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Everything in the past 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been leading to one character - Thanos, the Mad Titan, who aims to collect the six Infinity Stones in order to enact his cruel and twisted will upon the universe. And from all accounts, Thanos is going to be a villain worthy of his reputation. After all, the pressure is on - the last few films Thanos appeared in (Guardians of the Galaxy and Age of Ultron) made him seem less like a substantial threat and more like a big purple raisin who sat on a floaty chair in the middle of space and was never very proactive in trying to attain his goals. He was something of a joke.

But the Russo Bros. want you to take Thanos SERIOUSLY - they want this to be a serious villain, full of gravitas and menace. He moves slowly but assuredly. He chooses his words carefully and speaks softly, with just a hint of menace.  He takes his time, he's not quick to anger, and he's ultimately a pragmatist. Here's how Kevin Feige describes it:

"He's from a planet called Titan that's no longer inhabited because of things that he thought he could help prevent, and he was not allowed to do that ... What he feared most happened, and the planet and everybody on it basically went extinct. He vowed not to let that happen again. He thinks he sees the universe going down the tubes. He thinks he sees life expanding outward unchecked. That will bring ruin, he believes, to the universe and to that life."

"A bad guy doing something unthinkable for noble reasons" is a very solid foundation for a villain - here, it sounds like Thanos thinks he can save life in the universe by killing half of it, and that the other option is allow life to expand unchecked until it approaches some kind of disastrous level that renders the entire universe uninhabitable and devoid of life. It's the Trolley Problem - do you kill a few lives to save many? Or, in this case, do you kill half of the universe in order to save the other half?

That's the MCU's Thanos - a being who filled with ruthless, unfeeling purpose, working under his own skewed logic, and willing to sacrifice unknown trillions of lives. The real terror of this Thanos is that he can't be reasoned with - he "knows" he's right, since he's seen it before, so there's no convincing him to back off. As Thanos says in one of the first lines of the trailer for Infinity War:

"In time, you will know what it's like to lose. To feel so desperately that you're right. Yet to fail all the same. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives."

Grim, super-serious, and coldly logical are all good traits for a big bad - just not Thanos.

To explain why, we need to go back to Thanos' comic book origins...

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In creating Thanos, Jim Starlin and Mike Friedrich became responsible for one of the best comic book villains in history. Not really due to Thanos' backstory or appearance, both of which owe a heavy, heavy debt to Jack Kirby's work over at DC Comics (namely Darkseid), but more in his motivation - see, Thanos doesn't just want to destroy everything or rule the universe. I mean, sure - he likes power, he likes to dominate and kill and all of that. But really, any of that stuff is mainly a means to a very particular end...

To impress his crush. So that she likes him back.

Largely, that has always been what separated Marvel and DC (broadly, at least) - DC aimed for the mythic, while Marvel aimed to reflect human foibles and needs in their heroes and villains. And so we got the Mad Titan, Thanos, who in all of his bluster and might, just really wanted for a girl to like him...and could never maturely process the idea that she wasn't that into him. To be fair, the girl in question was Mistress Death, the embodiment of the concept of death in the Marvel universe, so it wasn't just a random crush on a barista Thanos would see at Starbucks sometimes. Thanos was a raw nerve - sure, he could execute a scheme flawlessly, but mostly he was ruled by his emotions, as petty and simple as they were.

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The problem was (almost) always that Death didn't like Thanos back, no matter how hard he tried. And that pissed Thanos off - nothing he could do could make Death like him - even murdering half the universe like she asked him to do. So he would rage at her, belittle her, scream at her - all because she didn't share the feelings he shared, and he felt he deserved her love...that he was ENTITLED to a relationship with Death.

Basically, Thanos was nothing more than a "Nice Guy."

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By this, I mean the classic internet version of a "nice guy" - a guy who pretends to be nice on the surface because he believes that will earn him his due, usually a lady he's got his eyes on, treating her more like a prize to be won than another human being with thoughts and feelings and choices all of their own. Here's how UrbanDictionary defines it:

nice guy is either one of two types:

The first being a guy who is genuinely kind and caring. He is polite to everyone regardless of sex, age or race. He has no ulterior motive, i.e. he is not nice to get a reward, he behaves as such because it's human decency.

The second kind of nice guy is the one who has ulterior motives. He believes that because he behaves in a certain way the world owes him for his actions.

In making this Thanos' modus operandi from the early going, Starlin and Friedrich were true visionaries, using a rampaging space tyrant as a spot-on metaphor for one of the ugliest monsters in modern society: The "Nice" Guy. And there are few arcs as famous for exploring this dynamic as well as the original Infinity Gauntlet / Thanos Quest event, where Thanos steals the Infinity Gems in order to make good on his promise to Lady Death that he would wipe out half of all sentient life in the universe.

Which he does. He kills 50% of all sentient life in the universe. Humans, dogs, fish. Everything. Across every planet in the entire universe.

To impress his crush.

So that she would go out with him.

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Unfortunately for Thanos, she's not all that impressed - for one, him turning himself into the ultimate power in the universe puts him a station above her. He's a being of such unrestrained and unimaginable power, he's simply on another level - they aren't equals (like he claims he wanted), he's her superior. And like literally any guy on r/niceguys who did a kind gesture for a girl they liked and weren't immediately given sex, Thanos flips his switch from "le gentleman, m'lady" to "furious, spiteful, vitriolic raging asshole" instantly.

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Thanos is truly a villain worthy of this dark age of internet - where misogynists gather in r/TheRedPill and swap stories of what they perceive as ungrateful women, who have it too good and take advantage of all the "nice guys" in society. Thanos felt he was - on some level - a "nice guy": he was cordial to Mistress Death, he did grand gestures for her, and he did it all to please her so she would fall in love with him. When it turned out she wasn't into him, he revealed his true colors - he didn't ACTUALLY care how she really felt, he just wanted to force her to love him. She wasn't a being with a point of view and opinions of her own - she was a prize that rightfully belonged to him.

Related to this, there's a very fun arc much later on where it's revealed that Mistress Death actually loves Deadpool - a prospect Thanos finds so upsetting that he and sorcerer T-Ray teamed up to curse Deadpool with eternal life, making him unable to die and join Mistress Death truly and fully. Because if Thanos can't have her, no one can.

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There is a REASON that peek at Thanos caused such an uproar in nerd circles back in 2012 - because Thanos is one of the great big bads in Marvel history. And a big reason for that is how weird and different he is - he doesn't have the unchecked thirst for power of Doctor Doom, nor does he have the bloodlust of Carnage. He just wants a girl to like him back and can't figure out a healthy way to deal with his emotions - and that makes him dangerous.

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None of this is to say Thanos won't be a fun, unique, and compelling villain in Infinity War. Marvel's done a great job at upping the quality of their cinematic villains, particularly in Phase 3 - which has seen a wildly different Helmut Zemo (no purple hood!), an evil living planet in Ego, a secret lost sister in Hela (who WAS the "Goddess of Death", but seemingly unconnected to the universal concept of Mistress Death), a shockingly human, sympathetic birdman in Vulture, and....Kaecilius (who sucked, sorry Kaecilius!). They've shown they can alter their characters from the source material significantly and still have them serve as fantastic villains - and there's no indication Thanos will be any different. Josh Brolin's performance appears appropriately threatening and creepy and foreboding from all the trailers, and it's not like everyone at Marvel Studios is unaware that they have to pay off the build up to Thanos after the teaser at the end of 2012's The Avengers.

But back to the issue - while Thanos will assuredly be fun, he won't be the Thanos that was so compelling on the page of Marvel Comics - and something of a unique villain. "Bringing balance" is one of the oldest tropes to big sci-fi films like this - it's just not that fascinating or relevant-seeming. And lost is the opportunity to have Thanos serve as the stand-in for every disaffected, self-loathing misogynist that acts as a scourge of life online for women.

But, mostly, we've seen this kind of "Trolley Problem" villainy before - Kaecilius' motivation in Doctor Strange was to allow the Dark Dimension and Dormammu access to Earth to guarantee eternal life for everyone. HYDRA's motivation in Winter Soldier was to murder 20 million people to ensure the safety and security of the rest of the world. The whole point is that the villain believes they are doing the right thing, even if the right thing may appear monstrous outwardly. It's compelling, but it's also nothing new.

Not that a lot of fans seem to care much - when Feige revealed Thanos' new motivations, I saw a lot of comments all saying (essentially) the same thing: that Thanos trying to impress Mistress Death was just too silly and would undercut his villainy too much by making him seem like a doofus:

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Here's why I think they're wrong: It's been argued quite a bit (and seems pretty obvious from the get-go) that Marvel's most interesting and successful (in character terms) villain has been Loki - the insecure, deeply envious adoptive brother of Thor. He's consumed by jealousy, resentful of his birth father, a total mama's boy, and constantly getting beaten up - he's not exactly what you would immediately think when terms like "best villain" are being thrown around. But that's the thing - his deeply sad human qualities make his villainy more understandable and approachable...and ultimately, more genuinely threatening. When you understand a villain, you can believe them more - and if you believe a villain, then their threats become much more real. And that's what Thanos has going for him in the comics too - he's a whiny lovestruck dude who doesn't know how to process his feelings, and immediately lashes out when the turmoil of his own emotions become too much for him. We've all seen people like this in real life - and that's what makes Thanos so frightening.

Imagine some asshole aggressively flirting at a girl trying to ignore him...except he has the power to DESTROY THE UNIVERSE. That's fucking TERRIFYING.

And beyond being a strong, relevant modern day metaphor for a type of quiet villainy that is all-too-prevalent in our society, it's also just unbelievably silly and fun. Thanos is in love with Death - DEATH! Like, the actual physical manifestation of an extremely ethereal concept - and all he wants to do is impress this skeleton girl he has a major crush on. That's so weird and goofy and fantastic - it's unlike ANYTHING we've ever seen in a comic book movie. And as much as Marvel has been embracing the weirder stuff as of late (WE ARE SERIOUSLY GOING TO GET ADAM WARLOCK IN GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 3), they continue to shy away from the TRULY bonkers stuff like this.

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Hell, Thanos was so angry and spiteful and seething that he invented a sexy girl version of himself to be his girlfriend in order to make Mistress Death jealous. It's perfect - wildly comic book-y, ridiculously silly, and completely on-point for what fucked up misogynist assholes do in real life when they get rejected: invent a fake girlfriend to sate their own sense of inferiority and protect them from any perception of rejection.

For real - if you told me this text exchange from r/niceguys was a parody of Thanos and Mistress Death, I'd believe you.

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via r/niceguys

Thanos was, at a time, r/niceguys. Some of the scariest, most delusional, vitriolic villains in our society - what in the hell could be more terrifying than an all-powerful demi-god capable of genocide who's pissed off about being "friendzoned"?

I'm sure the r/Philosophy version of Thanos will be fun and great, but it'll never top r/niceguys Thanos.