Family themes in superhero movies: Why family is seemingly important


When it comes to superhero movies, you’re pretty much always guaranteed a tragic back story with your hero’s family. But why?

Superhero movies have a track record for being emotionally driven films that make us feel for these superhuman characters. Many men are currently commentating on our superhero flicks and saying they’re too emotional.

In fact, this Slate article thinks that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 might be too emotional. Well, sorry Dan Kois, you’re wrong. Have you heard about the tragic backstory of one superhero whose true name is Bruce Wayne?

Or what about Peter Parker and what pushed him into being the superhero we all know and love? Did you just forget all these heroes have daddy issues? Because really, give me one that doesn’t. I’ll wait. (I’m sure there are plenty but all the ones that are coming to mind have some issue with their family. Even Diana Prince has a problem with her mother. Nightwing may be one of the few exceptions.)

So why are people suddenly having problems with the theme of ’emotions’ in superhero movies? Mainly because these family storylines make us, the audience, emotionally invested. And big burly men don’t want to be emotionally invested into anything. How dare we make them cry over Yondu and Peter Quill?

Family Ties

So because I just saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 last night, it is the freshest in my mind so we’re going to focus mainly on the theme of family in the film. Clearly the Guardians are a makeshift family. That much was clear in Vol. 1. But this movie focuses more heavily on Peter and his desire to find his father.

Not to spoil anything but he does and it isn’t exactly as he pictured it. Why? Because Peter is a better man that his father would ever be because Peter had Meredith Quill help raise him. I’m going to spoil something so if you haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 yet, STOP READING NOW.

Okay I’m giving you a second to make sure you want to know this spoiler before I say it because it’s a pretty heartbreaking one. You want to know? You’re sure? Okay, here goes nothing. So Peter meets his father Ego, and Peter realizes that he is part god. He is talking with Ego, and Ego is showing Peter his idea for the universe ‘expansion’.

Ego’s downfall came when he was explaining why all his other children died and that Peter was the only one of his siblings that was actually part god. Peter asked Ego if he truly loved his mother to which Ego said yes and that’s why it hurt so badly when he had to put the tumor in her brain that would, eventually, kill her.

Now Peter Quill loves his mother. So much so that his music tastes and pretty much everything about him comes from her love. When Ego admitted to killing her, he lost whatever chance he had of getting Peter on his side.

But throughout the movie, we learned that the Guardians really are Peter’s family. Nebula points out that all they do is fight and that they aren’t friends to which Drax replies “We’re not friends. We’re family.”

So, Why so Deep?

So you might be asking yourself: why? Do we need these dark storylines with our favorite heroes? Well, yes. To be quite honest, we wouldn’t care if these heroes were just completely normal. The more complex the hero, the more universally liked they are.

Think about it. Bruce Wayne watched his parents get shot, fan favorite. Peter Quill has quickly risen to the top of our radar. Even Superman has a convoluted past that makes fans somehow relate to the hero who is virtually indestructible.

You can’t have a superhero without some flaws. It’s that simple. If all our superheroes were perfect beings, it wouldn’t be interesting. So yes, the themes of family and love run deep in our comic books and their subsequent films but that’s because they also run deep within our society.

Next: The importance of Wonder Woman and what she means to little girls

Guys, if you think your superhero movie is too emotional, maybe look at why you’re so emotionally stunted? Honestly, if you watched Captain America: The First Avenger and were not crying at the end, you probably have no heart.