Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 comes out on Amazon Video and iTunes today, so it’s time to revisit this hilarious team of space misfits. Our fan favorite characters are back, and if you remember, the sequel also introduced Pom Klementieff as Mantis, an alien empath with literal feelers coming out the top of her head. The critical reception to Mantis was mixed: why is there a need for another female empath character? Yet, it’s becoming clear that in a world where there’s political outrage every single day and increased polarization, we now, more than ever, need characters who illustrate the importance of being empathetic.
Unfortunately, in order to talk about Mantis’s significance, we have to begin with discussing a male character: Peter Quill’s father, Ego. The first red flag was that his name is Ego. The second was that he kept Mantis around, like a pet, to help him sleep. Now, Ego certainly lives up to his name. He has traveled around the galaxy planting parts of himself onto planets so that he can eventually take over them. He even named his own planet after himself, for chrissakes. We definitely see this kind of ego in the White House today; one only needs to check Trump’s Twitter feed and think about just how many places he has named after himself. Thankfully, the President hasn’t branched out to planets… yet.
Because we Americans have invited this ego into our politics, it has spread, like Ego’s terraforming, into our daily lives. Now, when we’re determining whether a new friend or date is worth our time, one of the first things we try to find out is their political party affiliation. It is much more difficult now to step outside our bubbles to understand why someone would vote for a different person than we did in 2016; however, it is so so important that we try to practice empathy.
The only way out of political polarization is to have conversations with people who are different than you. That is the only way to keep our egos in check. Towards the end of the film, Mantis is the only one who can control Ego long enough for the gang to gain the upper hand. While she was often used as comedic relief in scenes with Drax, there were times when she moved the plot forward, especially when she confessed what Ego’s plan was for Peter. If you think about it, this is actually a big deal for her. All she’s really known in her life thus far has been through serving Ego, and yet she has the ability to measure what’s right and wrong. This ability is likely an extension of her empathetic powers; her being able to understand emotions and feel what others feel allows her to act for the greater good.
At the end of the film, the only way to beat Ego is to destroy the core of him. Baby Groot thankfully pushed the right button to make this happen, but in case you don’t have a baby tree-being handy, here’s another way to get rid of ego: go out of your way to talk to someone different than you, and – more importantly – listen to them. If you don’t understand why someone voted for Trump, talk to someone who did. If you don’t understand Islam, talk to a Muslim. If you don’t understand how someone could think In N Out is not the best burger in the world, give them the chance to explain themselves before you tell them they’re wrong.
The key here is to use your inner feelers. We are all born with them, like Mantis, but we have to choose to use them. Listening to someone’s thoughts, even if they are totally against your own core beliefs, will give you insight, and with better insight comes better, more effective action. If we really want to save the galaxy, we have to start with having uncomfortable conversations. Then come the talking raccoons and sentient trees, I hope.