By HexThis 0 Comments
So I was watching the X-men movies over again in anticipation of the "Days of Future Past" movie and I inevitably reached X3: Last Stand. I always felt Famke Janssen did just a wonderful job as Jean, she's always given it her all and taken the role very seriously. Sometimes actors get a superhero flick as built-in fitness regimen or as koosh job but Famke is one of the exceptional few who brought an emotional narrative with her acting to the character that was based in realism. Little else in this film is as intriguing, from Psylocke being a 2-liner character that was easily dispatched to Cyclops get offed within the first few minutes to "I'm the Juggernaut, BITCH!". But what really got to me was this....
It felt too cliche, actually it is too cliche because this happens so often. It's used a pathos-mileage for the male lead to a point where the woman is a canonized, beautiful angel of tragedy for years afterwards and serves his emotional development more than her own. Ever since Gwen Stacy everyone has tried to find a new slant on killing the girl in an interesting way to a point where it's more the norm than it is an exciting, unexpected, edgy exception. It's become almost as pervasive as the kidnapped wife/daughter plotline for every action movie ever made, it's expected, it's trite now, it's totally derivative. But what gets to me is that through Jean there's this typified notion that it's somehow different if the woman is superpowered. It's somehow different if a woman is ultimately helpless if she has occasional bursts of strength. But the period at the end of the sentence is always the same, the woman cannot handle immense power and must be offed or incapacitated with ease. In Jean's case, it's been so often it almost seems to be parodying itself.
I also have a hard time understanding how other characters like the Silver Surfer or Nova or Thor or Loki or Thanos have to be killed or hurt in these outrageous, elaborate ways because they are basically (or literally) gods. But with Jean she's so softened by her love for Wolverine that it bypasses the planet-killing Phoenix and enables him to kill her quite easily, too easily. I happen to really love Jean, I've found her character to be very interesting independent of the Phoenix, I've seen her written fantastically well too but the main event always seems to be her death which is kind of twisted and seems to raise the ire of fans who aren't as familiar with Jean and think her character only dies over and over again. There are also many incidences of Jean being massively weakened in between bouts with the Phoenix that hamper her character significantly.
It seems as though this another trend with massively powerful female characters, they seemingly have to have incredible deficits physically. Jean has been a victim of this and the equally powerful Scarlet Witch (my personal favorite heroine) has shown little in the ways of basic self-defense after the House of M. I happen to like Uncanny X-men but gee wiz, the Scarlet Witch doesn't even put up fight and during Avengers vs. X-men she's taken out by a Hope Summers for comedic effect.
It doesn't bother me that Wanda gets punched or stabbed so much as it bothers me how easily it happens, how unable she is to defend herself. She's a woman in her late 20's or early 30's who has voluntarily entered into a dangerous, violent profession since she was a teenager. She was first trained by one of the deadliest men in the world, Magneto, so she could aide him in what was basically guerilla warfare and then she went on to train with Captain America who is vet entirely dependent of physicality. I find it hard to believe she wouldn't be an effective physical combatant and with all the power loss storylines and methods of neutralization of powers we've seen, it should be a priority for one such as Wanda. Hell, all the times she's been brutally beaten would be incentive enough, is it not traumatic?
Speaking of Wanda, there was a time where any time she used her powers she would rapidly tire. And I don't mean she'd just be weakened, she'd get so depleted she'd pass out which is another accompaniment to massive power for Marvel women. For Sue Storm, it comes in the form of many, many nosebleeds which was especially apparent in the Fantastic Four movies. Contorting oneself or lighting oneself on fire and shooting flames never seemed to wear out Reed or Johnny.
Now nose bleeding isn't entirely uncommon with characters with mental powers across the board but in looking at this site I found that the incidences of men showing the same sort of tire or strain were much rarer. Emma, a master omega telepath, had 11 entries mostly wherein she's a victim of psychic assault whose challenged so much mentally her nose bleeds. Also, I noticed a real difference in the depiction of strain and exhaustion when using powers.
I understand there is the "kryptonite defense" which is that basically everyone should have some weaknesses and I can cosign on that. It's just that the powerful women I see have such incredible, outrageous weaknesses it can be ridiculous how they're so easily beaten, depleted, and dispensed of. Thor is a god, Iron Man's suit has an outrageous number of defenses suspiciously condensed within it, Wolverine dies all the time, and Hulk can start World War Hulk wherein he apparently beats just about everybody up. Nobody's auditing an excess of power there, maybe they even should. And, by the way, a lot of the predominantly physical male characters have telepathic immunity (Wolverine, Hulk) and a lot of them have the ability to shoot projectiles and are still formidable with melee (Gambit, Cyclops) so it isn't as though Jean, Wanda, or Sue shouldn't be able to compensate and defend themselves as well.
I do like to give people the benefit of the doubt in the sense that I don't think this is a chauvinist, sexist conspiracy. I think some thing become habit and comics are very old, these characters are very old but maybe it's time we start innovating them so they aren't infested with any pesky, silly tropes. By the way, I happen to think there are some women who don't fall prey to this like Psylocke or Monet but they are often not of the caliber of power or as prolific as these women are, Jean, Wanda, and Sue are among the first and most iconic Marvel women. There are female characters who are of that caliber like Storm have only just recently come back into the fold and less acknowledged as leaders where some, like Rogue, have been reduced in power. Anyways, maybe we ought to look at things like this as an opportunity to improve upon characters we love, I love Jean, I love Sue, I love Emma, and I certainly love Wanda so it's a matter of seeing them reach their potential and not be dismissed rather than inciting controversy.