Mysterious Ways

Disclaimer: this is my opinion, and it’s based on the first two movies and nothing else of the X-Men franchise. It’s a subplot that annoyed me, and I’m perfectly willing to acknowledge I may be reading too much into things. I’d love to see how other people read this, but once again, this is MY OPINION, so please do not take it as anything but that.

Spoilers for X-Men.

In X-Men 2, there’s a small subplot which involves Mystique being interested in Wolverine. The end of the first movie sees the two mutants going head-to-head in an impressive hand-to-hand combat. Mystique is a shape shifter and skilled hand-to-hand combatant, and Wolverine is no doubt one of the first people who got the better of her in a fight.  Wolverine didn’t even manage to kill her, just left her with a scar.

In the second installment, they’re reunited thanks to a common enemy. Half a dozen mutants – the militants, of which Mystique is one, and the more peaceful mutants like Wolverine and Jean Grey (whom he has a thing for, despite her being married) – are forced to camp out.

After a little scene with Jean where she makes a poor effort at rejecting Wolverine’s advances, Jean comes onto him in his tent. Except it turns out to actually be Mystique in guise of Jean. Wolverine quickly works this out, and Mystique makes a show of being whatever Wolverine wants her to be – Jean, Storm, Rogue, etc. She shows him the scar he gave her and says something like “˜I never forgot who gave this to me’ in a very sultry voice.

Seems to me like Mystique has something for him because he beat her. Which got me wondering, was it because she had such profound respect for someone who is actually more of a skilled hand-to-hand combatant than she is? Is such infatuation comparable to me connecting on an intellectual and sexual level to someone who challenges me intellectually? Is such attraction just an extension of the respect and admiration that you have for a person who does what you do, only better – challenges you to rise to their standard?

Or is Mystique just a masochist, lusting after a man who beat her up and left her for dead? A man who’s not interested in her, despite the fact she can be any woman he desires?

Admittedly, the movies are hardly shining examples of subplots with deep meanings. But that little subplot annoyed me, because it portrayed a woman lusting after a man because he was willing and able to beat the crap out of her, a woman he’s not the least bit interested in, even though she can impersonate the woman he really wants. To me, this says she’s a masochist and a glutton for punishment.

Great way to represent a sci-fi/action heroine.


  1. SunlessNick says

    Wolverine was able to smell the difference between Mystique and Storm. Maybe you could spin it as she wants a guy who can sense something constant, and therefore her rather than the shape she’s adopted. But I don’t think it’s that, I think it’s nothing more than the “woman falls for the man who defeats her shtik” stereotype.

    I’d much rather she just wanted a shag and thought that approach might get her one. Or was bored and fancied messing with Logan’s head for a bit.

    I don’t like that sequence.

  2. Mecha says

    I have a slightly different take on Mystique, movieverse, at least until X3 where they basically tear up her characterization for the purpose of making Magneto awsum and letting Jean take her place. Here’s my mental points on it, mainly from X2.

    1) Her conversation with Nightcrawler, about normalcy.
    Conclusion from my end: She doesn’t suffer fools, or weakness, even from men. Men who are weak are of no real interest to her. Note how little attention she pays to his concerns or even his existance. Her entire posture during that sequence is ‘you are a totally weak loser’.
    2) Her allegiance to Magneto.
    Conclusion from my end: Strength respected. Not sexual servitude, either: there’s no action going on there in my mind.
    3) Her seduction and subsequent consigning to death of that horny idiot security guard.
    Conclusion from my end: Sex and sexuality is a weapon. This is related to her overall ‘form is a weapon’ characterization.
    4) Shapeshifter par excellance.
    Conclusion from my end: Skilled actress, confident in her own abilities and ability to manipulate people.

    Put all those together, to me, and you get that she will at least find Wolverine _interesting_. Not just that, but trying to have sex with him is a contest, and it’s a contest she would delight in winning, no matter how it comes down. She gets to toy with him with no real chance of negative consequences for her (because he’s a good guy (read: Moron)) and pretty much every chance of negative ones for Wolvie.

    For her to fit into the stereotype fully, she would have to compromise her character for Wolverine’s sake. And she doesn’t, unless you assume that she can’t act like she’s interested in someone, especially not a main character (See the guard.) Sexual interest without love? For her, not just possible, but incredibly probable. Tack on the added twist of the Jean angle, and mental manipulation, and it’s a slam dunk good time for her as she was characterized. Hell, if she REALLY likes him? Then what she did was incompetent, stupid, and pointless. The only way you’d do something like that is if you were 1) being completely manipulative 2) a complete mental case that could not understand human psychology in any way. And Mystique’s pretty good at not being #2.

    If anything, Mystique would have been OVERconfident that Wolvie would fall for her, not over-committed and left wanting (note how she shifts back the SECOND he touches her scar. She knows exactly what she was doing, and was not lost in the moment.) If what you propose is the characterization that is in her mind, then the entire rest of the movie doesn’t really exist for her, because… well, I don’t see it anywhere else. To me, it’s far easier to believe that she’s messing with him because he’s an easy target, especially right then, then her characterization got completely blown for some stupid fanservice. YMMV, though, as they say.


  3. Ifritah says

    *Nod* That’s exactly where I’m at.

    Mystique’s mutant power is shapeshifting. Sure, she can do nifty acrobatic moves and likely get in a good kick or two on someone, but that’s not what her mutation is.

    And as with most mutants, her weapon is her mutation. Shapeshifting. For years this chica has found ways to use it as just that. How can I manipulate this person with X face? How can I hurt that person with X persona?

    Wolverine scarred her. She wants to hurt him. I mean, sure, she’d likely not pass up a good opportunity to hurt any of the good guys if it was there, but she had a score to settle. She unsettled the hell out of him, and that’s exactly what she wanted.

  4. Glaivester says

    I didn’t see any evidence in that scene that she had any personal feelings for Wolverine. If that were what was being portrayed, why did she turn into Stryker, taunting Wolverine about “what do you want” in a totally non-sexual context (what Wolverine wants from Stryker is to learn about his past).

    The whole time, Mystique was trying to taunt Logan rather than to seduce him. (At least after she morphed away from being Jean). Actually, one could argue that she wasn’t really trying to seduce him as Jean, either, or she would have morphed away her scars which are what brought Logan back to the realization that she wasn’t Jean (he probably could already tell it wasn’t really Jean by his sense of smell, but he might have been in denial until he felt the scars.

    It seems to me that leaving her scars there was a deliberate way to let Logan know that she wasn’t really Jean (so that Logan would get his hopes up thinking that Jean was coming on to him and then getthem dashed).

  5. Patrick says

    Two points: one, Mystique isn’t a heroine, she’s a villain. So I don’t see it as much of a problem if she’s a poor role model.

    Two, a geeky nitpick: Mystique can mimic people’s scents, fingerprints, retinal patterns, everything short of a DNA test. Wolverine shouldn’t be able to recognize her by scent.


  6. scarlett says

    When I said ‘heroine’ I meant ANY reaosnably strong character – heroine, villian, whatever. Generally, I like Mstique because she’s brilliant at what she does and is extremely practical-minded. You could make her a man and it would still work.

  7. baskerville says

    Mystique is the bad-guy version of Emma Frost (aka the White Queen): another slightly crazy woman charachter who uses sex as a weapon. Mystique saying anything in a sexy, sultry voice isn’t grounds for anything, because, well, Mystique would probably say anything in a sexy, sultry voice, up to and including telling you she’s about to kill you.

    She’s Mystique. She’s crazy like that. (In the comics, she’s also Rogue’s foster-mom and is either saving her or sabotaging her. She’s also occasionally played off against Rogue and her wish to be normal; she’s clearly not meant to be seen as an ideal.)

    Unfortunately, in the movies, the charachters are distilled to their basest components and we lose a lot of what makes them interesting charachters, including the ‘other side’ of their personalities, their motivations, and their pre-established relationships to other charachters, which may be changed or left out entirely.

    Also, I think the X-verse has enough good female charachters who are nothing at all like movie!Mystique that it makes sense to me to say ‘thats just Mystique’, not ‘Xmen thinks women like abuse.’

  8. scarlett says

    I forgot to add that I first got interested in the X-Men movies after reading about their historical/metaphoric context (Stan Lee apparantly wrote them as a matephor for the black civil rights movement). I always saw Mystique, Magneto etc as victims-turned-vigilates, not villians.
    It wouldn’t surprise me that the movies have taken a lot of the backstory out, but I still got a lot of meaning from the movies because I took my own civil-rights-based backstory in.

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