X2 x 2X2 was even

X2 x 2

X2 was even better the second time.

Instead of just being annoying, vanilla and puzzlingly cloying, the Jean Grey / Scott relationship came across as incredibly meaningful. It was like some classic simone de beauvoir reading 70s feminist who realizes she has it all, fabulous career and nice preppy husband who is genuinely nice, but she still has to leave. He never does anything totally awful, but he is overly protective, and when he says “I love you” it seems to mean “I love you when you are weak because then I can help you”. When she “leaves him” as my hypothetical 70s feminist left her safe marriage, everything falls apart. Her fight with evil violent “Scott controlled by Col. Hegemony, I mean Col. Stryker” jolts Scott out of evilness, but also destroys everything around them – the whole structure they are in is shaken and begins to crumble. Her coming into her own power means she must leave and be reborn. Clearly one must do this by joining some hippie lesbian goat farm commune – or by becoming a being made of pure energy.

Personally I feel like I got my escaping from gender role prisons mostly over with by being a bad girl early on. My friend J. from bad moms club was describing the book “Reviving Ophelia” to me, and I haven’t read it, but J. noted that its author seems to think that being that bad girl is always actually bad, an individual cry for help, a fucking up. What if it isn’t? I think of it as a good sign – risky, but the only way to get the fuck out of one’s predestined role. Someone else on my feminist science fiction list was recently talking about being a teenage bad girl, being fat, getting pregnant at 16 and dropping out, or whatever, as avoidance mechanisms for the fate society has in store for you. If you do that and survive, then you retain your creative power in a way you wouldn’t have otherwise.

So that’s what I’m thinking here regarding Jean Grey and Dark Phoenix.

I also especially noticed, as I did the first time, the wall of ice arising uncontrollably between Wolverine and his abusive father Stryker, when they are trying to communicate. They can no longer hear each other, though both of them want to talk – then we get that moment of their hands trying to touch on opposite sides of the ice. Stryker’s shadow flickers and looms suddenly huge, reminding me of the way my dad’s shadow used to loom (benevolently, but characteristically masculine-seeming) as a huge silhouette in the doorway of my room at night, against the backlit hallway. Stryker is the abusive ex-military father who tortures the son to toughen him up, create him as a perfect invulnerable being. I said this to jhk and as soon as I said “father figure” and “wall of ice” he was like “Oh my god! yes!” and though I express myself badly, how nice to know that he knows what I saw and mean.

I’m no guy, but I do think about my father and grandfathers as being influenced by their military experiences, and it had repercussions for how I was treated by them – the whole ethic of “I will teach you how to suffer so that you will be tough” or “people are assholes, so don’t expect anything, don’t be close to anyone”. My dad’s military experience, drafted for Vietnam but never going overseas, or grandfather’s which I think was mostly being a driver for some general in Sicily and North Africa, a non-combatant, is very minor compared to guys who actually were in combat. But I think it is still crucial to their identities. Just as torturers are made very deliberately by being forced to undergo torture and torture their friends (COINTELPRO style) the experience of boot camp and even non-wartime military life is a way to make torturers. The things many guys have told me about growing up male, being beaten up in the locker room or whatever, sound like mini-boot camp; having some coach scream in your face and all that is just one more recipe for boxing “masculinity” inside a rather horrible shell or mask.

Jason was also excellent – as a character and as an actor. I liked the face-off moments with Professor X – both in wheelchairs, physically helpless but powerful mentally.

jhk also pointed out that the xrays in the “adamantium room” were of Yuriko and Wolverine side by side. I had not noticed that the first time but instead had been thinking “okay, enough shots of the x-rays already.” Wolverine having to fight his feminine self – he can’t become her or merge with her or love her. There is no jungian merging of anima/animus; instead a radical feminist/Iron John style of defining the self as independent from “opposition to other gender”. The opposition, the struggle of Wolverine against Yuriko, or the leaving, like Jean battles and then leaves Scott, has to take place, but that is not what defines the person. It is a necessary step – a gender battle and separation before the self-actualization is able to happen.

In fact what Scott would like to do to Jean is what Neo does to Trinity in Matrix Reloaded. There, Neo does what plots often make the male characters do. I say on purpose “what Scott would like to do to Jean”. He is so very Not neo. I also just saw “High Noon” for the first time and Neo is so very Gary Cooper. Will Kane (LOVE the names!), it’s all about him. Helen was the only other character not made of cardboard.

Also noticed that all the other actors were subtly acting like Mystique acting like themselves. And the ways that the girl in the nightdress and Jason were matching up very well – not just eye color but their expressions and i guess lighting and camera angles made it so clear they were the same person. Nightdress girl made me think of the movie “Poltergeist” which I saw bits of on someone else’s HBO in the 80s; the little girl in the white gown, traditional victim of horror who has become the channel for the horror if not the actual horror. I should look up this kid’s name and note it here.

jhk saying just a minute ago while I was in the bathtub and saying he couldn’t see what the movie was about if it wasn’t about gender and “masculine identity”. All the reviews seem to focus around the patriotism/terrorism/ fear of the different/ race/ethnicity theme. His point that gender is not in isolation; it is not just some private internal matter; it is political. I do strongly feel that if you are going to ask the questions “who am I, what can I do, what skills do I have, and what should I do with them” then gender figures very strongly into those questions, especially “who am I”. As a girl, I didn’t want to be a girl, nor did I want to be a boy. I wished the categories would just go away, or that switching back and forth were relatively effortless, painless and reversible. But I had to grow up female and deal with the limits this gave me. And I’m not talking about physical limitations but about the ways people see and interact with me based on this femaleness. I’ll know sexism is on the road to being fixed when people quit asking what gender the baby is as if it’s the most important thing to know.

Then in the car I was thinking of ways that feminist science fiction novels have teams rather than protagonists. A perfect example would be the novels of Jo Clayton – they are kind of cheesy, and always a bit the same with their very egalitarian teams. The story also has the soap opera type of long-story arc structure. Jo Clayton and (hate to say it but… Kim Stanley Robinson and many others) try to do this, and do it well, but it comes off a bit flat and dull and wholesome, like whole grain bread or chinese commune novels of the 50s — Xmen, at least in this movie, did it better, more excitingly, more elementally. A good role-playing game also has this structure, where every PC has something they do well, and they use their skills in a way essential to the plot, and they all have some way that their characters develop. I realized suddenly that the mythical archetypes of the Xmen are the Justice League are the Iliad are the Outlaws of the Marsh are the Mahabhara

jhk is now rather disturbingly in love with Pyro, smoldering James Dean of the mutants.

“Is everyone blind? Are we the only ones who see how good it is? Do stupid people still get something out of this?” he asks me. I don’t know… I imagine a lot of people come away with nothing much more than “Mystique is fucking hot and kicks ass”, but maybe some goodness seeps through their pornographic fetishization of women’s anger and competence.

Oh and did I mention that Mystique is fucking hot and kicks ass and it’s really sexy how she can do everything and is godlike?

I wish they had brought out a little bit of mom-child dynamic between her and Nightcrawler, it would be cool if she knew he was her kid, and just didn’t tell him and had her own very cerebral take on the situation and the non-relationship. I can’t really talk here because I haven’t read the comic books… As for Nightcrawler, I was bouncing in my fluffy seat when he was going “Heilige maria, mutter gottes” it sounded so cool to hear “mother goddess” in there.

Wolverine is “a hero” and you can see the story as being about him or centered around him and his identity search (which I see as heavily involved with but not “about” gender). But he is no Will Kane (see my previous notes about X2). For some reason here I also think of Gene Wolfe and the Shadow/claw series. Severian is very Will Kane and very Neo (really, Neo is very Severian).

jhk just came in from where presumably he was frantically writing some crazed essay on gender, Iron John, and X2, and said sheepishly, “All right, I guess it’s not a no-typing weekend, we can’t keep it up”. No duh! He is so cute.

Hope someone has comments on all this (other than L’s “you are a pompous ass and everything is not about gender” which I feel might be coming. )

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