Monday, March 16, 2009

Rogue: Feminist Icon?

Illustration to the right by J. Scott Campbell.

This week could be another busy week, but for way more exciting reasons than last week. There's some movement on a couple of my projects that's requiring some attention. I'll try to post at least something every day, but I doubt there'll be many multiple-post days.

Today is about an article Miriam Beetle wrote a couple of weeks ago in which she identifies Rogue as her childhood feminist hero.

That surprises me a little. I don't know Miriam beyond what I learned about her in that post, but it surprises me that anyone sees Rogue as a feminist role model. As I discovered when I gave the character some thought a couple of years ago, a big part of the (admittedly unhealthy) attraction I had to her was that she was so broken and needy. And whether those are attractive qualities for anyone else, there's no denying that those qualities are there.

So how can someone as messed up as Rogue be a feminist icon? As Miriam explains it:
...the fact that Rogue had to protect herself against intimacy all the time ... meant that technically, her costume was more in line with a man’s costume ... It meant that no one ever ever got to touch her without her permission, or they’d be sorry ... it would have been nifty if random-ass guys who groped me could have instantly fallen into a coma. How’s that for bodily integrity.
I never would have put that together, but it sort of makes sense the way she puts it.

Miriam's reasoning for holding Rogue up that way is so personal that I wouldn't dare - especially as a man - to argue that she shouldn't do it. I'm glad she found empowerment in a character I also like.

What I don't get though is what she thinks about the part where Rogue intensely dislikes the lack of intimacy her powers force on her. Permission has nothing to do with it. No one's able to touch Rogue whether she wants them to or not. Again, that may not have mattered to young Miriam Beetle and that's absolutely okay, but adult Miriam doesn't address it in her post and I'd love to hear how that element affects her perception of Rogue today.

Roaring '20s Rogue and friends by Clayton Henry.


Darius Whiteplume said...

I was always bothered that she is a leech. She wouldn't be the flying bad ass we have in comics if she hadn't stolen Ms Marvel's powers, correct?

I'd almost say the no touch thing is more of a "sex is bad" throwback than feminism.

Michael May said...

That's kind of the vibe I was picking up from Miriam's post too. Which, if that's the kind of feminism she embraces... fine.

But I agree with you that it's not representative of all feminism, and the point I didn't make very well is that it's certainly not representative of mine.

Menshevik said...

Speaking as a long-time Rogue fan (male), I'd have to disagree about her being especially broken or needy. But then for me the true Rogue is the one from Claremont's first run, before his successors had her become infatuated with Gambit and made her much-increased fear of touch her most defining characteristic and wimpified her quite a bit (I hated the way Gambit would play mind-games with her hinting he might be immune to her touch - the 1980s Rogue would simply have tested this theory by touching him instead of letting him tease her for months and years).

The original Claremontean Rogue impressed me through her inner strength. In spite of her youth, the physical handicap of her power, and her dark past, she took charge of her own life and tried to do the right thing. She learned to take responsibility for her previous sins (indeed, in the 1980s the hero she resembled most was Spider-Man; as his guilt over the death of Uncle Ben was his driving motivation, so her wish to atone for what she had done to Carol Danvers was a large part of why she continued to be an X-Man). To become a hero, she chose to leave her (surrogate) family even though she continued to love Mystique, and one got a sense that she accepted the authority of e.g. Professor X only as long as she was convinced that he was right. And although she was in her own words an action junky, she could choose to refrain from action, e.g. near the end of Claremont's first run when she tried to dissuade Magneto from reverting to villainy (and came close to succeeding) and kept trying to talk to him when her fellow X-Men were all about beating him up.

As for her absorption power, in the early days the possibility that she eventually would learn to control it seemed quite high (at least two stories seemed to indicate that her inability to control her power stemmed from a not unsurmountable mental problem) and so fans could also look forward to a Rogue in control of her powers if they wanted. But of course then being able to control her power was not Rogue's overriding concern. In the X-Men/Alpha Flight mini-series, she got a taste of what it was like, enjoyed it (even if her interactions were "safe" with Northstar), and yet did not hesitate an instant to oppose Loki even though it meant losing that control again. (Also, let's not forget that a number of characters have been shown to be immune or partially immune to Rogue's power, so finding someone to love and touch was not completely impossible).

Michael May said...

That makes a lot of sense. I haven't been able to separate the early-Claremont Rogue from what followed, because I didn't start reading the X-Men until the Jim Lee years. I eventually went back and read the earlier stuff, but of course it was colored by what I knew came after.

Thanks for that post. It helps me see what Miriam might have seen as a youngster.

It also makes we want to dig out some of that early Rogue stuff and re-read it.

West said...

Fascinating perspectives. Danke.


Related Posts with Thumbnails