This post first appeared on The Fit Fotographer here.
Thanos and toxic parenting is probably not the movie review you were expecting to see for Avengers: Infinity War. Over the years, there have been plenty of movies that portray toxic or narcissistic parents damn near perfectly. Mommie Dearest and Disney’s Tangled are two that immediately come to mind when thinking about this subject. When it comes to Thanos and toxic parenting, he fits right in with the ladies above.
Who is Thanos?
Thanos was born on Saturn’s moon Titan as the son of Eternals Mentor and Sui-San, and his brother is Eros of Titan, also known as Starfox. Thanos carries the Deviants gene, and as such, shares the physical appearance of the Eternals’ cousin race. At birth, his mother was shocked by his appearance and attempted to kill him, due to believing that her son would annihilate every life in the universe, but was stopped by A’Lars, Thanos’ father. During his school years, Thanos was a pacifist and would only play with his brother Eros (Starfox) and pets. By adolescence, Thanos had become fascinated with nihilism and death, worshipping and eventually falling in love with the physical embodiment of death, Mistress Death. As an adult, Thanos augmented his physical strength and powers through his superior scientific knowledge. He also attempted to create a new life for himself by siring many children as well as becoming a pirate. He finds no fulfillment in either until he is visited again by Mistress Death, for whom he murders his offspring and his pirate captain. (source)
Fun isn’t something one considers when balancing the universe. But this… does put a smile on my face.―Thanos
While Thanos as a character isn’t just a toxic parent, but a psychopath as well, I’ll be focusing more on his parenting, or the little we know from the movie so far.
As a parent, Thanos has the belief that he is doing the right thing. While he doesn’t present a false image of himself to us, the viewers, we can assume that to his follower’s he is a god. His real self is cruel, violent and destructive. While Nebula and Gamora have always known this side of him, it would seem Thanos doesn’t view himself this way. In Gamora’s case, Thanos’ considered himself her savior. He says her world was dying, he didn’t want what happened to his home, to happen to hers.
Walking out of their childhood free and clear was all Nebula and Gamora wanted. Seeing them come together in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 was bittersweet as it became clear, they both just wanted to get away from Thanos.
Thanos and Toxic Parenting
He objectified his children, and they were only seen as something that can be ‘useful’ once they were of fighting age. Supporting Thanos’ emotionally, practically.
Thanos created a bad atmosphere of tension and fear for Gamora and Nebula, where they were conditioned to serve him and gaslight each other. Nebula and Gamora often spoke about how they were required to fight each other, with Thanos physically punishing the loser, most often Nebula. The girls were solely instruments to be used for his own personal gain. They were pitted against each other and breed to fight each other for survival instead of working together to escape.
Even when Gamora tried to explain why he was wrong, Thanos decides to do what most toxic parents do, he manipulated her and derailed the entire conversation. He doesn’t care to listen to what she has to say. Thanos CANNOT see beyond himself. He sees what he wants, Gamora is whomever he created in his mind. Not who she has become.
Even when viewing this scene in its entirety, it becomes clear that Gamora and Nebula were just a means to the end for him. Whichever child was the toughest, most capable would inherit what he has.
Did he really love her? That’s debatable.
Does Thanos consider himself a toxic parent? Of course not. Attributing such little mean to the massacre of Gamora’s homeworld, but great meaning to at least your world survived, was a slap in the face to her as his progeny. This is the moment where you as the viewer can see (if you hadn’t already at this point) Thanos is truly mad and a textbook example of a toxic parent.
At the conclusion, we see that Thanos has no problem putting his own needs above his children, even his favorite. If toxic parents don’t think about their children’s basic needs as children, they definitely won’t think about them as adults. Thanos and toxic parenting go hand in hand. Josh Brolin did an amazing job translating Thanos from the comic books to the big screen. By the end, we were almost left feeling slightly empathetic with him. Which made me feel gross and guilty.
Thanos tells the young Gamora that he has accomplished his goal and Gamora asks what it cost. Solemnly, as Thanos replies that it cost him everything. In the end, he doesn’t even realize what his path of destruction has done. Toxic parents don’t see past themselves.