How 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.