meeting your father can still be meaningful even if they weren’t there for formative years. Peter initially begins to build what appears to be a supportive relationship with his father where bitterness at the absence is dealt with, but it is also not framed as some sort of last-piece-of-the-puzzle to Peter’s happiness.
Then, when the narrative switches, Peter (along with the audience) discovers that his father is just trying to use him. This scene teaches one of the most important lessons in the film. That biological parents can hurt and abuse you, and they aren’t owed something just for being someone’s parents. This is an incredibly valuable lesson for especially younger audiences to see.
Many times, I have seen statements from teenagers who feel their emotionally abusive parents guilt trip them into appreciating them. This film gives those young people a platform on which to develop the idea that their parents aren’t owed a relationship. The film, through hyperbolic drama, expresses that biological parents can take advantage of their kids, and cutting ties with a relationship that harms you isn’t wrong.
In another lesson, the film also reveals that Yondu, a scavenger that seemed to have kidnapped him as a child, actually saved him from his father initially. Yondu, here, is a clear representation for an adoptive parent, stepparent, or any non-biological parental figure. In the narrative, Peter initially believes that Yondu was being cruel throughout his childhood, but Yondu reveals that his intentions were to keep him safe. Yondu reveals himself as Peter’s father figure and Peter recognizes all Yondu had done to save him.
Through this piece of the narrative puzzle, the film gives the audience an incredibly nuanced sense of how to interpret parental actions. The film conveys to all audiences that motivations matter, that parents can take advantage of you but they can also protect you without your understanding. The film also conveys that having a father figure that isn’t your biological father and choosing your family is a perfectly good way to get the emotional support we all need. It teaches children to not just look at actions from parents through their own eyes, but to examine their parents motivations like: is this cruelty, or are they trying to keep me safe? Which is an important distinction to learn as younger people go through rebellious stages.
While critics might say that the film puts too much pressure on the concept of father figures in general, the film is just using specifically fatherhood as an example of a larger statement on family. The film isn’t just about Peter, and it’s not even just about fathers. It is about relationships. It gives children a chance to understand that they don’t owe anyone a relationship, but that they should also look at motivation clearly to establish those who care and those that do not. Though the discussions most prevalent in the film are occasionally discussed in a way that makes it feel like an after school special, it ultimately leads to audiences thinking critically about the concept of all relationships.
Fatherhood, family, and relationships in general are so well expressed in this film; the statements about fatherhood are good ones for all audiences to see. Not only should people see this movie for the family statements, but the movie industry as a whole should take a page from the Guardians comic book and make more films that deal with common but under-discussed situations like adoption or stepparents.