No more games for me, boy. I’ll see you at the end of this.
Okay, this is a tough one, and I’ve been waiting for the right moment to make this post, and, well, this is probably it, since my godfather passed away two years ago today.
Spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to follow. Yes, I’m aware that seems like a weird transition. Trust me, it’s not that weird if you know me well at all.
Anyone who knows me knows I fucking LOVE movies, sci-fi and comic books. I was raised on Star Trek and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I learned to read thanks to Wolverine and Batman. My continued drive to make movies is thanks to George Pal’s 1960 classic The Time Machine. Hell, Star Trek, the X-Men and Ant-Man have even saved my life in their own ways, and more than once. To say that these stories have profoundly changed my life is understatement.
Since college, when I found my way to the post-Annihilation version of the Guardians of the Galaxy, I felt a kinship with Peter Quill. Here’s a guy – in comics AND in film – who grew up watching Star Wars and 2001 and now has to go out there and be Han Solo only he’s not so great at it. He’s crap at adulting. He’s always low-key incredibly anxious, consistently depressed, and regularly looks like he needs a hug. He also probably doesn’t sleep very much. And hey, he didn’t know his father, either.
I grew up the child of a single mother. My father was an anonymous sperm donor. Half of me, I don’t know what it is or where it’s from. And that’s fine, I guess, until the other kids start asking questions and, eventually, start making fun.
In a hyper-masculine culture, it’s incredibly hard to grow up raised exclusively by women. I like to think it’s made me a better person, and I hope that’s true. I hope it’s made me more sensitive and in-touch; those are certainly things that schoolyard bullies thought were “faggy” and “girly” enough to make fun of me for. I hope it’s given me a better perspective on different lives and lifestyles that I’m not inherently connected to or part of, much to the chagrin of my childhood tormentors. “And where’s your dad, anyway?” It depended on the day. Sometimes he’d be overseas. Sometimes he was dead. Sometimes I didn’t have an answer.
And sometimes, whether it was when he was still in Los Angeles or visiting from New York, I let people think my godfather was my father.
John Carter was an actor with an insanely long and varied resume. He’d married his second wife, Kendall, when I was a young kid. I was the ring-bearer in their wedding. I don’t remember much of that day, but the flashes I do have are lovely, and the first time I ever really felt important to anyone.
When I was an adolescent, my mother told me that John once confided in her that I was the son he wished he had.
John was a southern gentleman, and not in the cowboy movie sort of way. He had ethics, values, beliefs that fit more in line with the Bohemians than with John Wayne conservatives. And he passed them on to me, of course, the way dads are supposed to.
This is where Guardians of the Galaxy comes back into play. See, I promised we’d make it back here.
My initial hesitance to the change in Peter Quill’s parentage aside, James Gunn, Chris Pratt, Kurt Russell, Laura Haddock and Michael Rooker (whose Yondu was always a favorite of mine, and who, until this film, subconsciously reminded me of an ET version of John) have done something remarkable with the story of Star-Lord. When we first meet Russell’s Ego – Peter’s father in the MCU – he’s seen atop a small spaceship meant to evoke Mork & Mindy. Rocket sees him from a distance, Ego holding onto the ship with a rope, corralling it like a wild bronco in the old west. But the ship doesn’t just look like Mork’s ship; it looks like a sperm. A giant sperm in space, which is perfect for what Ego is eventually revealed to be: nothing more than a monster from a Dean Koontz novel, hopping from planet to planet to create miniature versions of himself. “Setting up franchises,” as Chuck Palahniuk would say.
Last year, in the wake of John’s passing, my mother told me there may be a potential lead as to the identity of my father. Intrigued as I was, I never could bring myself to take the DNA test. And during the third act of the film, almost a year later, I realized why.
During the Guardians’ fight with Ego, Rooker, as Yondu, the man who took Quill from Earth and raised him alongside his crew of space pirates, turns to Chris Pratt’s Quill and says of Ego, in his gruff Southern accent: “he may have been your father, boy, but he wasn’t your daddy.”
And it hit me like a ton of bricks.
And it hit me all over again, just a few scenes later, when Yondu sacrifices himself to protect his adopted son.
I couldn’t go to John’s funeral. I was too sick at the time. A part of me will always resent that. I know it couldn’t have been helped, but I’ll still always be just a little bit bitter. And always very upset.
But in the end, I guess, it’s okay, because on some level, Gunn has crafted a film that shows that somewhere out there, someone has some semblance of feeling similar to what I’ve gone through.
On Friday, my mother asked me again if I was ever going to do that DNA test, because it would be great for me to meet my father for personal reasons, and, if her evidence holds, it could be great for me professionally, which is just a shitty reason to find out who jacked off into a tube to get money for a sandwich and hey, here you are.
I told her no, I wasn’t interested in that anymore.
I don’t need to know who my father is, because I know who my dad was.
Thank you, James Gunn, Chris Pratt, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell and Laura Haddock. You’ve done something truly special that will resonate with me and stay in my heart forever.
Alright, enough of my feelings and stuff.
I love you, Dad, wherever you are.