Dicks in space: Sexual difference theory in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Strap yourself in.

Guardians of the galaxy vol 2 Art: Matthew Fisher

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has been received vaguely positively by audiences and sort of middlingly by critics. Chris Pratt, everyone’s fave dopey meat puppet, is back alongside his crew of alien chums. The soundtrack’s still great and the film still guides us through pretty enjoyable antics and Groot-isms.

But something happened to me partway through my viewing of GotG2 — my heart started fluttering, I could no longer concentrate on the gags, or the fact that I’m strangely attracted to Bradley Cooper in raccoon form.

Basically, I think GotG2 provides a theory of sexual difference and outlines a cosmology of meaning itself. I think.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading a bit of Zizek lately (sue me!), but suddenly the Hollywood superhero-space genre seemed like the perfect vehicle for an analysis of the philosophy of sexual difference, an analysis that serves as a companion theory to second wave feminism, using Lacanian psychoanalysis as a base for discussion (sue me again, why don’t ya!).

Here’s the breakdown. Also, spoilers. I hate myself for saying that — I feel like a Redditor.

The universe has always been considered a maternal thing. The word “matter” comes from the Latin “mater” (mother, mum). Matter — everything, the universe — has no form, but is rather scattered, infinitely fertile.

GotG2 endows Star-Lord (Pratt) with a father. He is a god named Ego (played by a somehow-resurrected Kurt Russell) and boy does he have plans for the universe. Ego’s a virile, cool-guy dad whose human form is a facade he inhabits because his actual body is a weird celestial brain. He also literally rides around in a sperm spaceship.

Ego is the epitome of the Freudian male ego, which historically is conceived of as creating meaning and form from matter, from feminised potential. No wonder semen and semiotics have the same etymological root — the creation of meaning, of sound ideas out of scattered phenomena, mimics the phallic act of creating life.

Ego’s desire mimics the desire of the Freudian ego, which is to create endless meaning — he wants to “sow his seeds” across the universe by impregnating as many female bodies as possible, creating an army of demi-gods. Yuck.

The film really succeeds in pulling out the philosophical threads of this narrative, ultimately condemning Ego as a self-obsessed super villain who scatters his toxic masculinity mimetically throughout the universe — the worst kind of manspreading.

The metaphor of the toxic male form manifests itself beautifully across the film’s cinematic elements: from the soundtrack (Looking Glass’s nautical love song Brandi plays a key role) to minuscule narrative details (Ego implanted a cancerous tumour in Star-Lord’s mother’s brain, surely the worst kind of mimetic creation there is). There’s also an interesting stepfather figure in the mix — Yondu whose name we could also analyse. ‘Yonic’ symbols are those that represent the vulva or vagina, suggesting that the ultimate father is a ‘feminised’ one.

In the Guardians’ destruction of Ego/the male ego, the historic phallic conception of meaning is also condemned. The film doesn’t really answer what a feminist conception of meaning looks like, but what is apparent at the end of the film is that a force that is queer and multiple — i.e. the Guardians of the Galaxy — protects the universe damn nicely.

This is a sweeping theory, of course, but one that convinced me the movie was a worthwhile sequel to the joy of the first. If you don’t watch it for the psychoanalysis, you should watch it for Sylvester Stallone’s wooden acting chops and some truly terrible CGI sequences toward the end of the film. As for me, I’ll be on Reddit.