So let’s get into it: What do you know about the Guardians of the Galaxy? Could you even name who’s in the team? Don’t worry if you can’t. Even for comic book buffs like myself, they’re a little obscure. The team is comprised of five members — smooth-talking leader Peter Quill/Star-Lord, fierce green-skinned assassin Gamora, vengeful warrior Drax, and the duo you’re most likely to recognize, Rocket Raccoon and Groot, a genetically enhanced talking raccoon and a giant tree-man whose only vocabulary consists of the sentence “I am Groot.” Even in their own universe, these guys are not A-listers, and while they may share qualities with Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and the like, they’re a far cry from the Avengers we’re so used to seeing on screen.
But that’s what makes the Guardians of the Galaxy a compelling group. They are the outsiders, the ones on the fringe of society. For crying out loud, the group comes together in a prison, and at first the only thing holding them together is their interlocked selfishness, as they all vie for an artifact that can bring them boundless money and power. Why is it that we even call these characters heroes?
To be honest, at the beginning they aren’t. Quill and Rocket just want to make a quick buck (and Groot’s along for the ride as Rocket’s right hand man … or rather, tree), and Gamora and Drax simply want a shot at Ronan the Accuser and Thanos — fanatical, power-obsessed alien leaders who are directly responsible for the deaths of Gamora’s parents and Drax’s wife and daughter. Whether revenge or money, these “heroes” are only in it for their own personal interests, and agree to a tenuous alliance only so they can use each other to pull themselves closer to those goals.
But somewhere along the way, it clicks for the team that they are just that — a team. Faced with the possible extinction of the galaxy, these five put their greed and vengeance aside and band together to stand for the greater good. In doing so, these average and selfish creatures, these outsiders that nobody paid attention to otherwise — they become something bigger than that. They become the heroes that they always had the power to be.
Guardians of the Galaxy serves up a powerful lesson about not counting out the underdog. These heroes aren’t the popular choice — they’re not even the B-Team. But unglamorous and ill-fitting as they may seem, they take on their duty and do what needs doing to get the job done, namely saving the galaxy from total annihilation. Their devotion and persistence should serve as a reminder to us to see the potential in everyone, especially those who are often overlooked. It’s a brilliant echo to Pope Francis’s message of acceptance and love for all members of society. It’s also a lesson that we all ought to take to heart. With strong messages of self-reliance and independence pervading our culture, it can be easy to ignore those who live on the corners of society, those who might be in need of their own guardian.