Why is Star-Lord such a Rake?

Here on Sourcerer, I have blogged about two things: comics and music. Today, I get to talk about both!

Let me set the scene. In Guardians of the Galaxy, one of the great movies and greater soundtracks of the summer, there was an odd scene at the beginning. Making a ridiculous spaceship escape, the hero, Star-Lord, gets confronted by a female woman who was sleeping below decks, and got thrown around as the ship flew off-planet. And his line, in this moment, was, “I forgot you were here.”

Star-Lord, or Peter Quill, is a human who was abducted at a young age by a crew of alien pirates, and grew up with them. He ends up as a womanizer, con man, and liar, and it might be easy to dismiss this sort of moment as “oh, those pirates.” From the other angle, it’s been criticized as a scene that really did not even need to exist. They could have cut it and not changed the movie much at all. Sure, Gamora later accuses him of being a womanizer, but how did she know? And do we need a throw-away scene to, as the audience, know that about him?

I have come to find a third opinion about this scene, about this character trait, this aspect of his personality. I use the term “rake” to describe it, perhaps a dated term but one I know well from my history thesis on William Hogarth (with his Rake’s Progress), and more recently with something like the Decemberists’ The Hazards of Love. I suppose more modern terms would be “player,” “ladies man,” or my favorite (from Scott Pilgrim versus the World), “lady-killer wanna-be jerky-jerk.” So why is Star-Lord this way? It makes sense to me now, and I want to share why.

It’s Not From The Comics…

Cover from Guardians of the Galaxy #1

Cover from Guardians of the Galaxy #1, 2008

Over on Comparative Geeks, one of the things we do is read the source material and then see the movie, something we call LitFlix. Well, for my Guardians of the Galaxy LitFlix, I read the whole 25-comic run of Guardians where you first see this group of heroes (plus friends) together. I’ve read some of the start of the newer run, as well. Sure, there’s a lot more of the comics I haven’t read, and Star-Lord has been around since 1976.

Still, in what I have read, Star-Lord has not been a Rake. He’s been manipulative and lies, uses his charisma and words as his weapons as much or more than his trusty elemental pistols. But him and relationships? Or less than that – him and womanizing? Not really a part. Certainly not to the extent that it shows up in the movie!

So it’s not some little detail they snuck in to try to be faithful to the comics, it’s not a nod to the hardcore fans. Assuming there even was such a thing for Guardians of the Galaxy before the movie was announced…

Where Does It Come From? How About The Music?

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We’re All Hooked on a Feeling – Guardians of the Galaxy

If you haven’t had a chance to see Guardians of the Galaxy yet, might I suggest checking it out? I have been blogging on Sourcerer about 2 things: comics and music. This movie is a perfect combination of those two things.

Previously, it seems like it’s Zack Snyder who had a hold on good use of music in comic-book type movies, especially Watchmen and Sucker Punch. But those movies were a lot darker: Guardians of the Galaxy has great music, and used it to generate a sense of fun, as well as emotional depth.

You can see some of how they use music in the first trailer, with the now iconic use of Hooked on a Feeling. I also think this is a perfect sort of character: it introduced the characters, the movie, and left it pretty much there without giving much away. I avoided other trailers after this one, and just saw the movie from there!

I will say, I do include the second theatrical trailer below, for music purposes. I’ll hit a spoiler section where this is appropriate; but the second trailer gave a lot away so know that. But for now, a couple of the reasons that Guardians of the Galaxy was good, in relation to its use of music!

Music as a Character

From the first moments of the movie, we can see that our lead character, Peter Quill (played by Chris Pratt), loved and loves music. He was getting lost in music as a kid, and, after being abducted, clearly kept this obsession.

He ends up in space for the rest of his life, or at least so far, and his only connections to Earth are his memories (constantly referenced through pop culture), a couple of artifacts (trolls!), and his music.

Awesome Mix vol. 1One cassette. A mix tape, made by his mom, who died right before he was abducted. So it is not only the connection to Earth, to the life he lost, but to his mother, the family he knew. The music stands in for Earth, for family, for love. I used the word obsession, and I think for Peter Quill, this is probably just right.

But it’s more than that. The music functions almost as a character in the movie. It reminds us of the mother who left the music for Peter, it grounds us on the Earth we know even as we experience the cosmic Marvel Universe that is exploding off of the comic page onto the big screen. Because even as these recognizable songs play, you realize they’re not just a soundtrack: they’re the songs Peter has with him.

Putting Our Best Foot Forward

In the comics, as with a lot of science fiction, we come to find that humanity is far behind when it comes to technology. Indeed, this is a major plot in The Avengers, as Nick Fury talks about how they were working on advanced weapons technology because they had found out how powerful the rest of the galaxy seemed to be. Blame Loki, I guess; everyone else does…

Often, it’s human pluck and determination that stands out, or human ingenuity, inventiveness, and diversity. Vague notions to make us feel good about ourselves, and staples of science fiction. It’s rare that something specific gets held up as a special thing from humanity, something that the alien species encountered like from humanity.

Guardians of the Galaxy give us that something. Music. I can point out three examples:

  • The guy who takes the headphones, seen in the trailer. He puts them on, listens, and keeps them. Even shirking his guard duty, completely oblivious to the station falling apart around him. He likes the music.
  • Gamora. Both in the middle of the film, when Peter is introducing the music to her (and suggests dancing), and you can see her get into the music. So much so that she lets her guard down. And then later on, when she is listening to the music on the ship, and starts dancing.
  • Groot. The number one take-away meme from this movie is going to be Groot. I guess to avoid spoilers, I’ll leave it at that.

We can conjecture some of it too. Peter grew up with the Ravagers, and kept his stuff – and kept the Walkman running! – throughout this time. Surely they were exposed to it as well. Also, Peter seems to have a pretty extreme rakish side to him. You can see him potentially sharing his music with women – like he did with Gamora – and having them fall in love with it as well.

I love that there is something of humanity, something of our society and culture, that stands out on the galactic stage. And more than that, I love that the thing that stands out is our music.

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5 Ways to Find New Music

I’ve been recommending music so far here and it’s been a lot of fun to talk to people about music. And while some people have known some of my recommendations, not everyone knows all of them, which is good! I hope that keeps up in a good way. I know I have already made music purchases based on recommendations I’ve gotten from others!

So of course from the title you know, I’d like to suggest a few of the places where I’ve found new music over the years. All of this excludes the most obvious ones, I suppose, which are recommendations from friends or, say, bloggers!

I’d love to know some of your recommended places or ways to find new music as well, so make sure to add to the conversation in the comments below!

The Radio

Yes, yes, that’s what it’s for. Music radio is there to sell you music, at least in part. This is one of the most direct ways to find music, but not necessarily the best way to find the best music.

I say that because the radio tends to only play singles. And while many singles are great, often, other songs on albums are a lot musicnotebetter. And, many albums are best listened to whole – hearing one song just doesn’t give you a good sense of it. Also, focusing on singles might have you looking at singles only when you buy music – something iTunes lets you do, fair enough, but that doesn’t help you find very much music, or at least not very quickly!

However, I feel the need to mention this method, because it is on the radio that I heard “Two Against One” from the album Rome, sung by Jack White (which caught my interest) and produced by Danger Mouse – which, finding this out led me down a road which has led to many of my favorite music purchases – certainly my favorites of the last several years!

So some of the secret is finding a radio station you really like, or that does a good job of playing a lot of music. For instance, in Denver I listened to channel 93.3, and it’s great. Oh, and thanks to the Internet age, and services like iHeartRadio, you can listen to channels like this anywhere! Which I do.

Guitar Hero and Rock Band!

I don’t think they’re making these games as much as they were for a period of time, but there are others like them as well – dance ones or whatever. I found a lot of bands I didn’t know about, or had missed, through Guitar Hero. Rather than just focusing on singles, they were focused also on songs that had good music, good solos or skillful playing. 

That means it was great for finding what a band sounds like, what they are aiming for with their sound. It’s also a way to find a variety of music, by artists you may never have heard of. I think also that “playing” the songs is a good way to connect with them, guitarheroto enjoy them more. I have a soft spot for many songs from those games, and when I hear them play, it reminds me of good times, spent with friends.

One trap they laid with some of the later games was the ability to buy more songs, individually or in packages of, say, songs by an artist. Some of the problem with this is that if you’re spending more and extra money on the content, you’re likely only going to get music you know and know you’ll like – so it doesn’t help you learn new music! Just an observation!

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