“Live your life as though your every act were to become a universal law.”
I feel that this quote by Immanuel Kant truly sums up Thanos and his actions. I am throwing down a spoiler warning for you here because I will be talking about Infinity War in some detail. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Throughout the MCU Thanos has wanted one thing and one thing only, to unite the infinity stones. He has murdered his way across the Stars to get them and never once cared about the consequences, these surely are the acts of evil men, or are they?
He wants the Infinity Stones so he can wipe out half of all sentient life, this must be an act of great evil?
Before he obtained the stones he was on a genocidal march throughout the Universe, where he would wipe out fifty percent of every population he encountered. We know this because this is how he met Gamora, when he attacked her home-world. So yes he must be evil, he has committed acts of genocide on multiple occasions.
We quickly find out that there is method to his madness and the Mad Titan may be more than just a scary name. At some point in the past, the people of Titan where faced with dwindling resources, an over crowded population and general unrest, a powder keg waiting to explode, Thanos came to his people with a solution, a culling. Kill fifty percent of the population to spare the rest. This was quickly rejected by the leaders of Titan and years later the planet would be left a waste land, uninhabitable and sitting out of alignment. It would appear that Thanos was right in his assumptions. This is what led to him carving through the galaxy on his quest to balance everything. He may in fact be suffering from a form of PTSD, we can see this in his obsession over balance and his single mindedness in getting hold of the infinity stones. His PTSD may be casued a form of OCD, which can be linked in with advanced intellect. Collecting the stones and finding balance is an obsession for him and obsession in these situations are not grounded in logic. He is compelled to do these thing and compulsions are focused on trying to reduce or eliminate anxiety or prevent the likelihood of some kind of dreaded event or situation. (Sounds familiar right?)
In the comic’s Thanos wanted to commit this massive act of murder to impress Death, or rather the female personification of Death. In that sense he was a man in love, one who as a child had potential to be good, its just he had a darkness within him, but that becomes a whole nature vs nurture argument that I am not ready to have.
The current MCU Thanos is far from that person, though he is capable of great love, especially with his love for Gamora, from the moment he met her, till the moment he killed her, you could tell, that in his own twisted way he loved her. Maybe its naive of me to think this but if anyone is capable of love they cannot be pure evil. Yes killing his favorite daughter would maybe nullify that point but in the end he has something in him that drives him to continue forward and do these things, so he may not have any real control over what he does.
It is what Thanos does when he eventually meets the Avengers that shocked me, in his battle on Titan he fought with honor when given the option to simple take the Time Stone and walk away he did so, when in dealing with Drax and Mantis he did not kill them merely incapacitated them and finally when outside Wakanda, he simply knocked the Avengers aside when he could have annihilated them. Killing the Avengers was never his goal, but culling the universe was, this isn’t personal, its all business.
Lets take a step back and look at the problem as Thanos see’s it, the universe only has a certain amount of resources, populations are growing faster than their worlds can contain them. this makes me think of two separate quotes:
“Is it better that we manage population growth responsibly or should we to wait for nature to cull our numbers? – Phil Harding, Saltford
“I have no doubt that the fundamental source of all our problems, particularly our environmental problems, is population growth.” – Sir David Attenborough
Thanos has seen a problem and he has found a solution, to have an interstellar culling the likes of which has never and will never be seen again. He even justifies this when he speaks with Gamora by telling her that her home world which was once on the brink of collapse is now a paradise, where no child ever goes to bed hungry. Again this is not the actions of an evil man.
Originally Thanos would land on a world and use his overwhelming military forces to bring it to heel then he would wipe out half its populous. This is a brutal and inefficient method, too many die needlessly on both sides. Once he had the Infinity Gauntlet he was able to kill everyone indiscriminately and a lot more painlessly than a war or aerial bombardment. In the end he chooses a relativity peaceful method and after he goes and watches a sunset to mourn and ponder the heavy burden set upon himself.
Again this does not seem like an evil person, this does not seem like the actions of a sociopath, we can see that Thanos is capable of love and connecting with others, in fact I would argue he does what he does out of love.
Can I even place our human morality upon Thanos, he is much older than any human. His brain is going to function differently than ours and he has seen much more than we ever will, so how can we judge him without knowing him, how can we even begin to fathom his point of view, in the end it shows the true hubris of the Guardians and the Avengers to believe that their way is best, when to quote Ultron “You want to protect the world, but you don’t want it to change.”
Another argument you could make is that he could use the Infinity Gauntlet to create infinite resources and help everyone, but this to would be bad.
Without want or need stagnation would set in and this would be as tantamount to extinction. If the universe cannot evolve then how can it improve?
To create a world without want would be unnatural and thus Thano’s only real option is to create a world with loss, one where the survivors can learn from the past mistakes.
If you look at the famous Star trek Quote; “The needs of the many out way the needs of the few.”
This is true for Thanos, he is not just looking out for the ones still alive, but for everyone that comes after. In that respects I do not see Thanos as a villain but instead as a tragic hero, at least in his own story. He is doing a terrible thing for a good cause and that is a lot to ponder on.
Before you criticize though I have used genuine research and quotes, know that I am no expert and anything here is just my opinion.