‘The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’ Finally Gives Mantis the Respect She Deserves
All I want for Christmas is for Mantis to be happy.
Mantis’ treatment in the Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers movies has always been subpar. Her first Guardians movie constantly made her the butt of the joke, and she is one of the only characters whose trauma is almost entirely played for laughs. The fact that she was prisoner to her father figure should mean she has a lot to bond over with Gamora and Nebula, yet she never has a real conversation with them. Lindsay Ellis has a great take on Mantis in Guardians Vol. 2 that I’ve linked for those interested.
This trend has also continued into the Avengers movies. In Infinity War, despite proving herself capable of taking on Celestials like Ego, her character has not grown much, still doubting her abilities against Thanos. In Endgame, she gets no lines and Rocket Raccoon just refers to her as “the chick with the antennae,” once again separating her from the other Guardians and making her the “other” on her own team.
Thankfully, Disney+’s Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special corrects that by making Mantis the driving force for the plot.
The entire story starts because she hears about Christmas and decides to help cheer Peter up … by kidnapping Kevin Bacon for him. From there, she and Drax get into wacky hijinks on Earth and learn the true meaning of Christmas. Mantis gets all kinds of comedic moments, and while some of them are at her expense, they’re more slapstick than undercutting trauma or making fun of her appearance.
We also get the “big reveal” that Mantis is not just Quill’s “adopted” sister; she’s his half-sister by their father, Ego.
She kept it secret from Peter for literal years because she knew Ego hurt him and was afraid that knowing who she was would hurt him more. But instead, Peter welcomes her and the two orphans get a family reunion for the holidays.
I will admit, I had mixed feelings about this as, more than any other MCU series, Guardians has been about found family over bio-family. It also seems weird to only explore Mantis’ trauma at Ego’s hands after he was confirmed to be her bio-father. Mantis was likely the only child Ego ever raised, and we still don’t know how many of her siblings she watched die at his hands, or if she was one of the children Yondu kidnapped and trafficked.
Still, this is an excellent first step and does a lot to round out Mantis’ character as someone who cares deeply but is also willing to bend rules to get what she wants: A True Guardian of the Galaxy.
I’m hopeful that they’ll explore more of her and Starlord’s relationship in the future, as James Gunn has stated that the Holiday Special is required to understand the characters’ dynamics in the next movie. Until then, I’ll just bask in the glow of Mantis’ Christmas lights.
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