So I’m a little late to the X-Men party – I hadn’t seen any of the movies until recently (I know, I know, I live under a rock).
Now, the movie franchise recently caught some feminist fire for this billboard on the left, citing the image promotes violence against women.
But I’m not here to talk about the billboard. I’m talking about X-Men: The Last Stand, a movie from 2006 that I just saw last night.
Besides the fact that the movie as a whole is not great, I couldn’t help but notice some recurring sexist themes.
Here are the four top problems with X-Men: The Last Stand.
1. The only X-Man to lose control of their powers is a woman. Jean Grey is the main villain in this movie, as a former X-Man and the most powerful mutant in the world. She is also the only mutant to become consumed by her abilities and commit heinous acts against her conscious will. I have to wonder if her gender has anything to do with this plotline, as women are typically stereotyped as emotional and unable to control themselves.
2. Jean is suddenly sexually attractive. Once her evil alter-ego takes over, Jean’s appearance changes noticeably. Her hair is long, bright red and she’s constantly clad in a form-fitting leather outfit. Anyone who has seen the previous movies knows this is a vast departure from her demure sweaters and white lab coat. This is a constant trope in movies where women’s sexuality is demonized. Female villains are typically portrayed this way while heroines (for example, Jean in the first two movies) are modest. This representation reinforces the idea that sexy women (sluts) are ‘bad’ and modest women (virgins) are ‘good’.
3. Mystique. Speaking of demonizing female sexuality, it doesn’t get any more obvious than with the mutant Mystique. She is the primary female villain in the first three movies and she’s completely naked. I should probably clarify that she is the only mutant who is shown naked, nonetheless naked 24/7. Despite being a mutant, she is still has a human figure complete with large breasts, a flat stomach and long, thin legs. All of the above points apply here.
4. Rogue gives up her powers for her boyfriend. I will note that they attempt to address this in the movie, with Wolverine advising Rogue to think this decision through. But it did not sit right with me that Rogue abandoned her powers to be able to touch her boyfriend. With the ability to absorb powers and kill just by touch, Rogue could have been a very powerful mutant. It’s also worth mentioning that she didn’t seek to give up her abilities until she saw her boyfriend touching another girl (which was shady!). Finally, it reduces their relationship – specifically, reduces what Rogue has to offer a man – to a purely physical one.
Now that I’ve rained on everyone’s parade, let me be clear that the lesson here isn’t that X-Men is a horrific, woman-hating franchise. The lesson is as feminists, we need to be critical of the media we are consuming. Movies, songs and TV shows aren’t created in a vacuum – they are a reflection of society. And we need to always keep that in mind or risk unconsciously absorbing negative (in this case, sexist) messages.