Your Galaxy Is Too Small

I know Guardians Of the Galaxy was the big film of last year, and it made a gazillion dollars and everyone loves talking raccoons and dancing baby Groot. Hell, even I love dancing baby Groot. But don’t you think it was a bit… limited?

Here’s what I mean.

Life on earth comes in myriad forms and displays all kinds of behaviour. Life across the galaxy, we must assume, will be even wilder and weirder. And Guardians Of The Galaxy was sold as the weird, out-there, fantastical end of the Marvel cinematic universe, leading us to expect that diversity and variation in the movie.

But what we got was a white heterosexual guy shagging alien girls and saving the world.

You know what, I’m prepared to give them a pass on the lead character – because maybe we need someone identifiably human to lead us through this alien world. So okay, let’s say we accept Peter Quill for the cishet meatball that he is –

But what about everyone else? Where were the aliens with six genders and eighteen kinds of sexual preference? Where were the aliens with no gender at all? The aliens with mindsets we didn’t understand, and who didn’t understand our hero’s morals and emotions? The aliens who were, well… alien?

The whole point of science fiction, it seems to me, is that it’s the ultimate “what if”. Every other kind of fiction is limited by human behaviour, world history, and the laws of physics. Science fiction doesn’t need to be. It can resign everything and everyone involved to surprise, challenge and delight an audience.

But modern movie sci-fi doesn’t seem to be interested in redesigning its characters, only its artifacts. The spaceships and the CGI change, but the faces and the sexual relationships don’t. It’s serving up the same tired white male saviours, the same ‘sleeping with lots of girls is cool as long as you settle down at the end of the movie’ relationship narrative, the same twelve-year-old boy’s view of the world. And that’s not a “what if” at all.

There are exceptions. Pacific Rim, whose white male hero must literally venture inside the mind of his near-opposite (a younger Japanese female) and achieve mutual understanding in order to save the world. Snowpiercer starts off appearing to embrace the white male savior, but ultimately [MILD SPOILERS] Curtis realises that he’s not the change that’s needed, but an obstacle to that change…

But we need more exceptions. More challenges, more imagination. Because if science fiction can’t tell new and unusual stories, what hope is there for the other genres?

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5 comments on “Your Galaxy Is Too Small

  1. Jack Nathan says:

    as a subscriber, I look forward to your blog entries, and am usually very impressed with your insightful points of view. this time, however, I feel as if you’ve missed the point of GotG, which is that it is a comic book movie (i.e. based on an existing series of comic books, with their attendant baggage and already-established storyline). it is not pure science-fiction (such as Gattaca), but more SF pulp (such as Star Wars). as an adventure it’s not meant to explore interesting theosophical or societal extremes… it’s meant to be load (audibly AND visibly) and entertaining.

    looking forward to reading your next blog post.

  2. Amelia says:

    Hi Debbie, I just watched the movie last night and I was so dissapointed! (I rolled my eyes in the part where Starlord forgot the girl’s name, like really??) Me and my sister even talk about how…hum average(?) GOTG was. I agree with you, best movies can be entertaining and meaningful, even when sometimes seems the audience doesn’t care.
    For me The World’s end is the best Sci-Fi movie I’ve seen in while.

  3. […] Debbie Moon’s blog. She has lots of pop culture commentary (I agree with her thoughts about Guardians of the Galaxy, as an […]

  4. ‘we need someone identifiably human to lead us through this alien world’ That’s very similar to the reason The Doctor always has companions & they are usually human in Doctor Who. Someone people can identify with & can ask all the necessary questions.

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