Friday, September 17, 2010

Marvel, I Am Disappoint

Look, you made Magneto sad. :(

Maybe the title should be 20th Century Fox, I Am Disappoint, but I honestly don't know who is more to blame for the unstoppable rage I now fly into at the mere mention of the trilogy (plus one, blerg) of X-Men movies. It's true, I can no longer stand even being reminded of the existence of these movies without feeling the immediate need to cause someone bodily harm. Someone once told me that he thought the battle at the end of X-Men: The Last Stand was kinda cool, and I punched him in the throat. Where should we lay the blame for that poor man's tragically bruised trachea (not to mention the blame for his tragically stupid brain)? Because it certainly wasn't my fault, no matter what the subsequent restraining order would lead you to believe. It's the fault of whoever it was who decided to give us X-Men movies that somehow managed to come so close to being awesome, and instead have them veer off and take a graceful swan dive into the flaming shit pool.

I am dictating this post to my boyfriend while confined in a straight jacket to keep myself from killing him. Trufax.

I was all about the X-Men when I was a kid. I didn't get into reading comics till I was in high school, but I watched the cartoon religiously. The X-Men cartoon that ran on Fox in the 90s was a thing of beauty. It was funny and exciting, which, at that age, were the top two things I looked for in any media I consumed. But beneath that was an incredibly smart and thought provoking story about humanity; it's amazing strength and resilience, its capacity for hope and love, as well as its capacity for absolutely horrible, hateful bullshit. When I watch the episodes now, I'm sometimes surprised at how mature the cartoon was. This cartoon didn't pull punches or assume its fan-base was stupid. There was death (real death!), there was (implied) sex, there was bigotry and hate as well as acceptance and love. When I was 9, I'd never met anyone that much different from me, but I credit the X-Men (ok, ok, and my hippie-dippie parents) for the fact that I didn't act like a close-minded little snot when I did finally encounter someone who fit in outside my limited scope of what was "normal."

Fuck yeah, diversity!

Another thing that I think made X-Men great was the huge cast of characters. No matter what sort of hero you liked, there was a hero for you on this team, and unlike many other teams portrayed in kids shows (or, should I say, boy shows, because in the minds of the people who make and market cartoons, if it isn't full of pink unicorns or girls squealing over boys and shoes, it's really a boy's show), women got equal billing with the men. Most other shows, if they had a girl in the cast at all, had one, maybe two if you were lucky, and these chicks were often regulated to a supporting role or otherwise shown to be less capable and less of a focus than the male characters. The X-Men cartoon had four women in leading roles, Storm, Rogue, Jean Grey, and Jubilee, and all of them were well fleshed out characters that the writers treated with the same respect as the male X-Men. They got their own storylines, they were portrayed as leaders and valuable members of the group, they participated in all the battles. In any given episode, you were just as likely to see a woman saving a man from danger as the more traditional opposite. It was pretty cool. It worked to shut up those jerks at school who tried to tell me girls couldn't be superheroes, anyway.

But little tiny me didn't realize at the time that my mind was being expanded by mature ideas and examples of tolerance and gender equality. All I knew was that Rogue was the shit. She was a sassy Southern Belle with a tragic back-story, an affinity for folksy sayings, a fierce leather jacket, the power to steal other people's powers and put them into comas just by touching them, and the ability to throw down, fist to fist, with the likes of Wolverine and the Juggernaut (...bitch). She was a girl who was just as strong, if not stronger, than the boys! As a shy, bookish little girl constantly getting picked on by boys, that really appealed to me. I'd have loved to throw that asshole Robbie Jackson into a wall. Yeah, call me a dweeb now, you little twit.

What did you just say? Oh no you did not. Ooh girl, hold my earrings, Rogue's gonna have to punt a bitch.
By that point, I'd begun to notice how few of the female hero types shown to me in cartoons and movies were actually, you know, physically strong. They were more likely to have powers that necessitated them standing back from the action, like spell-casting or being psychic. I mean, look at pretty much every Japanese RPG ever. When is the first female character you recruit ever NOT a magic wielding waif? And the female heroes who do fight with their bodies are much more likely to be more of an "acrobat," type, elegant and graceful, agile strikers who preform feats of gymnastics to confuse their enemies and avoid getting hit. They were strong in their own way, but never stronger than the men, and often easily overwhelmed by the really big guys. Don't get me wrong, I play primarily stealthy agile types in most RPGs, and magic powers are cool too, but there's just something so... satisfying about the idea of being able to punch someone into the sky. Why do boys get to have all the fun there?

But that's why Rogue was so awesome. She was a straight up brawler, a match for any man, and she was always there on the front line, mixing it up, flying into people's faces and pummeling them till they forgot where they lived. It didn't hurt that her on again, off again, "I want to bump uglies with you SO bad but I can't because it'll kill you so I'll just sit here consumed with lust for the rest of the evening" romance with Gambit made my fledgling hormones do funny things to my insides. I mean, look at this man. Look at him.


...I'm sorry, what was I saying? Oh right. Gambit makes me happy in my pants. And I know that someone will say "But Sunny, I thought you were trying to talk about Rogue as an icon of feminism, why does she need a stinky old man?" and I totally get where you're coming from, imaginary person in my head. I've read a lot about how problematic it is that popular media always seems to want to make the strong willed females find TRU LUV and settle down with a man, and I totally agree, it's stupid. Strong women don't always need to find love with a dude, and it's refreshing to see the occasional story in which the female protagonist is still happily single at the end. We need more of that. But... well, honestly, I don't really have a reason for letting Gambit and Rogue pass on this one. It's my libido talking, I'll fully admit. They've just been my OTP since grade school, so I'll let it slide. He's got a fucking Cajun accent and calls everyone chérie, what do you want me to do.

But that brings us back to the X-Men movies. Now, I'm sure we all have our own reasons for being disappointed in the X-Men film franchise, and our own points at which the movies began to reveal that they would eventually crush our dreams and leech all goodness and purity from the world, preparing it for the coming of He Who Will Devour, the Great Old God who will feast upon our souls for all eternity.

...something like that.

Maybe for you it was how they failed to explain that Mystique was Nightcrawler's mother, or that Jubilee was deemed only important enough to put in the extra scenes on the DVD, or, as it was for so many of us, when they teased us endlessly by showing what seemed to be Wolverine and the rest of the gang kicking Sentinel ass in the trailers for the third movie only to have us realize that it's nothing but a GODDAMN DANGER ROOM SCENARIO THAT WE DON'T EVEN GET TO SEE. RAHH!

Ahem. Excuse me. Had to go punch a wall. My therapist says I need to learn to take out my X-Men related aggression on innanimate objects and not friends and family. Anyway, for me, I started to realize that the X-Men movies was not going to make me a happy camper the second I saw what they had done to Rogue.

Girl, you only wish you were as fierce as her.

I mean, seriously? Seriously? They take one of the most bad-ass characters in all of superherodom, strip her of half her back-story (taking Miss Marvel's powers, leaving her in a coma) and the more physical half of her powers (her super strength and flight), turn her into a whiny teenager, give her a schoolgirl crush on Wolverine of all people (Hugh Jackman is foine, not gonna lie, but the character is not exactly the stuff teen girls dreams are made of), then stick her in an awkward little romance with fucking Bobby "Iceman" Drake, who was portrayed in such a dull manner I can't even remember what exactly irritated me about him. Oh wait, I remember now; HE'S NOT REMI FUCKING LEBEAU.

Oh, and don't even get me started on what they did to Remi. I still haven't seen X-Men Origins because of what I've been told about what a piss poor job they did bringing him to the screen. It's my own sad little protest, but I stand by it because by god, someone has to. The actor playing him, while easy on the eyes, can't even keep up a decent Cajun accent. How many panties are you gonna drop with that kind of lazy acting, my friend? The answer is not many. YOU, sir, are no Remi LeBeau.

And not a single pantie was dropped that day.

Not to mention the fact that placing him in a prequel to this fucked up version of X-Men canon in which Rogue isn't even old enough to buy cigarettes in the modern day means that, even if the two were to be in a movie together somewhere down the line, he'd be way too old for her. It would be super fucking creepy. Forget about her worrying that she'll put him into a coma if they ever do the horizontal mambo, she's gonna have to worry about giving him a heart attack or breaking his hip, while he worries about being slapped with statutory rape charges.

But this rant is primarily about the injustice done to Rogue, and indeed, many of the great female characters from this franchise I love so much. Because it seems to me that, even it this wasn't their intention starting out, the makers of the X-Men movies became, at some point, determined to turn the movie franchise into The Wolverine Show. Don't get me wrong, I'm as fond of the big hairy jackoff as the rest of y'all, but to be quite honest he was never the most interesting character in my view. It seems like he spends a lot of his time sulking around, brooding over his past, growling at people who try to talk to him, and waiting around for a chance to be violent all over someone.

Wassa matter, Mr. Grumpypants?
As a result of this, by the third movie a lot of the other X-Men are given way less screen time and many of them are put on a bus or just plain killed off, often for no real reason. Professor X gets exploded or something, I don't know. Cyclops, who was already more like a walking chunk of scenery in the previous two movies than an actual character, doesn't even get the courtesy of an on-screen death. Nightcrawler is just gone, and never spoken of again.

But I hope you won't think me biased of I think that the women of the X-Men got off even worse. Mystique and Lady Deathstrike, two prominent female baddies, have slightly less characterization than a tuna sandwich. Jubilee, as previously stated, didn't even make it into the final cut. Jean gets to die pointlessly not once but twice, with the added insult of having neither of them resemble her actual death from the comic or cartoon. Which is really fucking tragic, because the real Phoenix Saga would have made an awesome movie. And then we have poor Rogue, who, upset because she thinks Bobby has eyes for Kitty Pride, takes an anti-mutant drug and gets rid of her powers.

Boys: More important than saving the world.

That's right, girls. Change yourself for a man. Get rid of something that makes you unique. Who cares if your special power has the potential to make you one of the most powerful superheroes out there and make you a protector of the innocent, get rid of it fast because if you don't start letting your boyfriend get to at least first base he's totally gonna run off with the chick from Juno.

Yes, yes, I know it must really suck not to be able to touch anyone ever. And I know she says that she did it for herself, not for Bobby. But come on. The entire movie, they show her making jealousface at her guy being kinda friendly with another girl, and they really expect us to believe that they didn't intend for us to assume that was the driving force behind her giving up her powers? And then there's the fact that it's something Rogue would never do, even though she hates never having human contact. She is presented with chances to give up her powers several times in the cartoon, and she always considers it, but in the end, she never goes through with it. Because she knows that her powers are a part of her, and she views the work they allow her to do as a member of the X-Men as an important responsibility. I mean, come on. If she wasn't able to justify giving up her powers in order to get it on with Gambit, there is no way she'd do it for fucking Iceman.

Though I always wondered why they didn't just save one of those power suppressing collars from that episode where they all got kidnapped and put on some island with a bunch of other mutants. Just, you know, keep it in the nightstand, pull it out for sexytimes... problem solved. Rogue gets to touch people and sex up her hot Cajun dude AND kick ass. Win win.

If the Blackbird's a-rockin' don't come a-knockin'.

So that's pretty much my rant. Only now, they're making another X-Men move, called X-Men: First Class. It is (sigh) a prequel. Wasn't X-Men Origins: Wolverine a prequel too? Is it just me, or does it seem like they're doing everything in their power to not have to continue where the left off? I mean, I guess I don't blame them. The plot of Last Stand was a giant clusterfuck of awful, I wouldn't want to think of what happens next either. But they're ignoring the one way they could pull this franchise out of the gutter, one way to bring the fans back and get a whole new generation hooked: RE-BOOT THE DAMN FRANCHISE ALREADY. 20th Century Fox, just cut your losses, give the rights back to Marvel, and let them do something with it on the same level as Iron Man. I mean, it worked for the second Hulk movie. And hey, you know a way to get a lot of female fans in the seats? Give us a strong female lead who can kick the ass of any man she meets to the moon and also wear the hell out of a leather jacket. Some card tossing, Cajun-accented eyecandy wouldn't hurt either. Just saying.

Sunny out.


  1. Oh my God. I agree with basically this ENTIRE rant, except I never bothered with the other movies after I saw how much they fucked up the first one. Rogue and Gambit were also the first love story I remember sighing over as a kid and they DESTROYED it (and Rogue in general) in the movie. I still can't even look at anything Anna Paquin is in because I fill with rage.

    I'm going to see the new movie though because 1. I think it looks better cast than the rest of the series has been and 2. early Magneto and Xavier seems hard to screw up. Right? Right???

    I love your blog!

  2. I adore your writing and would like to plant you a garden (as opposed to saying I want to marry you and have your babies, which is wrongity wrong wrong). I loved the hell out of the 90's cartoon X-Men as well and was deeply disappointed by the new movies. I could do a better job with a camcorder and some costumes.