Everyone’s Horny and No One’s Happy in ‘X-Men ‘97’

Movies


Editor’s note: The below contains spoilers for X-Men ’97 Episode 4.


The Big Picture

  • X-Men ’97
    keeps getting better, sadder, and thirstier with each episode, hitting all the right beats.
  • The show’s clothing choices are not just about skin exposure, but a reflection of nostalgic ’90s aesthetics.
  • X-Men ’97
    is redefining superhero storytelling with engaging romances, drama, and themes of acceptance.

Week after week, X-Men ’97 gets better, sadder, and hornier. Yes, you read that right: the new Marvel animated series is bringing sad and sexy back to the screen. Just last week in Episode 3, “Fire Made Flesh,” there were heroes with their suits ripped apart, naked doppelgängers in the shower, “stamina training” for half the episode, and sidelined boyfriends moping around in crop tops. It’s been like that for the whole season so far, which has left most of us wondering — if God hates Mutants, then why do we keep winning? It feels like X-Men ’97 is hitting all the right beats, and there is actually a good reason for that.


X-Men ’97

A band of mutants use their uncanny gifts to protect a world that hates and fears them; they’re challenged like never before, forced to face a dangerous and unexpected new future.

Release Date
March 20, 2024

Cast
Jennifer Hale , Cal Dodd , Chris Potter , Catherine Disher , Adrian Hough , Ray Chase , Lenore Zann

Seasons
2

Number of Episodes
10

Streaming Service(s)
Disney+

Franchise(s)
X-Men


It’s Really Not Just About the Clothing (or Lack Thereof) on ‘X-Men ’97’

Right in its first week, X-Men ’97 gave us the blessed vision of Gambit (A.J. LoCascio) rocking a crop top while hanging out with Rogue (Lenore Zann) in the X-Mansion kitchen. This caused a fuss among some fans who, unfortunately, can’t see the beauty in this, but we fully support (and even envy) Gambit’s style choices because they are not just a sight for sore eyes, they also say a lot about who this series is for. It’s in the title of the show: X-Men ’97. Of course, X-Men ’97 is not only for ’90s kids, and we older and younger generations are welcome to enjoy it too — but we do have a unique taste for this kind of silly stuff, right?


We grew up watching X-Men: The Animated Series on Saturday mornings, and this kind of thing was already present. In comics and animated series alike, male heroes often wore skin-tight spandex highlighting every muscle in their bodies, and, even when they didn’t wear this kind of clothes, whatever it was they were wearing got torn off after some fighting, revealing the kind of body that awakened a lot of people before they even knew what was happening. Now, in X-Men ’97, Magneto (Matthew Waterson) has his new suit torn to pieces when he fights Madelyne Pryor (Jennifer Hale) in Episode 3, and it’s not because the series simply wants to show skin (although it does, and we’re thankful), but because it’s the sort of thing that is typical of that bygone age.


We don’t even need to go far to refer to other examples. Goku in Dragon Ball Z often finished his fights wearing nothing but rags, and even some of his action figures came with detachable clothing. Every superhero had their figure drastically overemphasized to the point where certain instances, like the infamous Captain America cover from the Heroes Reborn comics, became notorious in all the wrong ways. Female characters suffered a lot in this sense because their bodies were rendered even more strangely, often portrayed in unnatural proportions and doing things that are just anatomically impossible. It was hard to walk the fine line that separated sexual awakening and liberation from exacerbated masculinity because those who could do it weren’t really allowed to — but now they are. This is why we still get people angry with Gambit’s crop top and Rogue’s normally-dimensioned butt, but not with Magneto’s suit being ripped off his body — when the first ones are obviously more natural and less harmful.

It’s Also Not All About the Drama and Sadness on ‘X-Men ’97’


X-Men ’97 is setting up some pretty interesting storylines from a romantic point of view. There’s the classical love triangle involving Cyclops (Ray Chase), Jean Grey (Hale), and Wolverine (Cal Dodd), but what has been catching viewers’ attention is actually Magneto’s secret relationship with Rogue. They can touch, and that’s a huge deal! We suddenly understand why they’re doing all that “stamina training,” and it’s funny (and a little mean, too) seeing Gambit, Rogue’s boyfriend, moping around feeling sidelined. It’s somewhat corny in terms of drama, but it’s also reminiscent of the ’90s.


Again, we don’t have to go far. Relationship drama was always at the center of any ’90s animated series, from anime to cartoons. In Sailor Moon, everyone wanted Usagi and Mamoru to be together — it’s the soul of the anime. Lest you think that those themes only popped up in “shows for girls,” remember how everyone in Dragon Ball Z had a love interest, too? We found out Trunks was Vegeta’s and Bulma’s son even before those two got together at all. It was all very soap opera-like, and everyone immediately started theorizing which characters would end up together whenever there was more than one gender involved. It was natural then, and it’s natural now; we just have more options, especially considering that Morph (J.P. Karliak) is his own thing entirely.

The X-Men have always been a metaphor for awakening and acceptance in society. Characters learning about their powers and being rejected by their families? It’s not subtle at all, and it’s the sort of representation that makes a huge difference for people who are different in the real world. In this week’s episode, “Motendo/Lifedeath — Part 1,” even more of the drama plays out. Jubilee (Holly Chou) celebrates her 18th birthday with Sunspot (Gui Agustini) the way any typical ’90s kid would: playing video games and making out with her crush. The series doesn’t even bother hiding the suggestive beats, because it’s natural. Later, Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith) and Forge (Gil Birmingham) also share many moments in the countryside, and you could cut that tension with a knife. And it’s all done right, making the viewing experience even better and more refreshing.


It’s All About Depicting Drama and Thirst the Right Way on ‘X-Men ’97’

Once again, X-Men ’97 is very clear about its target audience: millennials who grew up watching X-Men: The Animated Series. That show was already edgy and groundbreaking with its portrayal of characters’ relationships and how they dictated the beats of what happened in the bigger picture, like fighting enemies and protecting humanity. Of course, millennials were kids back then and weren’t necessarily paying attention to narrative development, but all that happened seamlessly even by today’s standards. So it’s not really that nowadays the X-Men are thirsty — they always have been.


The fact that X-Men ’97 is a sequel to The Animated Series demands all the soap opera drama. It’s what the audience was already used to watching back in the ’90s, and now we can see what was really beneath it all along — not just in X-Men, but in every successful cartoon, anime, and comics, too. The whole millennial experience can be boiled down to being “sad and horny” for a variety of reasons – especially because we grew up watching sad and horny stuff on television, too. After that, things became more serious and stern, and much of the joy in corny drama and the whiff of sex beneath everything was lost.

Now, though, audiences are mature enough to both pick up on and enjoy these undertones — and not just millennials, either. These themes have always been there in the X-Men’s animated stories; they just needed to be embraced in the right way. Other movies and bigger projects at Marvel could take a page out of X-Men ’97‘s book, because they surely need to mature a little more and move beyond having only action define their stories. Gambit moping around in a crop top is definitely not the problem. If anything, we want more.


X-Men ’97 is available to stream on Disney+ in the U.S. New episodes air every Wednesday.

Watch on Disney+



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