Entertainment Movies

Understanding Trauma Through Avengers: Endgame

Thor Endgame

Avengers: Endgame dropped in movie theaters months ago, making millions worldwide, and we are still talking about it. Most of you have seen it multiple times by now. We have all laughed, we have all cried, and we are all anxiously waiting for the next phase of Marvel movies and looking for life after Endgame.

Now that all of this time has passed, there is one concept that still stuck with me: Superheroes have trauma too.

We like to downplay trauma. We often tell our friends and family to get over it, to see the bright side of things

But watching Avengers: Endgame got me really thinking. Because sometimes, you can’t just pull yourself out of a funk. Sometimes, you cry instead of pushing yourself to smile. And sometimes, instead of fighting, you sit on the sidelines.

We have seen over 40 hours of Marvel movies along with countless hours of other superhero movies and tv shows. One theme is common: Superheroes never falter. They never give up. And they never let sadness take over.

So when we, as humans, feel sad, falter, or even fail, we feel as if we have taken another step away from greatness.

But what if your failures didn’t stop you? What if what makes you human also makes you no less than a superhero?

I definitely saw this concept throughout Avengers: Endgame with two characters. Nebula and Thor. Both had been through A LOT. And for once, in this film, we finally see the effects of it.

Through these two characters, we can all understand trauma a little deeper.

Nebula’s Journey

Nebula Endgame

Nebula stood out to me because I identify with her struggle. Have you ever had someone who did you so wrong, maybe a friend or a significant other, but you kept trying to please them and kept trying to make it work? Because you felt if you just did this one thing right, that there would be no way for them to deny you. They would HAVE to accept you.

That was Nebula with Thanos. He constantly manipulated her and often made her feel as if she should be grateful that he did not straight up kill her. But she kept trying to earn his respect by doing his deeds. RIght up until his gory end, he never gave that to her.

When she looked at her past self, you could tell she regretted her actions back then. More than anything, she regretted her past self’s pure determination to please Thanos because now she had the knowledge that, no matter what she did or how hard she tried, Thanos would never acknowledge her.

The part that got my blood boiling? After they all jumped Thanos in the beginning (i loved that by the way) right before he knew he was going to die, he looks straight at Nebula and says

“…daughter…perhaps I treated you too harshly”

I’m sorry, Perhaps?!

After my anger subsided, there came a feeling of understanding. People absolutely manipulate others in this way all of the time. Giving small breadcrumbs to the people they have hurt and convinced them it’s a full loaf of bread. Nebula had been waiting all of her life to get some sense of validation from Thanos, only for him to stubbornly give her less than a quarter of that.

It made me think of those spouses or partners in horrible relationships. “Why don’t they just leave?”They spent months, years, sometimes decades being told that they aren’t enough, but given a small shred of hope that maybe they could be enough one day. While we think it’s easy for them to just say “forget it” and take off, for Nebula, and others in situations like hers, it isn’t that easy.

Thor and the Worthiness in Pain

Thor Endgame

Thor’s character arc made a lot of sense to me in Avengers: Endgame.

Here you have the God of Thunder, born in glory and molded for greatness. Everything came easy to him. Battles, fame, recognition, and validation all were given to Thor. After living so long based on the opinions and ideals from others what was his self worth like when it’s all taken away. This is a common issue that we all may deal with in one form or another. From the first rejection of a love interest, or the first loss of a competition. It could be something as simple as receiving the first F when you may have always gotten As.

Whatever the reason, learning to give yourself gratification, recognition and validation is one of life’s lessons that bestows self-worth from a very important place…  Self.

This is not to downgrade his feelings to just not feeling good enough or accomplished enough. He didn’t just lose a battle, he lost his family, his entire planet, and right in front of his eyes, he lost his brother.

Thor didn’t just feel defeated. He felt utterly powerless and useless.

After winning every battle, after achieving so much, his fall to the bottom was hard.

I laughed when I saw that he used beer and video games as a coping mechanism but not because it was funny. It was because it was relatable as heck.

I thought that in the last fight that Thor would go back to magically being his super-fit, muscled physique. But he never changed. His hair remained mangled and he still had his beer belly, but, at the end of the movie, he still won.

I know first hand that dealing with trauma makes you yearn for the person you were before, it makes you feel if you could just get to the “before” version of you, that all would be better.

But Avengers: Endgame makes a big stance in saying that, not only can you not go back, you don’t NEED to. This evolution of you is just enough to power through. It’s enough to make you worthy

When experiencing traumatic events, it isn’t realistic to think that you will continue standing tall against all odds. Sometimes you just get tired. And it was validating to see, someone as powerful and confident as Thor, to not be exempt from that at all.

It isn’t just a human response to trauma. It’s a normal response to trauma.

There was one moment with Thor that had me in tears. When he’s ready to fight and he summons his hammer, it reaches his hand. The look in his eyes and crack in his voice when he says “I’m still worthy.”

For Nebula, for Thor, and for anyone like them: I think it’s an important reminder to understand one thing about trauma. Especially to get to a place of healing.

Whatever you go through, however hard you fall, you are always worthy.

What did you think of Thor and Nebula in Avengers: Endgame? Did you leave with a better understanding of trauma? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

About the author

Quinzel Lee

Quinzel comes to this site armed with a background in creative writing that's peppered in sarcasm and humor. Her current outlets are Geeky Girl's Guide to Life and SheUnplugged. She also makes appearances on the Geeky Girl's Night In podcast.

"A degree in theater will get you nowhere" she was once told. Who could have guessed that nowhere is a place of fun, amazement, and a world of writing.