Earlier this month, Marvel graced movie theaters across the globe with the release of the highly anticipated 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2'. The original 2014 installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe received high praises among critics, movie-goers, and Marvel fans everywhere, leading to the high standards everyone held for the sequel.
Whether or not Vol. 2 exceeded the original in terms of quality differs from person to person, but the most impressive part of the movie for me? The romantic subplot between Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana).
We all saw a romance between them coming after the events of the first movie. To briefly recap, Star-Lord (whose real name is Peter Quill) led the newly formed Guardians of the Galaxy to defeat Ronan the Accuser, a villain who possessed the power of the Infinity Stone. Along the way, Gamora and Peter developed a more intimate relationship than they did with the other characters. Peter tried to dance with Gamora after showing her his Walkman (also known as the infamous "PELVIC SORCERY!" scene), then gave her his mask (which contained oxygen) when they were left floating in space.
By the end of the first movie, the sexual tension between them was clear, though there was never a kiss scene or any real confession of feelings. So, in the second movie, they'll probably hook up or something in the middle of the movie, right?
(Some spoilers for Vol. 2 below!)
Well, if you were expecting that, or even just a kiss, you'd be very, very wrong!
As the events of Vol. 2 unfold (which take place only months after the first movie), we're given some clues on Gamora and Peter's current relationship status: Gamora appears angry (jealous?) when Peter flirts with the leader of the Sovereign, Gamora acts as Peter's main support when his supposed father suddenly shows up, Peter successfully convinces Gamora to dance with him and brings up some "unspoken thing" between them (which Gamora denies exists), and Gamora is the most visibly upset character (aside from Peter himself) when the truth behind Peter's father's intentions is revealed. By the end, Gamora acknowledges the "unspoken thing" between them, and the movie ends with Gamora standing beside Peter, tucked into his side, with his arm draped comfortably over her shoulders.
So, basically, they're headed down the path toward a relationship by the end of Vol. 2.
And what makes them stand out among all the romances we've seen in the Marvel movies to date?
The creative minds behind the Guardians of the Galaxy movies were able to convey the message of yes, these two characters are romantically interested in each other and will date without depending on physical intimacy.
Nothing is wrong with physical/sexual attraction, of course. But as an asexual? I was blown away by the fact that a couple was able to come together solely based on an emotional connection. We didn't need a kiss scene to know that Peter and Gamora like each other like that. Instead, we saw it through the way Gamora actively tried to help Peter sort out his thoughts and emotions from old childhood wounds and the way Peter slow-danced with Gamora.
Marvel's past romances include Iron Man and Pepper Potts (the 'Iron Man' trilogy and 'Avengers'), Thor and Jane Foster (the 'Thor' movies), Captain America and Peggy Carter ('Captain America: the First Avenger), the Hulk and Black Widow ('Avengers: Age of Ultron'), and Captain America and Sharon Carter ('Captain America: Civil War').
Unfortunately, most of these relationships are developed hastily and almost entirely with a need for physical intimacy. 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' tried to develop the Hulk and Black Widow from teammates who didn't fully trust each other to lovers within the first half of the movie, drawing criticism from many fans (myself included). Captain America met a same fate in last year's 'Captain America: Civil War', as he and Sharon went from acquaintances to lovers, again, only halfway through the film. Of course, many couples in real life won't experience this whole "meet, be attracted to one another, figure it out by kissing" process, deeming Marvel's past romances fairly unrealistic.
Meanwhile, after two movies, Gamora and Peter have just begun to consider the possibility of a relationship--arguably, the same stage the aforementioned characters reach when they start smooching like there's no tomorrow.
Of course, the chances of Peter or Gamora being canonically asexual or demisexual are slim, but it's reassuring to know that Marvel has acknowledged the existence of relationships that develop because of an emotional attraction dominating any physical attraction. And for that, I must commend them on finally writing a couple that represents that.