If I were to ask you to show me a movie about sisterly love, chances are Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 wouldn’t be it.
Not only is the relationship between Nebula and Gamora a side story, but look at how much these two characters love one another.
And maybe right now you’re wondering, “Why is she bringing this up? What does this have to do with anything? BRING ON END GAME!”
Fair point, but I can’t get this movie out of my head, so we’re going to talk about it.
Siblings of Shared Trauma
I’ve been on the MCU train for a long time now, but the ride is getting a little repetitive. I don’t pay for a ticket to see them in theater anymore (with the exception of the major cast compilation flicks), and I don’t feel the same passion when the characters keep going through the same arcs (although some of the recent films have left me pleasantly surprised). The movies aren’t bad, they’re just getting old. Because of this, I didn’t go see GotGv.2. While I loved the first Guardians movie, I felt like it was going to be the same as the last one.
I was glad when I finally did watch, it was from the comfort of my own home. I was a sobbing mess by the end. Not only because father/son narratives resonate with me more than mother/daughter narratives, but because for the first time watching a movie, I felt something in how they portrayed siblings.
This movie finally got it. THIS was how I needed to see sisterhood and sister relationships portrayed.
When I watch other sisterhood movies, the relationships, while tense, never felt real to me. Characters often times fight because one’s better at something than the other, or one sister is the black sheep of the family, or one was even born to save the other from cancer. The fact is, I couldn’t relate. These rivalries were either too petty or too out there.
Then I got to Gamora and Nebula’s fight in Guardians of the Galaxy. At first, I was kind of over it. Nebula’s rage felt displaced and Gamora was just done with dealing with these “temper tantrums”, and then Nebula says this –
and it felt like someone knocked the wind out of me. This was it. This is what I’d been feeling.
I was left asking, why couldn’t I get this type of sisterly relationship sooner?
To get a little personal, my sister and I grew up during a… difficult time in our family and that’s putting it lightly. Some parental figures were abusive or neglectful, and when my sister was given a way out, she took it. I can’t blame her for this. We were kids, and kids do what they can to survive, but at the time I was crushed. And no movie ever showed that struggle I felt. Maybe I wasnt competing against my sister in hand to hand combat, but we were pitted against one another and had to survive all the same. I was angry, and sometimes I still am, and no piece of media had ever held a mirror up to my situation and said “This is what abuse does to sisters”. At least, not until Guardians vol. 2.
You never really see this in most media, or at least not main stream action films. When siblings are showed in this light in action/sci fi movies, as children who survive abuse with one resenting the other, it’s usually done with brothers.
When sisterhood is portrayed, it’s almost always in dramas or romance, but for the first time, I was seeing sisterhood in a way I could relate to. No, we didn’t survive Thanos as a father, but we experienced a lot and can’t really understand what the other went through to get where we are today. We very much were Nebula and Gamora, and our relationship still feels like this sometimes. We fight over our experiences growing up away from each other, and yeah, the resentment is still there.
Yet when I watch this movie, I see how both characters experience rage and I realize hey, maybe we’re too different to see the world the same way, but we can find some peace. Sure it’s fiction, but there’s hope that one day the anger will go away and forgiveness will come in.
And that’s what’s so important about the sisterly love in Guardians vol. 2. It’s not the sweet stuff of tears and drama, it’s a violent rage over unprocessed shared trauma. It’s screaming and fighting because what happened to both of you was too harsh to brush off with swelling music.
The conflict between Gamora and Nebula is an important one that we need to see more of on screen and in books. It’s the story of children who grow up experiencing abuse, and how they recover from it. We need less “Why are you so much better than me?” and more “How can we go on after what happened to us? How can we go back to being sisters? How can we heal?”
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
If you’d like more about this typ of topic, check out Lindsey Ellis’s video titled “The Complex Feels of Guardians and the Galaxy v.2“, particularly this part here. She helped me process a lot of what I was feeling and inspired this blog post. If you haven’t watched this, please do. In fact, watch any and all of her videos. Even though she talks about screenplay, she knows her stuff when it comes to story structure and character development.