I am, no joke, procrastinating writing about psychotherapy & web development by writing instead about the early 90s X-Men cartoon and its formative role in my young adulthood. Yup.
In the fall of 1993, I was 19 years old, a sophomore in college, living with my high school sweetheart and another friend, neither of whom were college students, and a rotating cast of characters, in a somewhat rundown house in a somewhat sketchy part of town.
And on Friday nights there was X Files, and on Saturday morning there was X-Men, and whomever happened to be around crashed on the couch or paired up with whomever would watch with us.
I’ve been listening to Rachel & Miles X-plain the X-men, and the last episode was all about the various cartoon TV series. Rachel and her guest Chris were in agreement that Jean Grey was, well, boring, and that the love triangle with her & Cyclops & Wolverine in the early 90s cartoon was weird and implausible.
But for me, then, it was not at all.
I guess Jean Grey’s superpower is being really brainy and having long red hair. In 1993, those were pretty much my superpowers, too. Being smart and allegedly competent yet always swooning for one reason or another; that was how I saw myself then. So there was all the identifying. I think maybe even the fact that she’s boring and responsible and serious spoke to me as well, because I was trying desperately to break out of being the good girl mold.
Then, the love triangle with Wolverine….
My long-term boyfriend, who’d moved from California to live with me in Washington, never was and never will be a Cyclops type, nor was he Wolverine. He had long curly hair and a round face with a huge smile; he was boisterous and very physical, friendly to pretty much everyone; silly, artistic, ADHD. (IIRC, he got kicked out of Boy Scouts for having Playboy mags on a camping trip. Early 90s cartoon Gambit might actually be a good fit.
G, on the other hand…
Kinda short, stocky. Body hair. Very charismatic in a much more masculine way than I usually like. In the Army when we met him. Pretty much bad news on a platter. And being the overly romantic kind of girl that I was, the Jean Grey/Wolverine thing was RIGHT THERE for me. Although Wolverine probably wouldn’t sleep with EVERYONE in his social circle, which was pretty much what happened. (Someplace I have this amazing multi-color diagram that I drew for a therapist of the relationships in my group of friends. It looks completely insane.)
And I was not into comic books at all, mostly I think because I was a snob. But this cartoon, with its total weirdness and at the same time this visceral connection to things that I was going through that I didn’t how to deal with or how to integrate into my self-image, I fell in love with that cartoon.
Then a zillion years went by. G drifted out of my life. The boyfriend and I broke up, eventually. I graduated from college. X-Men went off the air. Life went on.
I watched it again maybe a year or two ago, all the way through except for the last season. And hot damn is it WEIRD. Like basically the weirdest. The art is terrible, and the stories are discontinuous and bizarre. I think I never realized how odd the story arcs are partially because I came in presumably somewhere in the second season, and our local Fox channel showed a lot of reruns, so it was always mixed up and out of order. Even in order they’re pretty odd.
Yet, still, I hear that opening music, and some part of me is on a terrible secondhand couch in a room with ancient shag carpet, curled up with the people I loved or at least lusted after intensely, and that’s comforting. Or complicated? Nostalgic, in any case.