(Chantaal’s note – We continue with the Memorable Moments of Marvel Women series! Welcome Aaron, today’s guest blogger. If you want to write up a moment, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love the help, there are still a few available! We’ll be showcasing one to two moments a day, and we’ll have the polls to pick the final five up the first week of March.)
Kitty Pryde debating out Reverend Stryker at the end of God Loves, Man Kills.
Marvel has always used mutants as a metaphor to tell stories about racial and other forms of discrimination; few storylines have played upon that so directly as “God Loves, Man Kills”. Instead of using “Kill all them Muties!” as a hook for killer robots or genetically targeted diseases, in this story the X-men face something far more insidious, more dangerous, and – disturbingly – more recognizable: a hate-filled preacher and his church of fundamentalist zealots.
Most people will be familiar with the plot from the second X-Men movie: William Stryker (here a Reverend, not military) kidnaps Xavier, brainwashes him, and hooks him to a machine that will use Xavier’s mental powers to kill all mutants. The X-Men are aided by Magneto this time around, united by a common cause.
When we come to the final act, Magneto makes his dramatic entrance…and is promptly floored by a mental blast. So while Xavier is tied up and wired in backstage, and Magneto is on the floor fighting off picket sign-carrying fundamentalists, Kitty Pryde – here going by Ariel – saves the day by…out-debating Rev. Stryker on national TV.
At this point I had to stop and make sure I was still reading a super hero comic book. Cyclops doesn’t blast the guy, Wolverine doesn’t claw him; a tween-age girl beats him by claiming the moral high ground and standing up for her ideals.
This is what makes a hero. Not how many robots you can destroy, or kittens saved from trees; those things just mean you have power. Being a hero is about matching your actions to your ideals, even if it means putting yourself in danger to do so. Earlier in this story, Kitty establishes the strength of her character by standing up to her ballet teacher (Stevie Hunter, an African-American), calling out her hypocrisy for saying racial slurs are “Only words,” as long as they target mutants.
As a Jew, this is important to me. When discussing the Holocaust, we say, “Never again!” But too many of us turn a blind eye to genocide and hatred as long as it doesn’t target Jews. Living up to the ideal of “Never again” means truly loving your neighbor as yourself. Which is not an easy thing to do, especially when surrounded by a world that hates and fears you.
In this moment, facing Stryker, Kitty exemplifies what it means to be an X-Man. Telling off a man holding a gun is not scary when you can phase through bullets, but Kitty doesn’t stop there; she tells Stryker that if he represents God’s will, then she rejects God.
Part of growing up is rejecting your parents, because it is only in the emotional space so created that you can grow and learn to love them as adults. Likewise, to develop an adult relationship with God one must first reject and move away from God. In this single moment, then, we not only see Kitty become a hero, we see her grow up.