Friday, April 17, 2015

A Brief Note on the Casting of Psylocke in "X-Men: Apocalypse"

Note: A slightly edited version of this post originally appeared on my tumblr.

Earlier this week, Bryan Singer made headlines when he announced the casting of Olivia Munn for the role of Psylocke in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse.

Some of you who know me may know that I started reading X-Men comics when I was thirteen years old and that my favorite character was Psylocke. The death of Psylocke was a large part of why I stopped reading comics post-Onslaught. The return of Psylocke is basically why I started reading comics again with Remender’s Uncanny X-Force (a series that very peripherally crossed over with “Fear Itself”—the comics event responsible for my ongoing love-affair with Bucky Barnes, but that’s another story for another time…).

As you can imagine, reading comics when you’re a graduate student in your late twenties is really different from reading comics when you’re a thirteen-year-old misfit just trying to live through middle school. Having become a much more critical media consumer, I now have serious problems with the British-woman-in-a-Japanese-body trainwreck that is Psylocke. And there’s a part of me that hates the way that Marvel ignored an opportunity to ameliorate the racist, culturally appropriative, and exoticizing elements of the character when they brought her back to life in the lead up to “Utopia” (1). And that same part of me is hoping like hell that maybe they’ll fix those issues in “Secret Wars.” In fact, I’ve been thinking of writing an essay about it all, but I haven’t had time recently to get into the nitty gritty of why Psylocke, as she now exists, is so problematic and how I’d like to see the character addressed.

With the introduction of major players like Archangel (not, I suspect, to be confused with the Angel character that appeared in The Last Stand) in X-Men: Apocalypse, I’ve been expecting Psylocke to turn up. But I’m not sure how I feel about this particular casting. The choice of a biracial actress to play Psylocke may indicate a different take on the character’s origin story, but whether or not that origin story will make the concerning elements of the Psylocke character better or worse remains to be seen…

1) Psylocke was brought back during the "Sisterhood" storyline, which took place in Uncanny X-Men vol. 1, nos. 508-511 (2009) and was written by Matt Fraction. Over the course of the story, Psylocke's British body was once again killed while her Japanese body lived on. Psylocke's British body was subsequently destroyed during the "Kill Matsuo" story, which appeared in the Psylocke miniseries that was released in 2010 (words by Chris Yost, pencils by Harvey Talibao).

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