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Recently, I’ve been posting some angry comments on Facebook about child abuse, which were in turn exacerbated by my viewing of Allen vs. Farrow on HBO. I’m not going to discuss any of that on a goofy blog like this. This shouldn’t be where you come for that sort of heavy conversation. (I won’t even discuss sports on this blog.) However, a Facebook friend made a related comment on a topic that’s very much a subject of this blog:
Stop celebrating MCU Yondu as an model father, he was a child abuser.
First, I don’t know of anyone that has celebrated him as a model father. Everyone whose comments I’ve heard or read is more than willing to acknowledge his faults, so that comment isn’t fair to any of us that discuss Yondu. However, it’s not even fair to the character of Yondu.
I’ve discussed in the context of Nebula why this is (sort of) an unfair criticism. TL;DR, in the real world, Nebula’s crimes shouldn’t and wouldn’t be swept away because she suddenly realized that she loved her sister. But this isn’t the real world; this is cinema. In cinema, sometimes the only way to get a story of redemption across to the average viewer is to do so through a kind of hyperbole. It won’t have the emotional impact intended unless you go from one extreme or the other. Tony Stark committed all sorts of computer crimes while testifying before Congress in Iron Man 2, and we all laughed about it because the corporate villain of the story was made to look like a fool. Darth Vader — the same guy that murdered younglings — was forgiven because he suddenly prioritized his repressed love for his son. Ryan Reynolds plays a pretty bad guy in Deadpool, but it’s okay because he’s funny and loves his wife. Loki tried to violently take over the Earth, then, against all odds, valiantly sacrificed his life to try to stop Thanos. There are countless examples of this, and not just in the fantasy genre, though I’m having trouble coming up with more meaningful, heartwarming stories of redemption than Vader, Yondu, and of course the best perhaps in cinematic history, Nebula. That’s probably because the fantasy genre allows you to go beyond the limits of logic with the horror and wonder it provides as the vehicle for that redemption.
Now, because we live in the real world, it’s certainly fair to use art to address these issues. I encourage it, especially with a topic like this that might otherwise be difficult to discuss (e.g., child abuse). Art is great for that sort of thing whether the filmmaker agrees with your point of view or not. Art is in the eye of the beholder.
My point is simply that context matters. The MCU is a fantasy world presented on film. The swing from villain to hero requires extreme circumstances in order for the audience to appreciate the redemption arc. That’s the context, and within that context, we can see that Yondu actually loved Peter and, in his own twisted way, tried to do right by him. We never saw him cause Peter physical harm, and in the end, he literally saved him from his irredeemable, biological father. So, maybe cut Yondu some slack. The real world needs more people that can shed their cognitive dissonance and admit when they’ve screwed up. In that (narrow) sense, Yondu is a role model.
Just don’t try this at home, parents.
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