The Controversy Over Uncanny X-Men #17
This week, I was all set to write a review of Uncanny X-Men #17 when the news broke that there was controversy around it. The issue depicts the death of Wolfsbane in flashback as Wolverine goes to exact his preferred form of vengeance and justice on her killers. Unfortunately, Rosenberg apparently made several mistakes that likened the attack to violence against trans women.I’m a little late to the party on this topic, but I feel like I need to go over it, given my support of Matthew Rosenberg in the past. I hope I haven’t stepped all over this topic in exploring it.
For the record, consider this a trigger warning for those sensitive to LGBTQ violence. I will be sharing part of the scene in question. Please hit the back button on your browser if this upsets you.
The part where we talk about uncomfortable things…
The scene in question has Rahne hit on rather crudely by a group of guys. After they don’t take “no” for an answer, she inadvertently reveals her mutant powers. This angers them even more, especially the one specifically trying to pick her up, as his friends tease him for hitting on a mutant. She’s accused of trying to “trap” normal guys. That’s where the analogy becomes obvious.
To his credit, Rosenberg quickly accepted responsibility, apologized and asked readers and supporters to donate to an appropriate cause.
Also, if you’ve been reading our book and enjoying it, or disliking it I guess, I’d urge you to consider making a donation to @TransLifeline and help support the vital work they do.https://t.co/9PYNTF2HMF
— 𝙼𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚠 𝚁𝚘𝚜𝚎𝚗𝚋𝚎𝚛𝚐 (@AshcanPress) May 2, 2019
This is the appropriate response for a creator. Also, Rosenberg has been silent online since the controversy. There’s been no further explanation or apology. Women In Comics writer Nola Pfau has a very well-written analysis of the scene and why it is offensive to some. At the risk of seeming to mansplain, I wish to add to the exploration. I want to take opportunity before doing so to point out that I take nothing away from Nola Pfau or anyone else offended by the scene. Their reactions are totally valid.
X-Men have always been an analogy for civil rights of the oppressed. It started as beinglikened to the plight of African Americans. Some even likened the Professor X / Magneto comparison similar to Martin Luther King Jr. / Malcolm X. In the past twenty years, many have moved the analogy to the LGBTQ rights movement. Recent stories where a “cure” for mutants is offered add to this comparison. Unfortunately, there are rare cases of openly LGBTQ writers making these analogies.
Unfortunately, until we can get more representation, we have to be aware whenever a step is taken in the right direction. I agree that comics need more trans characters, and characters where their trans status isn’t their defining trait. I also want to see writers that are trying to bring attention to a problem aren’t vilified for doing so. Writers have to do better, and I’m proud to see Matthew Rosenberg realizing that.