RIP, Groot, we hardly knew you were dead.
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Director James Gunn broke a million hearts today when he confirmed that, yes, Groot dies at the end of the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Baby Groot is his son, not his resurrected form.
First Groot is dead. Baby Groot is his son.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) February 27, 2018
Predictably, the internet went wild with grief. And yes, I’m including myself here.
Fans: Marvel needs characters to stay dead, otherwise it’s meaningless.
Same fans after James Gunn reconfirms old news that OG Groot is gone for good in a slightly different way: MY LIFE IS OVER HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME
— Alisha Grauso (@AlishaGrauso) February 27, 2018
I always thought Baby Groot was “of” First Groot, a regeneration of First Groot, sort of like a phoenix rising from the ashes or whatever. that Baby Groot was basically born when his dad died is so much fucking sadder
— priscilla page (@BBW_BFF) February 27, 2018
But … this isn’t exactly news.
We’ve known Groot was dead for years. Well, kinda.
As Gunn goes on to note, this is far from the first time he’s confirmed that, yes, Groot is dead. Indeed, he’s been having different versions of this conversation basically since the first Guardians came out.
Back in the day, he used to be cagier about the answer. In November 2014, a few months after Guardians hit theaters, he answered a question about whether or not Groot was invincible with another question: “Is Baby Groot, Groot? Or is Baby Groot actully Groot’s progeny?”
A few months later, he said Groot “might be dead.” A few months after that, when a fan asked on Facebook whether Baby Groot was Groot’s son, Gunn replied that it was “complicated,” and added that Baby Groot does not retain the original Groot’s memories.
(Worth noting: Apparently, even Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige’s been confused by this question – he told press in 2016 that Baby Groot has Groot’s memories, which is incorrect.)
By last year, though, Gunn was being very clear about his answer. “Baby Groot is not Groot,” he stressed in a March 2017 interview with SFX (via GamesRadar). “He’s a different character and he does not have that character’s memories.”
When the issue came up yet again last fall, Gunn said in no uncertain terms that “Groot is dead,” explaining:
Although I don’t necessarily think it’s obvious in Vol. 1, it’s important to say that if you exploded and a little glob of you started growing into a baby, I would not assume that baby was you.
I do think it’s more obvious in Vol. 2, as Baby Groot has a different personality than Groot, none of his memories, and is much, much dumber.
Plus, like … what does “dead” even mean for Groot?
Still, some fans aren’t buying it – leaving Gunn to debate them on social media.
One even brought real science into this science-fiction conversation:
Anyway, Gunn’s answer actually just raises more questions, if you think about it. Such as:
So, @JamesGunn‘s reveal that Baby Groot is Groot’s son, and not a reborn version of Groot, has led to a lengthy convo behind the scenes at BMD, and we’ve arrived at another question we’ve never asked: how do Groots on Groot’s home planet procreate?
— Scott Wampler™ (@ScottWamplerBMD) February 27, 2018
OK fine so what happens if you split Groot directly in half
— Josh L. Dickey (@JLDlite) February 27, 2018
Did people really think baby Groot was the same as big Groot? If a little version of yourself showed up with none of your knowledge, memories or experiences and the old, big you was gone, is that not, effectively, death?
*takes drag, turns on black light*
— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) February 27, 2018
Now we’re veering toward Black Mirror territory. Because, like … is it? Does Baby Groot really count as a separate entity if he’s literally just a growing piece of the original Groot? Would they still be considered different Groots if both of them were still alive? I don’t know, is Digital Nanette the same person as Real World Nanette in “U.S.S. Callister”? Is a consciousness what makes a person?
Is it possible to get a new Groot without killing the old one, or is that seriously the only way to bring new Groots into the world? Does that mean all the other Groot splinters left over from the original could have been sentient beings, too? What does it even mean to be sentient in a reality where Ultrons and Visions exist? Why am I getting so worked up over the personhood of a CG tree alien?
And then there’s this cold hard fact:
Maybe that’s the real reason all of us keep forgetting Groot has really died: It’s just too dang sad to remember the truth.