Recently I had a conversation with a friend about Marvel’s daddy issues. After watching Avengers Infinity War, it was clear that most of Marvel’s fathers are terrible. Well, at least in the movies. It’s not only Thanos who shines as the worse father ever, but it’s also Ego, Odin, and Howard Stark. None of these men are “ideal dads” at all. In fact, because of them, their children had terrible childhoods. Gamora and Nebula had the hardest of them all. Star-Lord became a galactic thief and lost his mother because of Ego. And Loki and Tony, while being wealthy, had to suffer very bad parenting guidelines. So, what’s up with all these dads?
Thanos is the worst in Marvel’s terrible dads list. Being a villain makes him even more so. While he might be a hideous father who also put Gamora and Nebula at odds of each other, the sisters finally found common ground. Gamora found a new family, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and tried to bring Nebula in it. Star-Lord is another lost child who ends up in this found family after losing his mother and finding out all about Ego’s evil plans. Only, in the end, he finds out that Yondu was his real father figure. Yondu wasn’t ideal either, but he was way better than his DNA dad.
Something similar happens to Tony Stark, he ends up finding a new family in the Avengers. They might quarrel, and have “civil wars,” but they eventually come together. They have more glue than his dad ever gave him. Because of Howard’s bad parenting and neglect, we can say that Tony ends up being that quirky. Also, remember that Tony ended up playing around and being alcoholic. We can see some bits and pieces in the movies, but in the comics, it’s plain clear.
Although we can’t see anything about Bruce Banner’s dad in the movies, in the comics we find out that he was terrifying. The Hulk’s dad murdered his wife! Yup, Banner’s daddy killed his mother in front of their son. The Hulk isn’t the monster, but Banner’s father.
Another member of the Avengers who suffers terrible parenting is Thor. Odin put into competition both brothers, very much like Thanos did with Gamora and Nebula. Loki ends up in a spiral of competition to gain his dad’s approval. Thor is oblivious at the beginning and doesn’t catch up nor understand Loki. We have to wait until the demise of Loki for the brothers come to terms with each other. Odin always favored Thor, making Loki jealous. It had to explode in some way. If that wasn’t enough, Odin decided to keep Hela somewhere imprisoned until he died to let the brothers deal with her. If Hela had that “hell of a character,” we can assume that Odin wasn’t exactly a saint when giving her education.
Hela helped Odin conquer all the realms he has dominion of at the moment. Then, when she challenged him, he locked her away until his death. This brought Ragnarok upon Asgard. What’s worse, this also impacted Odin’s whole new family. Odin is a douche in beautiful clothes. Seriously, he’s on the heroes’ side now, but once he was as a douchy villain as Thanos is now.
Not even excellent figures like T’Challa can escape the claws of a terrible dad. T’Chaka seemed like the ultimate father until we discover all the corpses hidden in his closet. T’Chaka killed his own brother and created Erik. This is the reason T’Challa finally realizes that keeping Wakanda hidden from the world was a mistake.
Okay, you might say, so these bad daddies belong to a trope. Sure they do, but, what about the other heroes and villains? Well, many fathers are absent entirely from the narrative, and others are just dead. We only know Captain America’s mother’s name, but we have no clue about his dad. If we dig a little bit in the comics, we find out that he was an abusive douche. Peter Parker’s parents are dead, and his uncle, who was kind, is also gone. Something similar happens with other heroes and their parents, to the point that we have no clue. In other instances, like Wanda Maximoff, we know that her dad is Magneto, but because of copyright, we have no evidence how the MCU will treat that (if ever). Magneto isn’t a role model either, so, I guess they’ll keep up with the lousy dad trope.
So, we discover a hideous trope. Bad dads make great heroes and astonishing villains. Mothers are either victims or saints. Dads are terrible and the cause to build a group of heroes or villains. They have awful childhoods, and they end up finding a new family. And while that happens, the only good dad figures we find are the heroes themselves. So far, we’ve seen that Hawkeye and the Ant-Man are amazing as dads. But, you don’t really need to have a terrible dad to become a fantastic dad.
Not all mothers are exemplary, and not all dads are demonic. These tropes are old and are too used already. It’s time to use different writing for our stories. You don’t need a terrible dad to become a hero or a villain. To use trauma to explain why heroes act as they do, or villains react as they do, is becoming tiresome.
It’s true that emotionally abusive parents leave great scars in their children. Many try to get away from them, like Gamora and Loki, but they ultimately end up having a weird relationship with them. Love and hate are mixed, and it can have devastating consequences. For Gamora, Thanos’ sick love for her ends up killing her. And yet, she cannot hate him to the fullest because he’s her father. For Loki is becoming an anti-hero who can’t have a life. For Thor, it’s being alone in the Universe.
All these dads’ actions were terrible for their kids, and in many cases, it meant the destruction of the family. These tropes have been used again and again, especially by Marvel. Isn’t it time to change the narrative? Isn’t it time to explain why things happen from other points of view? Can we just write other types of family, happy ones with healthy children that become heroes and villains? I think it’s about time to do so.
Copyright: Top image on this post made by dePepi with (C) Marvel official images / Memes & Gifs (C) Marvel.