Heading into Avengers: Infinity War, fans knew that Thanos would be the film's major villain. Since the film hit theaters, however, many audiences are beginning to focus their anger towards Star-Lord for his actions. The backlash got so severe that even actor Chris Pratt's Instagram has been bombarded with rude comments about his character, while other fans are taking the character's defense against detractors. No matter which camp you belong to, the bigger point that many fans need to accept is this: there's no reason to keep talking about Star-Lord's actions, and the discussion itself is a disservice to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's narrative and Gamora's heroism.
WARNING: Spoilers below for Avengers: Infinity War.
When Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and the Guardians of the Galaxy confront Thanos on his home planet, their plan to defeat the villain is to use all of their abilities against him in hopes of temporarily overpowering him long enough to pull the gauntlet from his grasp. The plan is seemingly effective, as they almost remove the gauntlet, but when Star-Lord finds out that Thanos had to kill Gamora to obtain the Soul Stone, his emotions get the better of him and he attacks, giving the character the upper hand and allowing him to escape.
The camp who is arguing about Star-Lord becoming a villain because of his emotional outburst aren't wrong in their disappointment for the character, but they're also far from being right. Since his debut in Guardians of the Galaxy, Star-Lord has been brash, cocky, and short-sighted. He often reacts emotionally to challenges as opposed to logically developing a strategy to overcome obstacles. Fans who think Quill overreacted and allowed Thanos to escape are entitled to feel that the character should have learned to curtail that emotional reaction, especially when the fate of half of the universe is at stake. However, to place the blame on Star-Lord is a symptom of audiences who feel entitled to get exactly what they want from a character and story, regardless of the vision of the filmmakers.
Let's imagine that Star-Lord controlled his anger and managed to get the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos. This would leave countless new directions that the story could have gone to still result in Thanos killing half of the universe, yet by giving Star-Lord this moment, we can hope that he finally begins to see the bigger picture and understand how to control his temper. To blame Star-Lord for Thanos' success would be to blame Spider-Man's webs for not being stronger, for Doctor Strange's spells not being effective enough, or for Wakanda's shield not offering enough safety for those inside. To create a magical "what if?" scenario in which Star-Lord had more control over his emotions also results in "what if Loki had actually stabbed Thanos in the first five minutes?" and countless other ways in which the storyline could have been crafted in ways that more closely adheres to what each individual audience member wanted.
Star-Lord sympathizers, on the other hand, are letting their emotions get the best of them and ignoring the major steps backwards the character's emotional maturity took over the course of the film. In an emotionally touching scene relatively early on, Gamora asks Star-Lord to kill her if Thanos were to capture her, which he agrees to do. When the moment comes, Star-Lord makes good on his promise and pulls the trigger, only to learn that Thanos has altered their reality, and the Mad Titan escapes with his stepdaughter. At that moment, Star-Lord showed immense maturity, proving his love for Gamora.
When Star-Lord next faces Thanos, the Guardian of the Galaxy puts his emotional immaturity on full display, because even though he knew that Gamora would rather be dead than a prisoner of Thanos, the "hero" threw a tantrum that put the lives of his allies in danger. As a child who idolized the '80s, to say that Star-Lord is emotionally stunted would be an understatement, as he oftentimes represents the worst in toxic masculinity that ran rampant in heroes of the decade -- those who thought the best way to respond to sadness was through punching. Of course we would expect him to get emotional at the discovery that his love had been killed, but to revert to a violent outburst as an act of revenge negates the maturity he demonstrated earlier, frustrating and disappointing audiences with his refusal to evolve.
Much like Star-Lord himself lashed out at Thanos from a place of passion, fans of the character are quick to come to his defense as a lovable and complex character, ignoring that his immature approach to battling Thanos put his teammates, and the universe, at risk.
Whether you support or chastise Star-Lord, the bigger frustration is that he has become a major point of discussion for audiences while Gamora's death is almost completely overlooked, other than how it factors into Star-Lord's motivations. The filmmakers crafted a series of powerful scenes in which Gamora was able to show not only her strength, but also her vulnerability, as her interactions with Thanos explored her history to convey her complexities. Even Thanos was given some powerful moments in which he had to embrace the idea of killing the only thing he loved in order to obtain the Soul Stone, a gesture which clearly weighed heavily on the villain.
Audiences have spent years with these brave and charismatic characters, so it's understandable why we'd have such powerful reactions when it comes to criticizing or supporting the ramifications of their actions. In the case of Star-Lord's role in Infinity War, however, to spend our energy debating the character's strengths or shortcomings often ignores Gamora's role in the journey, robbing her of her agency and reducing her and her death as merely one obstacle in another hero's journey.
While one of the joys of seeing a new entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the discourse that follows, before you start saying anything about Star-Lord this or Star-Lord that, you'd be better off reminding yourself that Doctor Strange notes that there's only one successful path to defeating Thanos and then say something about Gamora being a badass.