Sodom and Gamora

So the other day I was watching Louis Theroux’s new documentary, Surviving America’s Most Hated Family, all about the more-or-less collapse of the Westboro Baptist Church. The WBC were essentially the boogyman when I was a teenager. My 14-year-self, crouched in a corner with a laptop watching them scream homophobic slurs, could barely think of anything more evil than them.

Well, obviously my 14-year-old self was very, very wrong. But anyway.

Theroux spends a lot of this documentary being charmingly, Britishly baffled at the actions of the Westboro members who remain. At one point, he’s told he lacks compassion by a man holding a sign saying “WHY DID GOD DESTROY SODOM?” That’s the sort of thing we’re dealing with here. It’s almost funny, and I think Theroux expects that we’ll laugh, but it’s also crushingly sad.

Theroux also spends some time interviewing the people who’ve left Westboro. At one point he drops into the house of Fred Phelp’s granddaughter Rachel Hockenbarger, who absolutely DOES NOT look like a member of WBC anymore.

I liked Rachel from the moment I saw her. She let Theroux in and showed him her tattoos. One of them in particular stood out, and the camera lingered on it so we could all see what it said: “Whatever nightmares the future holds, are dreams compared to what’s behind me.” That was a line from Guardians of the Galaxy, Rachel explained, said by Zoe Saldana’s character Gamora. She was a hardened assassin and killer until she changed her ways and became a good guy.

I’m a massive Gamora fan. Huge. However I think Rachel, rainbow-clad Rachel, is the person who deserves the accolade of her number one fan. She handed Theroux a drink in a Gamora-shaped mug. “Does that mean anything to you?” he asked of her tattoo. “Yeah,” she said simply. “Just trying to move forward.”

Is it fair to say superheroes helped rip Westboro apart? When Megan Phelps-Roper left the church and denounced it, she quoted Catwoman to explain why she had done so. “There’s no fresh start in today’s world. Any twelve-year-old with a cell phone could find out what you did. Everything we do is collated and quantified. Everything sticks,” was the opening line of her public statement. “Don’t act surprised that I’m quoting Batman.” Catwoman was a thief and a villain until, wait for it, she changed her ways and became a good guy.

In Megan’s first ever non-Westboro statement she explained how the church used pop culture for its own ends. “At WBC, reciting lines from pop culture is par for the course. And why not? The sentiments they express are readily identifiable by the masses – and shifting their meaning is as easy as giving them new context,” she wrote. But luckily for Megan, and unluckily for the cult she belonged to, you can’t keep a good comic book story down.

The transformative power of fandom has been spoken about many times, by far smarter people than me. People see themselves reflected in the hero, or the villain who becomes the hero, and act accordingly, spurred on by the thought that hey! Maybe the world finally sees them. That’s why we today make so much of the importance of representation. There will always be black children who need a noble king in T’Challa, Polynesian girls who need a steadfast adventurer in Moana, and so on. Favourite characters turn into little voices in your head telling you go on, you can do it, I did.

It was Gamora and Catwoman, lady villains-turned-heroes who aren’t even the main characters of their respective franchises, who transpired to be the things girls like Rachel and Megan needed to see. I find something so, so satisfying in that.

Everyone loves a good redemption story, I guess.

How I came to decide Avengers: Endgame was kinda sexist, and maybe briefly hate Thor for a little bit

So the dust has settled on Avengers: Endgame now, and I’ve had months to turn my problem with it over and over in my head. Really, I think most of my negative feelings are encapsulated in one scene: the one where Thor leaves his people behind and gets aboard ship with the Guardians in the end.

Bear in mind everything that’s happened to these characters at this point. Thor’s lost his brother and spent five years in a haze of bad mental health. Peter’s lost Gamora, thought he got her back, and lost her (in a different way) again. Drax has wanted to kill Thanos since the first movie he was in, Thanos is now dead, and… nothing. Rocket lost all his friends for half a decade and suddenly they’re back. And so on. No-one gets to react to any of this. Like, not anything. Instead they hang around and laugh while Peter and Thor have a pissing contest over who gets to be leader.

Like… that’s it? That’s where you think these characters should be right now? Really?

It’s all the worse because that scene should be about Gamora. She was the cog the whole of Infinity War spun around, hell she was the cog the whole Thanos story spun around, and what happens to her? She gets thrown in a pit, brought back from the past, allowed to fight a little and then more or less forgotten about.

Does Gamora get even a reaction shot when Thanos, her tormentor, the person who’s haunted her and brutalized her for three damn movies, dies at last? No, she does not. Okay, my slightly infuriated thoughts went at the time, perhaps maybe the last scene with the Guardians might be about her and where she is and how her friends will start the search for her? Nope! Instead it’s about… Thor. Bad luck.

So yeah. I wanted to stop short of saying “It’s sexist” but I can’t because really none of the important women in Endgame get their due at all, not just Gamora. Captain Marvel got built up and built up, but she’s in the movie for like… five minutes, and we don’t get to learn her thoughts and feelings about anything going on. (She has close friends on Earth, we learned in her solo movie, but she doesn’t even mention them or worry about their fate.) Black Widow gets agency in her sacrifice at least, but then – not unlike Gamora actually – she’s forgotten about. While Tony gets the massive funeral and the tributes, Hawkeye remembers Natasha in one line at the end. Nothing the Avengers did in this film would have been possible without her but she’s not getting any of the accolades.

Nebula is a strange case, because she does get a lot of agency and depth in this movie, but I can’t forgive the scene where she kneels over Thanos – the man who abused her and murdered her sister – and closes his eyes. That makes no sense. It’s bewilderingly out of character and if it was supposed to make her more palatable as a heroine, or something, it doesn’t. The best Nebula line is in the second Guardians movie, I think, when Gamora tells her she could help all the little girls in the world who are suffering like they used to. “I will help them by killing Thanos,” Nebula says, and that’s the line which turns her from a sympathetic villain into (finally) a crusader against injustice and abuse. To have her show a shred of tenderness against her father takes all that away, and it’s so, so baffling to me that apparently the writers couldn’t see that.

Then there’s the women the movie appeared not to have time for, like Okoye. She was prominent on the poster but got maybe two lines in the movie. There was time to follow Hawkeye’s Adventures in Murder but not time to check in on her? Especially since her storyline – let’s assume she was left essentially the leader of a whole, suddenly devastated country since the royal family were dead – would have been really interesting. Come to think of it Natasha falls into this category too, since she was supposed to have a great subplot that ended up on the cutting room floor, because of course it did.

Some of the MCU women who’re bit players in this one – think Valkyrie, Pepper etc – actually do get treated well in the movie, credit where credit’s due. Pepper’s last scene with Tony hit really hard, for example, because it’s played straight. And I mean that sounds ridiculous, of course the death of a major character in one of the biggest franchises of all time is gonna be played straight you’d hope, but there were moments where I wondered, because this movie is so incapable/terrified of believing people would take it seriously. When Thor bids goodbye to his mother and leaves her to die, after the heartfelt I love you’s she tells him to eat a salad because he’s fat now and that’s funny and we’re meant to laugh. When Gamora finds Peter again and no longer knows who he is, which is a tragedy for both of them, she kicks him in the balls and he rolls around in pain making a quip and that’s meant to be funny too. Is it not realistic that Tony’s death might have been interrupted by someone falling over, or a fart joke? Is it weird I’m almost surprised that it wasn’t?

Anyway. Wait, why did I hate Thor for a little bit? Well, I can’t bring myself to hate him really, or even dislike him, he’s an adorable golden retriever of a man. But that scene with him and the Guardians at the end is teasing Guardians of the Galaxy 3, and that is the last chance anyone has to give Gamora her due, to make her story and her constant victimization mean anything. And with that scene, suddenly her importance was pushed to one side to make room for Thor. Who despite his many good qualities is still a white straight able-bodied male superhero, not exactly an underrepresented group. And he’s also one who has three movies bearing his name already, plus major roles in all the Avengers films. Who looked at Thor, looked at Gamora, and decided he not she was the one the audience should have more of? And that Gamora is so unimportant that in the scene where her friends should be discussing how to find her, they are instead trading jokes with him, because the one BIG thing Endgame can’t take seriously is its women?

You’re great and I like you fine, Thor. Honestly. And you didn’t deserve those fat jokes. But you’re done. Now take your hammer, and your snazzy axe thing, and just… go away for a bit.

Avengers: Endgame

So it’s been a few days now since Avengers: Endgame came out and I think I’m finally ready to put the Analysis Hat, and the Complaints Hat, and the Celebration Hat on. There were some things I loved and some things I loathed. Also since a lot of people haven’t seen it yet you have to click the ‘more’ button:



Female Awesome Meme [1/20] female dynamics – Gamora and Nebula


You will always be my sister.


One of the things I love most about Gamora is how much of a sense of wonder she has. There’s so little in her past that should lead to her having that but she has it anyway. Whenever something new to her pops up her first reaction is to marvel (pun not intended, I promise) despite her ever-present and also great sense of caution.

A+ character detail and A+ acting choice by Zoe