May 06, 2003

Jean Grey is a Big

Jean Grey is a Big Fat Mary Sue

I'm coming out of the X-Men closet right now and coming clean: of all the mutants in all the parallel universes in all the world, I hate Jean Grey the most. Why? Well, I've given this some thought over time, and beyond the inexplicable damsel in distress vibe she puts out, her super-perfect powers, super-perfect boyfriend, and super-perfect flowing red hair, I've finally realized why she bugs me.

Jean Grey is a Mary Sue.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, "Mary Sue" was coined by fanfiction writers back in the early days to describe an "original character" inserted into an existing fictional universe who just happens to be the most beautiful, most talented, most amazingly gifted being on the earth. If the Mary Sue didn't end up marrying the lead character from that universe, then she would sacrifice herself in an heroic act that saves everyone else, and expire prettily in the arms of the lead character. Then much angsting would ensue. A Mary Sue is a cipher for the author, and is annoying because she is two-dimensional, perfect in every way (even her flaws are designed for maximum angst potential until she manages to overcome them), and completely unnecessary in an established fictional world.

You can see where I'm going with Jean Grey. Except for the whole "cipher for the author" part, she matches this description perfectly. The X-Men already have the most powerful telepathic mutant in the world in Professor X. He's not a telekinetic, but I would consider that unnecessary given the skills of the other team members. The X-Men would be fine without her. Jean is also perfectly lovely, just happens to be a leading scientific researcher who gets to address panels of government officials on a regular basis, and is in a relationship with the leader of the X-Men, Cyclops, PLUS she has the undying affection of Wolverine, the untouchable badass. Jean even gets to sacrifice herself and cause angsting to ensue with the whole Phoenix/Dark Phoenix storyline (which appears in both film and comic, although in very different form.) And I would argue that while she isn't a self-insertion of the comic's creator, she may very well be a projection of the perfect girlfriend.

She doesn't even have a good backstory--Professor X takes her in as a protege when she manifests her mutation and almost goes mad, she becomes Perfect Woman, blah blah blah Phoenix-cakes, insert alternate universes and pseudo romantic triangle stuff here. Rogue and Storm are far more interesting (here I'm talking about the comic Rogue--the movieverse version is toothless and pathetic), with real conflict written into their characters. They develop more over time, as well. And as a bonus, they don't spend all their time in battle situations exchanging these bon mots:

Scott: "JEAN!"
Jean: "SCOTT!"
(something blows up)
Jean: "Scott......" (faints prettily, gets kidnapped or otherwise imperiled)
Logan: (running up just in time to espy the trauma of Jean) "JEEEEEAAAAAANNNNN! NOOOOOOOO!" (to Scott): "How could you let this happen?!?!"
(much manly glaring, while Rogue and Storm finish kicking everyone's asses and wander off, shaking their heads at the stupidity of Scott and Logan)

Not that I'm bitter.

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