Beauty and the Beast

weapon-x-professorHow many of us, in moments of frustration and anger wished we could pop out a few Adamantium claws to sort out some difficulties?  In order to make the character of Wolverine more “nice”, Hollywood, in their new movie, has gentrified the character and sucked out the darker aspects of his comic-book persona.  The Wolverine of Barry-Windsor Smith’s version, in his Weapon X series, portrayed not just a struggle with evil forces but with a violent self.  I’m not going to go on about how Hollywood got it wrong, after all their job is to make money, not great stories.  But I think that it is interesting that removing Wolverine’s own savage past and uncontrollably violent personality removes the very thing that allowed the readers to connect with him.

Young teens who are always told to be good will be fascinated by why the bad is so bad.  If no one is there to help them understand this side of their personality they will find other ways to do so.  Anti-heroes like Wolverine was a refuge for many teenage boys (and some girls) who knew that they had an angry or dark side but were never allowed to acknowledge or explore it.

This clawed savage is the uncontrollable in a world that tells you that you have to behave one way or another.  He could not be bought or bribed.  His stories offer an escape from the polite and suffocating expectations of social norms.  Have you ever known good to be irritating?  Good can rot your teeth with its saccharine sweetness as it is used for selfish and manipulative purposes.  Wolverine offered emotional honesty, even if it resulted in the deaths of dozens of ninjas who challenged him.

Being an unthinking brute is not the goal.  Ironically, the character’s greatest struggle was to remain in touch with social normality as his berserker rages constantly threatened to overwhelm him.  I wanted to watch a movie with a bit of character depth but the business of popularism has no room for such ambiguities.  We loose something when we reduce characters to good and bad as it offers no hope for anyone to change.  For the teen who was forced into good behavior, the destructive rebel may become their true self if they are not taught to understand all aspects of their character.  Instead they are asked to choose between one and another.  Wolverine’s character shows us that despite having darkness in his being, he is able to choose to do right, not just be good.

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6 thoughts on “Beauty and the Beast

  1. Aside from the man-vs-savage aspect, the movie turned out to be an entirely joyless experience. Furthermore, one of the most interesting aspects of Wolverine is seeing him as the badass of the team – e.g. popping his claws at Nightcrawler during Danger Room sessions, batting eyes at Jean, calling Prof. Xavier “Charley”, etc. With the team of Sabretooth, Agent Zero and Deadpool, he’s actually the most well-behaved guy in class. Almost like the teacher’s pet in school that everyone loves to hate! The recent film made him out to be the softie that Denice the Menace (the Beano version) picks on all the time! Guess that’s why he’s called by the pansy-name “Jimmie” throughout the film rather than the more mannish “Logan”.

    My experience with Logan, aside from the adolescent fantasies of clawing the most hated teacher in school, was during the time when I was studying the philosophies of Arthur Schopenhauer. Old Schopie talked on and on about the “Will” as the real thing-in-itself behind all of reality. The Will-To-Live became the fundamental reality that sustains all of existence. Problem was, this selfsame “Will” was inherently self-serving and therefore, evil. It was the task of overcoming this Will that defines what humanity is all about and distinguishes him from the survival-centered beasts of the field. Wolverine in the original Claremont/Miller mini as well as Barry Windsor-Smith’s “Weapon X” arc was a classic study in the dichotomy between the humanity and the beastial “Will-To-Live/Survive” that gives him the edge in battles. At the end of Windsor-Smith’s arc, we see the animalistic Wolvie alone and naked in the snow. I cried the first time I saw that – especially the emotive eyes and the blood flowing down (and freezing) from his clawed hands. It was a mirror for our innermost savagery and a reminder of the times we fail to rein-in the beast, so to speak. In the Claremont/Miller mini, we see Wolvie attempting to tame-the-beast by embracing the samurai code. His discipline and centeredness allowed him to defeat Shingen and win Mariko’s hand in the end. Wolverine in traditional Japanese ceremonial garb is a picture of a civilised man, with his beastial side firmly under wraps. But Claremont wasn’t done with the man Logan. The “Kitty Pryde & Wolverine” mini explored the other side of the man when he was forced to fight his former demonic sensei and had to unleash the berserker-rage in order to win the final fight.

    Like I said, classic studies in the dichotomous reason-vs-passion, man-vs-beast debates. Alas, the Hollywood version failed on all counts to reflect that on screen… :(

  2. Very eloquently put. Your Wolverine knowledge will always astound me. Neither surrendering to the “beast” within (Wolverine’s rage) nor the facade/attempt at control (Wolverine’s costume) will completely suffice as a way of life. As St Paul finishes his explanation of grace’s power to offer life he acknowledges the elephant in the room; do we continue to sin more? To live restrained is to extinguish passion as to live indulgent makes us beasts.
    Perfection could be better described as completeness rather than the absence of contradictory influences, as Holiness is better described as wholeness rather than good behavior. This is a long and hard journey.
    Thanks for your insights.

  3. I agree, Jase. There is too much black and white in the world. Isn’t it more exciting to explore the greys, look at both sides and make a decision based on that? Why do we prefer compliance over anything? Why is doubt condemned?

    Ahhhhh I’m thinking far too much…

    Good post, incidentally.

  4. I’ve avoided reading any recent copies so I can enjoy the story in its entirety. Looking forward to it. You?

  5. Same here. I merely browsed through some copies at the newstand. Forced myself not to read the single issues. :)

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