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Friday, December 18, 2009

The Long-Threatened Amateur Analysis of Scott Summers's Girlfriends

Okay, so I've been intending to post this for a while: it's my rambling diatribe on how with every major love interest he has, Scott Summers is essentially dating stand-ins for his abusive (or at least lousy) father figures. This post can also be subtitled reason number #467 why Xavier should have realized his adopted son/pet general needed therapy for a long ass time.

So anyway, for the benefit of the less obsessed comic nerds in the community (is there a such thing), I'll do a quick run down of poor Cyclops's history. First, he had parents and a brother. Then there was a plane crash. Parents got kidnapped by aliens. Kids went splat, and essentially Alex bounced and Scott didn't.

After that, Alex gets adopted and Scott gets sent to an orphanage run by Mr. Sinister. It should probably be noted that orphanages of that type haven't been in vogue since the seventies. But Mr. Sinister is a batshit crazy Victorian telepath, so I'm thinking he doesn't care. So yeah, there's messiness involving brainwashing, torture, abuse, experimentation and at least one set of would-be adopted parents going splat on the side of a mountain. Eventually, sometime after having a weird dream involving a bald guy and a pretty red haired girl with a firebird motif, in which the bald guy is all "Hmm, nah, we'll collect him later", he runs away.

P.S. This is another reason Xavier sucks.

So anyway, he roams around the streets of Omaha (Nebraska has streets! News to me!) and hitches some trains and the like and eventually the powers kick in. This is awkward, and generally results in an angry mob. Fortunately, and by "fortunately" I mean "unfortunately", since this is Scott Summers we're talking about, he ends up getting taken in by a low life criminal, who is also telepathic by the way with a few extra powers (more on that later) named Jack Winters. A number of beatings and forced criminal endeavors later (which vary depending on the particular take on this part of his origin story), Jack ends up dead, and Xavier gets himself an abused teenager who he raises up to be his general.

Xavier is a dick.

So anyway, this totals to at least three telepathic father figures of debatable morality. And by "debatable", I mean "utter jerkasses." And I'm totally including Xavier in there. Dick.

Okay, so the first and most easily correlating girlfriend is totally Grant Morrison's fault. You see, Jack Winters, low life thug that he is, has a number of notable traits. 1) a last name related to the season directly opposite "summer". (Winters). 2) A code name related to a game. (Jack O'Diamonds). 3) Telepathy. 4) Additional powers including an "unbreakable diamond form."

And who's he dating now? A lovely upper crust lady who happens to have 1) a last name related to the season directly opposite "summer". (Frost). 2) A code name related to a game. (White Queen). 3) Telepathy. 4) An "unbreakable diamond form."

It's a bit awkward. And that's not even counting that the debatably healthiest portrayal of the Emma/Scott relationship involved her (granted under influence) basically spiking his brain like a volleyball and him THANKING her for it later. I'm just saying.

Sadly, I still think the Emma/Scott relationship is the healthier alternative to Scott and Jean.

And speak of the devil, we'll move on to scary correlation number two. It's not as overt as Emma and Jack, but let's be frank, Xavier has always been a creepy spectre within the Scott-and-Jean relationship since the very beginning (where he mooned over her himself, then decided to try to push Scott into admitting his own feelings.) And then there was all the times he lied to the team and faked impairment or even death to push them further. That latter, he'd roped poor Jean into lying to others for him.

Of course, I'm not equating Jean to Xavier in morals. Jean is not actually a dick. Even if a future version of her totally mind-whammied her husband into a relationship with Emma Frost after her death. (I know some folks see it as "encouragement" but when you look at how the scene from NXM 151 goes from this:page 1, page 2, to THIS in 154: page 1, page 2... Well, honestly, I'm not sure it's not the weirdest case of spousal rape-by-proxy-for-his-own-good-and-the-future I've ever seen. At the very least, she definitely overwrote his will and that's pretty dickish.)

But anyway, Jean, like Xavier, has a tendency, I think, to make "for your own good" type judgments. Granted, unlike Xavier, she seems to be right more often. But this is a post about the similarities, not the differences.

Beyond that, there are circumstantial ties: he only met Jean THROUGH Xavier and the team. She's always been kind of symbolic for him, in the same way that Xavier and the dream are.

(For the record, they're still my favorite X-couple. But they're kind of fucked up, regardless. When she inevitably comes back to life/ages up properly and yoinks back her husband, I suggest couples' counseling.)

The next one is even more of a stretch, but considering that he MADE her, I think equating Madelyne Pryor and Mr. Sinister is not completely unfair. (Which is why I tend to give Scott a pass for most of the Madelyne related dickishness. I mean, when the guy who raises you, clones the love of your life, and basically MAKES her specifically to appeal to you - including making her a PILOT, yeesh, you don't really have a prayer, even if you aren't completely fucked in the head.)
There may be an interesting comparison to make with Essex's transformation to Mr. Sinister and Madelyne's to the Goblin Queen, too, but the first part's probably enough alone.

Of course, there's a special exception for the only girlfriend/relationship Scott's ever had that could even remotely be classified as healthy. Lee Forrester, the shrimp boat captain. A relatively low pressure, low complication relationship with a woman who isn't even a telepath!

But I'm never one to drop a metaphor even when it doesn't really fit anymore. So I've decided shrimp-boat captain = space pirate. They both tend to be largely unconnected to the drama of the X-Men Universe (discounting the part where Corsair's currently dead, as far as I know, but he's a Summers. They'll fix that eventually. If they haven't already.) And really, Scott would be much happier/healthier if he just ran away to become a shrimp fisherman again. Or a space pirate (didn't Alex Summers visit a universe like that at some point?).

So yeah, basically the entire point of this post is to show that if you really want to sleep with Scott Summers, you apparently need to parallel one of his father figures. Or retcon/time travel a new one in. Or you know. Get the guy some actual, legitimate, psychiatric help. But how likely is THAT to happen?


  • At December 18, 2009 4:14 AM, Blogger K. D. Bryan said…

    Awesome on many points. I totally second the Jack of Diamonds thing - I even put pictures up in my discussion of how deeply messed up Scott Summers is.

  • At December 18, 2009 4:49 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I thought of your post while writing that, but forgot the address! Thank you!

  • At December 18, 2009 7:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh God, oh God, Madelyne was a PILOT. It's so damn obvious, when someone else points it out. :D

  • At December 18, 2009 7:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh God, oh God, Madelyne was a PILOT. It's so damn obvious, when someone else points it out. :D

  • At December 18, 2009 9:10 AM, Anonymous Caroline said…

    You are absolutely right!!

    I have to agree about the spousal-rape-by-proxy in 'Here Comes Tomorrow', but I tend to not count that one because (a) it's never been referenced since and (b) I would have to accept a series of increasingly ridiculous premises (including 'Jean actually thinks Scott would be better off with Emma' -- if she's going to brainwash him to be with someone, why not a person she likes who didn't just get finished treating her like shit for a year?), so (c) it only makes sense in terms of lame-brained editorial/writerly bullying to 'explain' a relationship that they couldn't be bothered to justify with actual character development.

    And laughing re 'spiking his brain like a volleyball' -- because, yeah, I think Joss Whedon is a god and all that, but 'I love you more than ever now that you mind-raped me' is NOT the right answer.

  • At December 18, 2009 9:53 AM, Blogger Leif Wells said…

    I think that you forgot to mention Colleen Wing. She and Scott had a thing going on during one of the times that Jean was supposedly dead, right? I wonder how she fits into your appraisal?

  • At December 18, 2009 11:46 AM, Anonymous Devin McCullen said…

    I'm just wondering what's the most normal case of spousal rape-by-proxy-for-his-own-good-and-the-future that you've ever seen. Not that I disagree with you or anything.

  • At December 18, 2009 4:26 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Bookslide: I KNOW. It's one of those tiny details where you think about and realize: "Oh yeah, he was screwed from the beginning."

    Caroline: I do think it makes sense, in some respect. At least in terms of Scott, who tends to show that amidst his many MANY interpersonal issues, he functions best while in relationships.

    It works for me, because I DON'T think it's Jean declaring Emma better, so much as Jean deciding "Crap, I'm dead. And Scott's non-functioning again. And if he doesn't do his job the future's fucked...again." and pushing him toward the nearest plausible option.

    I do think she fully intends to yoink him back as soon as it suits her. (And really, it wouldn't come up since because neither Scott or Emma know about it. Now when JEAN comes back, then maybe there'll be some interesting examination of that. Or not. :-P)

    And yeah, I love Whedon's arc too. But that's not a healthy relationship. To be fair though, it IS in character. It's kind of similar to that Corsair-Cyclops confrontation scene where after Corsair bitch-slaps him for complaining, they share a sweet family hug and camping experience.


    Leif: I read those issues, but I don't count Colleen because nothing really came of it. She slipped him her room number, but he was too busy with X-stuff to pursue any kind of relationship.

    Now MAYBE if she were a telepath with questionable ethics, he'd have gone for it anyway. :-)

    Devin: That's a very good question. :-P Hmph, making me think about my own hyperbole.

    Probably the most "normal" would be stories where the husband forces his wife into prostitution. With the "for her own good/future" coming in if the family is destitute.

    Jean's actions are still weirder though.

  • At December 18, 2009 7:22 PM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Holy crap! Scott is even more screwed up than I thought. MonuMENTALLY screwed up.

  • At December 19, 2009 12:45 AM, Anonymous FrostPhoenix said…

    Okay, so I never had heard about Jack O'Diamonds (Winter) until you had mentioned it earlier in this blog and with your analysis it makes the Emma thing totally weird to me.

    Still, I love their paring, even more so than when I loved him with Jean.

    I would love to know what Morrison was thinking when he gave Emma that secondary mutation.

  • At December 19, 2009 12:46 AM, Anonymous FrostPhoenix said…

    Man I enjoy saying "I love" a lot lol. Oops.

  • At December 19, 2009 4:13 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Knowing Morrison, he was probably thinking "I should give her a power just like Jack Winters."

    I'm just sayin' the man's a little weird.

    Jack appears in a few scattered origin stories. Probably the most thorough, though I don't think it gets into the "unbreakable diamond form" stuff is in the miniseries "Children of the Atom" from a few years back.

  • At December 19, 2009 8:44 PM, Blogger Mad Marvel Girl said…

    Just for me -- the entire premise of 'Here Comes Tomorrow' is so deeply insulting to all of the characters involved (Scott couldn't run the school without Emma, Emma would completely abandon all the students who she had been helping if Scott wouldn't agree to sleep with her, Hank couldn't run the school if Scott and Emma weren't there, Jean would plausibly see rape-by-proxy of her husband as the only way to fix this situation) that I just don't even know how to deal with it. It just seems you have to intensely dislike and have complete contempt for all the character in order to process that logic. So, like so many things in comics that make no sense, I'd just as well ignore it.

  • At December 19, 2009 10:39 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I'm not going to deny that there are parts of the story that don't make sense. (It's X-Men, after all. :-P) But I always read it as less Scott needing Emma specifically in order to run the school as Scott doing what he usually does when Jean dies: fall apart.

    But this time, there really wasn't time for a shrimp boat voyage, and a conveniently placed clone to snap him out of it.

    I definitely agree that Emma wouldn't just leave the school, and Hank could run it effectively, if not better. But I figured the real problem is that neither of them can lead the X-MEN like Scott can. Sooner or later, they'll need that expertise, because being a good mentor/professor doesn't mean being a good military leader.

    Basically, I just assume that there are certain steps in between the plummet to dark future that we didn't see. It doesn't work out perfectly, but it does make it a bit more readable.

    As to Jean finding a better way than proxy-raping her husband...I agree, but there is the caveat that future-Jean isn't so much the Jean we know as a potential outcome. She DOES have that whole "doing this for your own good" type trait now, so it's not completely implausible that some point in some potential future, she'll lose her moral perspective and be willing to reach back and do something like that.

    And well, she could just be a very benevolently smiling evil!Jean.

    So really it's more that I'd keep a lot of the ideas, but change the execution.

    (I admit, on a petty sense, I'd like to keep it just because Scott always seems to get a not-quite proportionate amount of blame for all his relationship screw-ups and Jean comes out smelling like a rose, even while trying to seduce Logan or some nonsense like that.

    It annoys me to see her misdeeds swept under the rug or retconned away. Even if it's only a hypothetical future Jean that did it.)

  • At December 19, 2009 11:12 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Besides, honestly, the early X-Factor issues were MUCH worse writing-wise. And if Scott doesn't get to retcon out all the craptastic Madelyne-Jean triangle stuff, Jean doesn't get to retcon out this one. :-P

    She does at least get to blame it on a version of herself that she's not going to become any longer. :-)

    (I love comics because they give me the opportunity to say things like that with a straight face.)


    Oh and there is a pretty significant reason that I don't think it can be retconned away. Because if it is, it completely changes Scott's character.

    Because for all the psychic affair crap, he and Emma didn't start a REAL tangible relationship until this point. This isn't an excuse made later to explain away previous behavior, but a trigger for something new, that would not have happened otherwise.

    Scott and Emma might have eventually gotten together anyway, but it would not have been so soon. It certainly wouldn't have been on Jean's grave.

    The timing pretty much got Scott a LOT of crap from Hank, Logan, Rachel and company, because they'd never thought he was the kind of guy who would do that.

    And the thing is, he's NOT. Without Jean's interference, the relationship would not have started like that. He's basically getting a huge ton of crap unfairly for HER (hypothetical future her, anyway) decisions. And Morrison obviously knew that considering he wrote all of it.

    If you take away her actions as impetus, then he becomes that guy. Their criticisms become fair. He will then BE the guy who would, in his right mind, make out with a woman at his wife's grave.

    And that's definitely not fair.

  • At December 19, 2009 11:25 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Of course (and I feel silly posting like three replies in a row, but heck, it's my blog. :-P) the easiest solution would be to decide that future Jean was actually the Phoenix entity.

    Then I still get my triggering event for Scott's otherwise out-of-character behavior, and it would explain why "Jean" would actually think this is a workable and morally appropriate solution.

  • At December 20, 2009 12:32 AM, Blogger Mad Marvel Girl said…

    Fair enough. Is it okay if I just agree that they all three (Scott, Emma, and Jean) do utterly loathsome things in this run. And most of the time I try not to focus on it because I like to focus on stories where the characters I am supposed to sympathize with are not despicable people.

    But, obviously, this is just the way I see it and I don't want to overburden the point, which was only a side note to your post anyway.

  • At December 20, 2009 2:06 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    :-) It's no problem. We all have the stories that annoy us. And it's fun to chat about them. :-)

    And I definitely had problems with some of Morrison's execution. It helps that I'm a Scott fan first and foremost though. Since most of the despicable shit he pulls can be rationalized as post-Apocalypse trauma, it doesn't bother me as much.

    Though it was a long time before I could get behind Scott/Emma as a pairing, since to my mind she was his therapist. And there's a very good reason therapists who sleep with their patients lose their licenses. Issues of consent get REAL fuzzy there.

    I got over it eventually and started embracing the unhealthiness just like I do for Scott/Jean (who are still my favorite pairing in the end) and I became much happier.

  • At December 20, 2009 6:09 AM, Blogger Andre said…

    wait, he was raped?

  • At December 20, 2009 7:02 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Depends on interpretation and definition, really.

    In the context of the scans posted, Scott and Emma had not started an actual physical sexual relationship. She offered, he gave an unequivocal "no" to a relationship/team-up (first two images I linked in my post.)

    At the end of the story-arc, a future version of Jean reached back and telepathically influenced him. And we get the same scene, but this time the answer is "yes". (second two images I linked in my post.)

    So a psychic invasion (a "mental rape" if you will) certainly happened.

    BUT since this marked the start of a physical/sexual relationship between the two, you can make an argument for actual, physical rape since he definitely did not consent to such a relationship before her telepathic influence.

    Obviously, there's no real world allegory and everyone's interpretations can differ, but in my opinion, using telepathy to force someone into consenting to a sexual relationship is rape. :-)

    YMMV, of course.

  • At December 20, 2009 7:30 PM, Blogger Andre said…

    My god what is with comics and rape? Thor, Hulk, Deadpool, Green lantern, Nightwing, Nightwing, Nightwing(poor guy).


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