Tuesday Thoughts: Unpacking Rogue

9/25/2018 11:10:00 AM Lexie Dunne 0 Comments

Hey, all!

I was gonna write a list of my favorite superheroes today and what I like about them, but it’s obvious who I love. I have a type. And a not-too-great history with comics (they’re difficult for me to read and follow). There are great swaths of the superhero universe left undiscovered for me. I could list fifty superheroes and get comments in the vein of “But what about X?” and then I’ll realize, oh wait! I love X, too! How could I have forgotten X???ª

Also boring? Head to head battles between heroes on the same side. My favorite way of answer to the worn out question of “Who would win in a fight, Superhero Woman A or Superhero Woman B?” is “The patriarchy.” Because it’s true. That’s who wins. Pitting two minority communities against each other to fight for the tiniest sliver of pie while the patriarchy enjoys multiple fat slices to themselves? That’s just history repeating itself ad nauseum.§

So no ranked superhero list from me. Instead I wanna talk about Rogue.

Yes, that’s right. Rogue. The reason you’re here on my blog reading my stuff, even though you have no idea that’s the case. † Two-toned hair, a southern accent, and a deft-but-deadly touch.

Between tenth and eleventh grade, X-Men hit theaters. I saw it at least five times in theaters itself. I had posters. I had folders. I spent time daydreaming about it. I still listen to Logan and Rogue from the soundtrack as part of most of my writing playlists (there’s just a part where the music picks up that I adore).

It was clear to me—and hoo boy did this ever prove not to be the case, THANKS RATNER—that this was a great origin story for Rogue and for Wolverine. I never shipped them, but I liked their parallel arcs. And as a kid, I was obsessed with the movie Fly Away Home, basically ensuring that I hopped on the Anna Paquin fan train early and stayed there. My mom can probably quote that movie from start to finish just because I wore out our VHS tape of it.

Anyway, in X-Men, Rogue is…well, she’s a damsel in distress. But I was always okay with that because frankly, she’s a kid who had a horrible thing happen to her and she didn’t have the power or coping skills to fight back against the super powerful villains intent on using her for their apocalyptic plan. It was easy to imagine myself in her place. I wouldn’t know how to deal with that, either. In the end, she was saved by somebody willing to sacrifice himself so she could live and I liked that, too.

X2 built on it even more. Rogue is still a teenager, so young and powerless in a lot of societal ways, but she’s grown more confident. And we see her use her abilities in this movie to help save the day. She’s grown! She’s on the trajectory that I would expect her to take, given that by this point, I’ve done my research. I’ve gone and watched the old cartoons I loved as a kid, I went and found comic panels of her online. I knew how powerful she could be, and X2 showed those powers nicely.

And then X3 happened. How bad is X3? Well, canonically, it’s so bad that it killed X-men movies set in that era for YEARS and then they had to use time travel to completely undo its events. X3 burned its towns and villages and salted the earth even as it shot itself in the foot repeatedly. X3 killed my love for X-men movies, and that love has never returned.

And X3 did Rogue SO dirty. So, so dirty.

Rogue’s powers have always been a disability, even while they offer the opportunity for great power. For somebody robbed of a moral compass, they would be amazing! Not being able to share the simplest touch with somebody without draining their life force? Great for villainy, shit for every day interaction. And Rogue, obviously, is not soulless or amoral, so her powers work as a preventative measure against villains she can touch and that’s it.

Traditionally, comics have come up with workarounds so that Rogue can function semi-normally. X3, however, straight up offered an opportunity for her to be rid of those powers. And when Rogue, who has not been made powerful or been given the workarounds from the comics, jumps at the opportunity to be able to touch somebody again without killing them, she is shamed for it by Storm and by her boyfriend.

Readers, I nearly blacked out with fury.

First of all, I was pissed that they obviously didn’t care enough to give me the powerful, ass-kicking Rogue I knew from the comics and cartoonsƒ. And secondly, I was outraged on her behalf. She can’t touch people without killing them. How many times does she have to say that? For years she’s wandered around in full coverage outfits, probably touch-starved to hell and back. How utterly lacking in empathy do you have to be to see how miserable that is??? I’ve read some great discourse on how this is a great analogy for fights that happen in disability rights communities, and I can definitely see that. But I was just angrier that I wasn’t getting the Rogue who could fly and zap and superhero her way around. My wants are simple. I wanted the potential of what fifteen-year-old me saw in that first X-men movie to become true.

So eventually I ended up writing it myself. I’m not saying everything I write is motivated by spite. Only, like, 63% of it. Gail’s main influence will always be Lois Lane, but I can’t deny, there’s a whole hell of a lot of my feelings about Rogue mixed in there, too. And quite a lot of that fifteen-year-old me who went to the theater multiple times and hung up posters in her room and dreamed about what Rogue could be, even if it took me awhile to figure that out.

And hey, maybe someday they’ll do right by a cinematic Rogue.±

That’s all she wrote today, folks! Stay sexy!

ª ADHD. The answer to this is always ADHD.

§ Yes, I know we also do the same thing to Superman and Batman, pitting their powers against each other. But it feels different because we’re never in danger of not getting a Superman or a Batman movie because we already had one of the other and it didn’t do so well. That’s a constant danger with female- and superheroes of color.

† Or you didn’t until you read that sentence.

ƒ Fun fact: she gets her powers from doing awful things to my #1 bae Carol Danvers so maybe I should be retroactively grateful for that!

± But I’m not gonna hold my breath. Or get into what Days of Future Past did in this post because I only have so many hours in the day.


Please keep it PG. My mom reads this blog.