X-Rated – the Sex(ist) Reveal of The Dark Phoenix Saga

The pages of X-Men: The Dark Phoenix saga are absolutely brimming with subtle and not-so-subtle sexual innuendo, and though I do not find that all that stunning or interesting in and of itself, I do find it interesting when paired with the fate of the title character, Jean Grey, aka Marvel Girl, aka Phoenix.

It begins on page 7, the very first page to present Jean Grey to the reader. The villain du jour, a man going by the name of Jason Wyngarde, speaks of taking control of Jean by “giving her a taste of some of her innermost forbidden needs and desires.”  While it is most assuredly true that the line does not have to be seen as sexual, the innuendo is, without a doubt, presented. And it continues to be hinted at, this need in Jean to explore thoughts which are dangerous, “vile” (26) and yet “alluring to her. What does it all mean?  Why is there so much hinting going on in regard to this character’s dark desires? There is no such reveal for any other character within the saga.

Now one might argue that it is because this is Jean’s story. This may be the case, but she is not the only character whose inner thoughts and worries the reader is privy to. She is however the only one painted in this light.

She is also the only one completely and utterly draped in sexual connotations.

Some examples from the text:

  • “She reaches for the sky-summoning the lightning-laughing as the awesome bolts caress her body like a lover.”
  • “Dark Phoenix thrills to the absolute power that is hers. She is in ecstasy.”
  • “She craves that ultimate sensation…”

This is a woman who is reveling in an all consuming, might we say orgasmic pleasure, and the pleasure is coming…from power. A woman who is all powerful, potent enough to throw her fellow X-Men around like toys and, say, consume stars and destroy solar systems?

Okay, she has definitely taken her power trip a bit too far.

But riddle me this, fellow comic scholars…Why is it that when a truly admirable, well rounded female super hero is finally created, one who is not overtly weak and submissive, she is soon revealed to be emotionally unstable and unfit for the power that is bestowed upon her? Why must she overdose on that power? Why is her self-sacrificing death the only solution?

I mean, really. Would Wolverine go out like that? I don’t think so.

It is my firm belief that Jean Grey is depicted as an overemotional, irrational female from the beginning. She is an easy victim for the Jason Wyngarde character precisely because she is a love hungry female. And her acquisition of and subsequent failure with power happens because let’s face it, she just wasn’t man enough for the task.

Tsk, tsk, Marvel. You gave me Susan Storm with a cooler costume and a bad case of PMS.


About tristap

I am just a girl, trying to find her footing in a Super Hero world. Be gentle...
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3 Responses to X-Rated – the Sex(ist) Reveal of The Dark Phoenix Saga

  1. Sean says:

    I think you’re right on with your analysis here. It didn’t NEED to end the way it did, though I was unimpressed with the way Jean was characterized altogether in the comic.

  2. A woman who is all powerful, potent enough to throw her fellow X-Men around like toys and, say, consume stars and destroy solar systems?

    The fact that these indulgences in power are depicted as, well, as you said, orgasmic really makes me wonder. It’s almost as if Jean/Phoenix’s sheer pleasuring in her power makes her an inadvertent parody of the (pornographic) myth of woman’s sexual insatiability. Maybe that’s a rather frightening thing to many readers and creators in this male-dominated genre, since desire, acted upon, suggests agency?

  3. Though, FWIW, I think Phoenix in the comic is given a lot more agency and drive than the characterization in the third X-Men film, where she just seems sort of lost and aimless.

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