I have always been fascinated with fictional relationships. Whether or not the creator of the character meant to, the relationships that our favorite heroes and heroines are involved in say so much more about them than at first glance. After crying a million tears after watching Avengers: Endgame again, one relationship continued to stand out in my mind.
Thanos and Gamora.
There was so much that I could dissect from that incredibly complex relationship of father and daughter. I ended up not being able to fall asleep for a good long time as the thoughts and theories raced through my mind. So… why not share my practicality with all of you?
Thanos took Gamora in as a daughter. He trained her as well as cybernetically altered her body to make her the ultimate weapon. We see as time goes on her resentment towards him for ruining her childhood, yet she still can’t help but cry when she believes she has killed Thanos. It is a lot to take in and attempt to understand.
I am so ready for this challenge.
First, I am going to analyze the parenting style of Thanos.
There are so many types of parenting styles. Not only that, but the effect of these parenting styles can vary from child to child due to temperament and development and all kinds of other fun stuff. For the sake of trying to stay on topic, I will review the four main types of parenting styles.
Authoritative parenting tends to be the most effective throughout child development. Overall, it is nurturing and reasonable. Boundaries and rules for children are clear, and tend to have the child involved in the rulemaking process. There is frequent communication in this relationship, and children tend to be more self-disciplined and think for themselves.
Parents who are more permissive tend to not set limits or rules very often. There is open communication in the relationship but the children are given more freedom to make their own choices. This parenting style is warm and nurturing, and there are low to no expectations set for the kids.
There is no particular use of discipline used in uninvolved parenting. Parents tend to let the children do whatever they want either from lack of education or lack of care. There is very limited communication and very low nurturing. There are no expectations set for the child.
This parenting style is very high discipline. The communication tends to be from parent to child without much room or allowance for feedback. Rules may not be explained, but expected to be followed. Authoritarian has very high expectations and low flexibility.
Overall, parents can vary between different aspects of parenting styles. But here, we are talking about Thanos. From the limited amount that we see of his parenting towards Gamora, I see very high levels of authoritarian parenting. Thanos was first impressed with Gamora when seeing her try to fight off one of his soldiers. In that moment, he may have seen the potential Gamora had to be what he expected of his followers. He had his destiny that he felt he needed to fulfill and would not let his mind be changed. I definitely do not need to go into too much detail about how un-flexible Thanos can be in relation to his views of the universe.
Authoritarian parenting styles often lead to a child’s rebellion. When a child is not taught to make choices and understand consequences but forced into one way of living, it is easy to grasp on to an opposing theories or lifestyles and rebel against what they were taught.
Think of someone telling you that you could never eat pizza again. They did not explain why, they just expected you listen. After years of blind obedience, that person leaves. How fast would you go out and buy a pizza? Or sneak it into your house when they weren’t looking? This is the same basic concept of a rebellious child.
Second, let’s move down the timeline a little bit to when Gamora tries to kill Thanos.
Gamora thought she had just murdered her father to realize it was an illusion created by Thanos himself. I remember listening to others question why Gamora was so sad to kill Thanos after everything that had happened. Wouldn’t she be happy that he was gone? She could finally move on and heal. Why the tears?
What we also do not see is the rest of Gamora’s upbringing, though we know some aspects of it. At some point, Gamora had to have understood what Thanos did to her mother and the rest of her planet. Still being young and vulnerable would have placed Thanos in the perfect space to be a supporter or comforter. Personally, I could see Thanos continuing to tell her that ‘this is how it needs to be’ and promising her a brighter and better world when his plans were complete. Having lost so much, Gamora could easily love the idea of a peaceful world with Thanos. That could easily be a contributing factor to her feelings towards Thanos.
Another point to remember is that she may not have been crying because she loved Thanos. He trained Gamora to be the ultimate weapon, and would also alter her body when he found flaws or ways to improve her as a soldier. I would imagine that Gamora had a deep, dark voice in her head constantly telling her that she was not good enough. She needed more changes, she needed to be better. Around the time this might have been happening we could guess Gamora was in adolescent range.
Let’s compare similar occurrences with a typical human teenager. Adolescent development is it’s own little world. Let me introduce my imaginary sample teenager, M.A.G. (model adolescent girl).
Mag has lived with her father since her mom died ten years ago. She is now 16 years old, complete with awkward puberty and all the fun that comes with it. Mag’s dad has a plan for her to run the family cross fit gym when she is an adult. This expectation paired with her dad’s authoritarian parenting styles result in very strict diet and exercise requirements for Mag. Though she is working endlessly to live up to her father’s incredibly high standards, he continues to criticize her and leaving her feeling worthless and as if she is a disappointment. He continues to alter her diet and exercise, going as far as providing her with ideal clothing for her to wear. Mag loves her dad, she wants to also see his dreams come true. She continues to push herself and let herself be altered and changed to hopefully transform into what she feels she needs to be.
Third, Gamora being sacrificed for Thanos to obtain the Soul Stone
This presented a similar argument. Did Thanos truly love Gamora? Then why would he just chuck her off a cliff for a rock? My belief is that Thanos did truly love Gamora. Otherwise, he would not have been able to get the soul stone. However, Thanos had his plan for much longer than Gamora had been around. When she came along, I assume he saw how much of a help she could be to his plan. Though his love for her grew as a daughter, his true love was complete power over the infinity stones. Sadly, he could throw his daughter to irreversible death in order to continue wiping out trillions of other life forms. This was his priority.
Each relationship that we are involved in is somehow ranked with our priorities. These priorities lead to decisions that we make every single day.
Do I want to play princess with my daughter or take a nap? I have to prioritize. Maybe sometimes I would choose the first, sometimes the other. It depends on the situation.
Should I go to this birthday party or that baby shower? Depends on your priorities. Are you closer to the birthday boy or the soon to be mom? Does one need more support? Your answer may be completely different than me. We all have different priorities.
Should Thanos keep his daughter and not throw her to a violent death or give up his lifelong goal and ultimate destiny? … again, we all have different priorities. Though we may have our own opinions of what love should lead us to do, it is not fair to assume that Thanos did not love Gamora. He just happened to prioritize something else.
This is a topic that can continue to be discussed for hours on end. Different parenting styles and their effects on child development to the type and amount of love, and of course priorities and how they play into our daily choices. As much as I love analyzing fictional characters, the most fun can be had one ones that are completely dysfunctional.
Of course, all this information is based on human studies… how would it be different if we scaled it according to other species?
So tell me, what other fictional relationships do you find to be severely dysfunctional?