Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Moon Knight episode five.
What’s up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its inclination to give its heroes the worst parents ever?
While we love parents like Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Frigga (Rene Russo) 3000, unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the rest of the parental figures in the MCU. If there ever was a category called ‘Most Disappointing Parents of the Decade’ at the Oscars and the Emmys, almost all Marvel films and shows would win the prize every year, and this list has only grown with the addition of Disney Plus’ Moon Knight episode five.
So, in honor of how Moon Knight is continuing the “tradition,” here is a list of MCU’s top examples of parenting gone terribly wrong:
Wendy and Elias Spector (Moon Knight)
Since this duo is responsible for reminding us how MCU is not big on giving its heroes a happy childhood, let’s start the list with Wendy and Elias Spector (Fernanda Andrade and Rey Lucas.)
The penultimate episode of Moon Knight unearthed many secrets from the life of Marc Spector (Oscar Isaac), confirming facts that fans already suspected, like Marc is the original personality and Steven is an alter ego he created in his trauma, and that Steven’s “later’s gators” never made it to his mother as she had been dead for a long time.
The most shocking and rather heartbreaking revelation was the childhood Marc lived and how it contributed to his broken psyche. In an attempt to balance his scales in the afterlife, Marc is forced to reveal his past to Steven, who learns that Marc had a brother Randall (Claudio Fabian Contreras) when he was younger and the duo were immensely loved by their parents. The two siblings shared a strong bond and often frequented a cave nearby to play.
On a particularly rainy day, the two entered the cave again despite Marc’s younger brother voicing his reservation. The tiny cave filled up with water as the rain increased and sadly Marc was unable to save his brother from drowning. Devastated by the loss, Marc’s mother held him responsible for his brother’s death, claiming that he deliberately planned to drown him. She went on to make his life a living hell as she not only openly aired her hatred for him but also beat him up frequently.
In order to escape this constant trauma, Marc created the personality of Steven, who thinks that he never had a brother and was unconditionally loved by his mother.
While Elias tried to make his life better, he wasn’t exactly striving to be the father of the year. He failed to protect him from his wife’s constant abuse and seeing that he was in the house in the one scene we see Wendy beating Marc, it won’t be far-fetched to assume that he even turned a blind eye at times to the hell his son was living in.
Thanos (Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame)
Thanos (Josh Brolin) is one of MCU’s most conflicted characters, as pegging him either as a through and through villain, or someone with good intentions but bad methods, is not an easy task. When it comes to his parenting style, however, let’s just say fans would have been happier if Thanos’ adopted daughter Nebula (Karen Gillan) had been the one to swing the axe that ended his life in Avengers: Endgame.
Thanos killed his daughter Gamora’s (Zoe Saldaña) mother in cold blood during one of his genocidal crusades. He put Nebula through extreme body modifications to make her perfect, and never really treated her as his daughter to start with, preferring to see Nebula as one of his many soldiers who lived to do his bidding. And in case you haven’t gone through a crying session by binging Endgame, let us remind you that he killed Gamora, the daughter he actually loved, just so he could have the Soul Stone.
Ego (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)
Well, this one is perhaps the lone MCU parent whose actions have no I-am-secretly-rooting-for-my-child vibes.
Ego (Kurt Russell) had thousands of children with different species of female beings in his efforts to replicate his powers, but almost all his “creations” were powerless and he killed them without remorse, though he claimed they didn’t feel a thing. Ego had planted seedlings on all planets and needed an offspring that shared his powers to fuel these enough to terraform the planets into his idea of “Expansion.”
As for Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), who is the only one blessed with Celestial powers, Ego killed his mother by deliberately planting a tumour in her brain, as he felt that his feelings for her would have made him ditch his universe-altering plans. After he manages to find Quill, he tries to get him on his side, but the revelation that he killed his mother is enough to flip the tide and bring about the end of Ego’s tyranny as his own son annihilates him to save the universe.
Mandarin aka Wenwu (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings)
While Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) was a good father to begin with, and even sacrificed his life to save Shang-Chi (Simon Liu) in the end, his journey of parenthood after losing his wife doesn’t win him any points. Wenwu became a ruthless man after his wife Ying Li (Fala Chen) was murdered by his enemies, and simply abandoned being a father to his children who were still reeling from losing their mother.
For Shang-Chi, his father became a strict dictator who wanted him to become the best warrior out there at the cost of his childhood. As for his daughter Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), he simply ignored her existence as she reminded him of his late wife. While Wenwu did somewhat redeem himself by transferring the Ten Rings to Shang-Chi at the cost of his life, his momentary transition to being a loving father does little to diminish the fact that he destroyed his children’s childhood.
Odin (Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok)
On the surface, the late Asgardian ruler Odin (Anthony Hopkins) may appear to be a good and heroic idol, but his parenting skills weren’t exactly top-notch. Odin messed up the lives of his three kids Hela (Cate Blanchett), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in his own significant ways.
First Odin imprisoned Hela in Hel when her lust for power grew, something which was triggered in the first place by his ambitions. Odin then simply forgot that he had a daughter and rewrote history to portray that he has always been a kind king. You can see why Hela was not exactly in the mood to sit and chat when she finally got free; being imprisoned and forgotten by your father for decades can have that effect on you.
In the case of Loki, MCU fans are well aware of the adverse effects of Odin’s tough love for his adoptive son, who went astray too many times trying to prove himself in all the wrong ways.
As for Thor, while he did turn out to be the badass God of Thunder we have come to know, his journey started as a selfish, egoistical man who was exiled by his father when his hot-headedness got out of control. Yes, when it comes to Odin, basic parenting 101 is to banish his kids whenever they do something wrong instead of guiding them toward the right path. Way to go, your highness.
Frigga (Rene Russo), the Queen of Asgard, was the only reason Loki and Thor didn’t end up like Hela. They got to experience the selfless love of a mother while their father was busy running Asgard and the Nine Realms. While Odin did, somewhat apologize for his actions seconds before dying, the fact remained that he spent decades being an unreliable father.
While the likes of Yondu (Michael Rooker), Howard Stark (John Slattery), Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and Black Widow’s “adoptive” parents Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) also belong to the list, we have stuck to names who were either beyond forgiveness, or whose acts of redemption were too little too late to even attempt to begin erasing the years of mental and emotional trauma their children went through.
Here’s hoping that the future slate of the MCU will bring in more parents like Sarah Rogers, Aunt May, Tony Stark and Frigga, and ensure that they stick around longer than the mini-lifelines these characters had.