X-men: Dark Phoenix

By Nat Master

Mailed on June 11, 2019

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Dear Dipshit Bro
Audience for Dark Phoenix

Dear Dipshit,

I was sitting right behind you at a preview screening of Dark Phoenix. You wouldn’t know this, but I was also the person glaring at the back of your head for most of the film. Belated apologies for jostling your seat on my way out of the theatre. Accidentally.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you. Initially, I struggled to understand the point of a film as lazy and dull as Dark Phoenix. “Why??” I kept asking myself. Why try to cram a trilogy or miniseries’ worth of story into one feature-length train wreck? Why waste the time of very talented actors with this dismal script? Why tell a story that foregrounds female characters using writers who have apparently never met a woman? But then I watched you reacting to the film and making an utter nuisance of yourself in the process (learn to support a quiet moviegoing environment, dude), and it hit me; the question isn’t why the film was made, but for whom it was made.

Anyone now accustomed to superhero movies attempting to gradually raise the bar in terms of narrative/character development, more diverse representation, and generally not shitting the bed, will not like Dark Phoenix. However, it will appeal to the contingent that still just wants a basic-ass, good guy vs. bad guy (and it has to be a guy) VFX extravaganza without any PC nonsense, as you demonstrated so gleefully. Taking note of what you did and didn’t seem to like about the film was a real lesson, so thanks.

In Dark Phoenix, Jean Grey joins the ranks of female characters who go nuts and destroy worlds because they just can’t control their angry feels. Whether their rage is triggered by trauma, traumatic memory, or merely getting their period, these women go on destructive rampages that only end when some daddy-esque figure steps in to teach them how to control their emotions or, failing that, to destroy them. In superhero movies, male heroes struggling with rage issues are given redemption arcs that turn them into congenial teddy bears, while rage-y women are simply hunted and put down, the only redemption on offer being some kind of Hail Mary self-sacrifice bullshit where the consolation prize is their name on some dumb plaque in a quasi-sorrowful epilogue.

The trajectories of the female characters in Dark Phoenix are a study in lazy, cliché-ridden writing. Jean can’t be trusted to process her own emotions without Daddy Xavier barging into her mind and ‘scaffolding’ things to his satisfaction. Jessica Chastain’s alien baddie is… there for some reason, I guess. Her blank-faced blonde waif battling mutants without so much as scuffing a stiletto heel seemed to go over well with you, so that’s great. I felt like you ran hot and cold with Raven. When she tells Charles off, pointing out how much more effective the women are than the men (where’s the lie, though?), saying, “Maybe we should be called the X-Women,” you were not impressed, judging from your utterly disgusted, “UGH, come ON.” Happily, you seemed quite gratified by her unceremonious dispatching soon after, if I was to go by your smug laughter and applause.

Had it not been for you, I’d still be puzzling over whether Dark Phoenix was made by men who don’t know how to write women, or by men who just don’t like women. Thanks to you, I realized that wasn’t the pertinent question. It doesn’t actually matter if I think it’s a shit film because it wasn’t made for me in the first place. It was made for those of you who still seek escapism in ‘mouthy’ women being violently silenced and enjoy watching men fight to control women’s minds and bodies ‘for their own good’. Dark Phoenix is all but gift-wrapped for you, and you’re welcome to it.



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