A Comic-Book Entry – Mrs. Dashwood

or, “Why I hate Emma Frost”

Bear with me here; I’m sure it’s not often anyone has compared a classic romantic work like Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility with a comic book.  The Mrs. Dashwood I’m referring to is Fanny Dashwood.  In the novel, the elder Mr. Dashwood dies and through unfair inheritance laws of the time and possibly a lapse in judgment, his estate passes to his only son from his first wife, John.  This leaves the Widow Dashwood (the elder Mr. Dashwood’s second wife) and her daughters pretty much at the mercy of John, who is a half-brother to the girls.  The elder Mr. Dashwood made John promise to take care of his second family.  John is already grown with a wife and small son (in contrast, the eldest half-sister is 19), and has had little contact with his father’s second family.  This is where Fanny Dashwood comes in.  John is initially happy to provide quite a sum to his half-sisters and allow the whole family to stay at the family estate (the book implies there’s plenty of money and room to go around to support everyone).  Fanny, however, doesn’t want to share any of this money with people who are not her blood relations, even though the girls are technically John’s blood relations.  She manipulates her husband into kicking the Widow Dashwood and her daughters out of the family estate and only home the girls have ever known.  Not only that, but in careful steps, she gradually manipulates her husband into reducing their allowance from a few thousand pounds (which would all but guarantee the girls a good dowry to help them get married) to a paltry one hundred pounds a year, which is barely enough for them to get by while living in a cottage owned by one of Widow Dashwood’s relatives.  In short, she’s basically cruel and heartless for no other reason than to move the story along, and as a bonus turns her husband into a total jerk for going along with her scheme.  However, in defense of Fanny Dashwood, if not for her machinations, the rest of the story couldn’t have happened.  In this sense, she is a necessary villain in order to move the plot forward.

So let’s move on to how this relates to why I hate Emma Frost.  Actually, that’s not a true statement.  Emma Frost as the White Queen of the Hellfire Club was awesome.  She was cold, heartless, ruthless, telepathic, and walked around in nothing but white lingerie.  What more could be desired in a comic book villainess?  Somewhere though in the late 90s/early 00s someone decided she should have a softer side, and while she had a school of her own (whose students often fought the X-men), tragedy befell her students and they were all killed, leaving her looking for a way to make up for it.  For convoluted reasons I don’t understand, she ended up in charge of the newest X-men class with Banshee (Sean Cassidy).  She was still cold, heartless, ruthless, etc., but I didn’t hate her.  I get the evolution of character, I guess.  Then in the later 00s, some writer/editor/moron decided that it would a good idea to make Emma work directly with the X-men and as a bonus get involved in a love triangle with Scott and Jean (this was done in the early 80s with Psylocke after she ended up a ninja, which is a whole other rant).  In a series of (to me) increasingly improbable storylines, Xavier thinks it’s a great idea to urge Scott to form a bond with Emma to work through his marital problems with Jean, Scott decides it’s a fabulous idea to have a psychic affair with Emma, and Jean not only does not kill Emma (well, she does, but brings Emma back to life again) she decides since she’s going all Phoenix again and is too dangerous to live, she tells Emma she’s fine with her dating Scott.  It ends with Jean dead (probably due to executive decree) and Emma and Scott professing their love for each other.

This is pointless drama and I hate it, and I hate Emma Frost.  The whole storyline is not believable (oh, sure, we find out Emma’s pretty screwed up but, well, that’s a given, isn’t it?) and I just wish she would die.  But part of that hatred may be the character butchering that happened concurrently with Scott (although to be fair this started much farther back in time when writers and/or fans got annoyed Cyclops wasn’t Wolverine).  In one comic, Rachel is back (Scott and Jean’s daughter from an alternative timeline [don’t even go there; it’s headache inducing]), and she doesn’t like Emma (nor, frankly, would any sensible person) so she makes a fool out of her.  An angry Emma says to Scott, “She’s just a child; a child who should never have been born.”  I could argue that had the writers done their damn job right, Rachel should have been born, but that’s another rant.  In continuity, Rachel was a bridesmaid in Scott and Jean’s wedding!  He fully accepted her as his own daughter!  What the hell, hero?  The other part of that hatred is how other characters, while not being butchered, are not reacting as they would within continuity in order to keep Emma on the team.  For example, in a storyline involving vampires (which is, again, a whole other rant), the X-men are looking for Dracula. Emma makes a nasty remark to Storm to the effect that Storm is bored in her marriage and looking to re-unite with her old lover Dracula for some fun.  Storm was actually tortured by Dracula in the original comic and should be outraged at Emma for that kind of comment.  Come on, this is Storm.  She’s so awesome she beat Cyclops for leadership of the X-men without her powers, and she just lets Emma be a snarky, cruel [expletive].  It’s just too frustrating to read.

Do you see the parallels now?  With Emma Frost, Scott is such complete wimpy jerk-ass he won’t stand up for his own daughter.  Emma is cold, ruthless, and cruel for the sole purpose of driving in-team drama.  I get Mrs. Dashwood’s role in the story, and frankly can’t fault Austen for her writing of the character.  What I am resentful about is that while in Austen’s story the characters reacted in a natural way to Mrs. Dashwood’s machinations (they hate her but are forced to move out all the same), the characters around Emma are not.  So, not only is she Mrs. Dashwood in that the only reason her character exists (in this current incarnation anyway) is to cause cruel but necessary (according to the writers/editors) drama, the other characters aren’t even acting appropriately to her cruelty.  I can’t express how much I wish a new writer would come along and fix this.  I know how I would do it, and no I would not actually just kill her off (as tempted as I am).  But if she’s sticking around, at least let the other characters react as any sensible person would.  If she’s Mrs. Dashwood, have everyone else treat her like the cruel manipulative ice queen she is.

This, amongst many other reasons that may be subject to future rants, are why I’m not renewing my subscription to the X-men comic.

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S. J. Drew is an aspiring writer who finally entered the blogosphere to shamelessly promote that writing (as evidenced by the title of the blog). Whether or not this works remains to be seen, but S. J. hopes you are at least entertained. And if you're actually reading this, that's probably a good sign.

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