[Warning: Spoilers for a movie that’s been out for a while now. If you haven’t seen Avengers: Infinity War yet, but are excited enough about it to not want any spoilers, what’s the hold-up?]
It was mere hours after the release of Avengers: Infinity War at the end of April when Marvel fans started to speak up about one particular scene in the film: The fight against Thanos that occurs on his home planet of Titan. Our heroes concoct a plan to defeat Thanos by stripping him of the Infinity Gauntlet, and the plan works. Or, at least, it was working, until one of our heroes ruined it all: Star-Lord, upon learning Gamora has been killed, flies into a rage and starts pummeling the villain, thereby knocking Mantis loose, waking up Thanos, and sabotaging the plan. Here’s a handy summation of a number of people’s takeaway:
That’s a succinct version of the argument we made on this very site. Namely, an impetuous hothead lost his cool, and his selfish reaction cost the lives of half of all existence. Well, it seems Chris Pratt has heard your criticism of his character’s behavior, and he is not in agreement. During an interview with RadioTimes for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the actor opened up about his feelings regarding everyone dumping on his rash hero for wrecking the effort to save all life. His explanation, in essence, is, “Give the guy a break, he was upset”:
Look—the guy watched his mother die, he watched as his father-figure died in his arms, he was forced to kill his own biological father. And now has suffered the loss of the love of his life. So I think he reacted in a way that’s very human, and I think the humanity of the Guardians of the Galaxy is what sets them apart from other superheroes. I think if we did it a hundred times I wouldn’t change a thing.
“And also, I blame Thanos, ok?” Pratt continues, to remind everyone that, hey, it’s not like Peter Quill was out there trying to murder 50 percent of all life in the universe. “Jeez, how come he’s not getting any of the blame?...Clearly, I’m very sensitive about this,” he added with a laugh. All of which is understandable: When you’re the guy getting shit for screwing up the best chance of preventing that sad-as-hell ending, it’s probably annoying to continually have to remind everyone it wasn’t your evil plan. And he’s not alone; more than a few people think it’s unfair to blame the guy for what happened. The Mary Sue ran a full-throated defense of Pratt’s position, saying pointing the finger at Star-Lord for Thanos’ genocide is just victim-blaming.
Except that’s not really true. First of all, no one is out here saying Quill didn’t react in a way that’s very human. He had just suffered a tremendous loss, and losing your shit is an understandable reaction. However, he’s also supposed to be a damn hero. Yes, he’s always been hotheaded and prone to impetuous behavior, but in this case, that selfish attitude didn’t end in victory—it cost almost everyone around him (and Quill himself) their lives. Saying, “He was in pain” doesn’t excuse his actions.
Second, what’s wrong with blaming Thanos while simultaneously blaming a foolish hero for his colossally bad judgment? This isn’t an either-or proposition. There is literally nobody claiming Thanos is some innocent misguided fella who would’ve learned his lesson if only Quill hadn’t stepped in. Of course Thanos is the primary villain. But he’s just that: The villain, the one intentionally trying to end half of all life. Star-Lord is supposed to be preventing that, and even in his grief, he knows that lashing out will do nothing but ruin everything. Hell, he had just watched Thanos alter reality a short while earlier on Knowhere, so he was well aware that some angry punches would do nothing but throw a wrench in everyone’s hard-fought efforts. Victim-blaming would require a situation in which poor Quill did nothing wrong, not one in which he actively sabotaged what might have been the only chance to defeat Thanos. (Yes, Doctor Strange saw a path to victory, this may need to happen to get there, blah blah blah. Let’s not pretend Star-Lord—nor anyone else—knew that.)
There are plenty of other steps along the way in which others could have made the tough choice to sacrifice others and save the day—as our own A.A. Dowd noted at the time, it’s possible to read the entire film as a narrative about humanity losing because our heroes weren’t willing to make the hard call, to steel themselves against their own emotional weakness. But those were all attempts to save lives in the moment, unlike Star-Lord, doing nothing but making himself feel better by landing some ineffectual blows against a guy at the worst possible time. So feel free to continue scorning Infinity War’s secondary villain (again, secondary, no one’s letting Thanos off the hook), secure in the knowledge that Peter Quill did fuck up, and deserves the shit he’s rightfully getting.