Forget About Saving the World. The MCU is All About Family

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Avengers family

We could unpack a lot of stuff with Avengers: Endgame, Marvel’s three-hour finale to its 11-year, 22-movie odyssey (so far). And hopefully we’ll have opportunity to do just that sometime soon—when most of you have seen it and spoilers aren’t quite as big of an issue.

But one thing that I can say about Endgame without spoilers—and one thing that surprised me a bit about the movie—was how critical family was to the movie, and how beautifully those familial relationships were manifested there.

I shouldn’t have been that shocked.

From almost the very beginning, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has pointed to family as a primary driver for its characters: Iron Man’s Tony Stark and his complex relationship with his father. Loki’s own familial insecurity in Thor. Scott Lang’s desire to be a hero for his little girl in Ant Man. The complex family dynamics we see in Black Panther. And one of the more compelling subplots we’ve seen in some of the MCU’s later chapters is the really difficult relationship Thanos has with his own adopted daughters, Gamora and Nebula. Everywhere you turn in the MCU, we see moms and dads and kids who are either spurring our heroes on to greatness or twisting them into monsters or just … influencing them, in both good ways and bad.

I think we get an indication of the import the MCU places on family in Avengers: Age of Ultron, when Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) brings the Avengers team home to meet the wife and kids. Our suited-up heroes look a little out of place in Clint’s bucolic farmhouse, but Hawkeye looks right at home. This is his world, right here. To him, family is everything. And to those of us watching, the place looks a little like heaven. This, the movie suggests, is what the Avengers fight for—a place called home and the people who make it so.

‘Course, not everyone in the MCU has a family. The folks from the Guardians of the Galaxy flicks have either lost important family members, never had them to begin with or have, shall we say, issues with them.  (It’s not easy having a megalomaniac planet for a father, after all.) But even though they don’t have a family, each of these characters still needs one. And so they form their own.

“All any of you do is yell at each other,” an exasperated Gamora tells her cohorts in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. “You’re not friends.

“You’re right,” says the blue-skinned Drax. “We’re family.”

In Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers considers her family to be her best pal, Maria Rambeau, and her daughter Monica. Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, never had a family before she fell in with the Avengers. In Endgame, she says the friendships she formed there changed her life. “And even though they’re gone,” she says (referring to the dreaded Infinity War Snap), “I’m still trying to be better.”

Just that line suggests the power of possibility embedded within family—how the people who love us just as we are can still push us to be better. As moms and dads, that’s what we try to do with our own kids. We love them even when they draw on the kitchen cabinets or miss curfew. But we’re always teaching them not just to be loveable children, but good, responsible adults. We push them to be, in their own ways, heroes.

And our kids inspire us to do the same. We know that they’re watching us. We know that we’re their first role models—their first heroes long before they’ve ever heard of Iron Man or Captain America. And I think often, that makes us want to live up to how they first see us. How, if we’re being honest, we’d always like them to see us that way

Families are complex organisms. As beautiful as they can be, they’re made of imperfect people who do imperfect things. When I told my grown daughter—jokingly, I thought—how every parent will screw up their kids a little, she instead nodded sagely, with the full knowledge that it was true. Even great families aren’t great all the time.

But when we make the effort and put the time into our families, they can become a safe harbor for our sons and daughters, and for us, too: a place to ride out the storm, a place from which to launch into new adventures.

The Marvel movies, like families, aren’t perfect. All you need to do is look at our reviews to know that. But they get how important families are, and how critical they are in shaping the men and women we eventually become.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Chuck Anziulewicz 6 months ago
Problem is, I've become pretty worn out on superhero flicks. Some I have really enjoyed. But I confess I haven't seen most of the MCU movies. I like "Iron Man," but I didn't much care for "Guardians of the Galaxy." Since I didn't even SEE "Infinity War," I suspect I'd be lost with "Endgame" .... which is unfortunate because it's been getting great reviews.

I didn't grow up with comic books, so it just doesn't see all that relevant to me. I like science fiction, because it usually portrays a plausible future of some kind. But for me, superhero flicks are little more than fantasy.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Well, Endgame definately has a lot of Science Fiction vibes, but if you didn't like Guardians and didn't watch Infinity War, It probably won't be that enjoyable for you.

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Anonymous 7 months ago
I completely agree. The MCU is about family. That's why the MCU will continue to thrive for years to come. 

Side Note: What are we going to call the MCU once the TV shows on Disney+ start coming out?

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Anonymous 7 months ago
I would think that the MCU would still be referred to as the MCU, for a couple reasons.

1: People are familiar with the term, so it would take a little while for a new name to become popular, even then, some people would still call it the MCU.

2: The MCU would still be mainly movies, and also keep in mind that there are already a couple tv shows that exist in the MCU.
For example, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..

- A normal tortilla chip.
Anonymous 7 months ago
But does Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really count? They haven't really stuck to the events of the movies after the Hydra series. Plus, Kevin Fiege said that the TV shows on Disney+ would influence and have more weight in the films. Honestly, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. just isn't really in the MCU Agent Carter is better at tying in.

Posted By A-Non-Mouse

BTW love the name XD.