I'm addicted to strong and intriguing characters. Heroine Fix is a monthly feature examining female characters that I admire and who influence my own writing. Warning: this post will contain spoilers.
In a few weeks, ten years of Marvel movies will culminate in Avengers: Endgame. As a comics fan, watching so many amazing characters and stories interweave and unfold has been wonderful. One of my favourite parts has been being introduced to characters I didn't know before. I'd never even heard of Guardians of the Galaxy before the film was announced (although I do recall one friend scornfully talking about a raccoon and talking tree combo) but I adored the film when I saw it, particularly its green-skinned lead, Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana.
Marvel has many strong kickass heroines (one of many reasons why I love them). Gamora falls into the brooding, damaged protagonist character (another of my favourites), one who is seeking redemption but doesn't expect to achieve it. There are several key moments for her character arc.
In the first Guardians, Gamora is captured and imprisoned among hardened criminals, many of whom are enemies of her putative father, Thanos. They see her arrival as an opportunity to strike back at him. We know that Gamora hates Thanos and is actively working against him. We know that Thanos killed her family and took her from her home planet, raising her as a weapon to do his bidding. But Gamora doesn't beg for mercy or sympathy. She walks defiantly in front of those desperate to tear her down and neither flinches nor retreats. As someone who was bullied, her refusal to bow caught my attention.
In the second Guardians of the Galaxy, Gamora's story takes second place to Quill's but the development of the relationship between Gamora and her sister, Nebula, is one of the more poignant examples of female bonding that I've seen the Marvel films. Both Gamora and Nebula were stolen by Thanos, who then pitted them against one another in contests of strength and skill. Gamora won those contests, driven by fear of Thanos and the consequences of failure. Every time Nebula lost, Thanos replaced a piece of her with a cybernetic part, and now she's almost entirely robotic. Nebula spends most of the film trying to kill Gamora, accusing her of being selfish for always winning and ensuring Nebula was the one to go under the knife. The moment when Nebula looks up at Gamora and says "All I wanted was a sister" still makes my breath catch. In that moment, Gamora does what few heroes have the strength to do, she recognizes that her perception of events wasn't the only one and that Nebula's is just as valid as her own. The two of them realize that fighting each other only gives the advantage to their true enemy: Thanos.
I would very much love to see a story featuring Gamora and covering the time between Guardians: Volume Two and Avengers: Infinity War because there's a lot of off-screen character growth. She and Nebula have obviously been working together, she and Quill have begun a romantic relationship, and most importantly, she's much more centered than the previous films. In the two Guardians films, she's reserved, holding back. Initially, she doesn't believe she deserves happiness and at some point in the interval, she decides to take a chance.
That makes the events of Infinity War even more difficult to watch. She begs Quill to kill her rather than allow her to fall into Thanos's hands again. Saldana's half-choked "You promised!" will tug the heart strings of anyone who still has a heart. But to me, the true apex of her character arc is the moment when she believes she's killed Thanos. She hates him. He ruined her life, killed her family, and forced her into a daily game of survival and torture. And yet, as she watches him die, she crumples into a ball, overcome with emotional agony.
A male hero would likely be celebrating. He's saved the world! Destroyed his oppressor! But Gamora is grieving. Thanos may have been a horrible father but he's the only one that she knows. Often we forget that people who are abused may still truly love the one who abused them (which is one of the crueler facets of abuse). And that even when they recognize the abuse, they can still feel love even as they do whatever is necessary to stop their abuser. I would have loved if there had been more time to explore this part of her arc, but even though it is a brief exchange, her tears say it all. (And for the record, this is also a reason why I have a problem with Thanos sacrificing her as someone that he loves, because while abusers may encourage love in their victims, they themselves do not love them because I believe it is impossible to truly love someone and deliberately harm them.)
I don't know what will happen with Gamora's character in Endgame but I can't wait to find out. Too often, writers won't allow strong characters to have their moments of vulnerability, particularly if that character is a heroine. But strength isn't only defined by refusing to bend, it's also defined by doing what is necessary even when that action tears your heart in two.
(Keep on reading for more information on next month's Heroine Fix and a special offer on my own books.)
If you'd like to read about my own damaged, brooding heroine, Dani, you can pick up Revelations for less than the price of a cup of coffee. Get started with the first book in my fast-paced paranormal romantic suspense series about a secret society of superheroes living among us.
If you'd like something shorter and spookier, there are my Spirit Sight short stories, releasing between April 30th and May 14th. Pre-order them individually or grab them all at once in the collection.
Or if you'd rather just poke around the blog, there's plenty to keep you entertained, like last month's Heroine Fix about Burlesque's trip through the mirror with Tess and Ali. Or you can read last month's post about ways we can all step back from being part of the problem with racism in today's world.
Or you can find other books to read with my Hidden Diamonds, featuring my fellow romance authors who write strong women, exciting adventures or paranormal thrills. This month is Tamara Hughes Bewitching The Beast.
Next month, I'll be sharing my admiration of another strong warrior woman, Zoe from Firefly and Serenity. Join me on May 9th for your next Heroine Fix.