Trauma. It can have an array of effects on people including nightmares, fear, and depression, among other responses. In media, it can be used to explore a type of trauma and/or to help the character grow. It’s not uncommon, yet not an everyday occurrence.
In The Power of the Dog, both the book and movie, it’s something Peter Gordon, one of the main characters is familiar with. The death of his father. Having seen his father’s lifeless body after he killed himself, which the book goes into more detail on, to say that Peter was effected by it might be an understatement.
Then comes the Burbank brothers. While George is a wonderful gentleman, it’s his brother Phil who makes the home a bit more hostile.
They way his father’s death not only effected him personally, but how he perceives his duty. Because he never really had a father figure in between his father’s death and Rose’s marriage to George, he in some ways had to grow up and take care of his family. And though not as expressive or emotional, readers and viewers never really get to see how he grieved. If he did.
Through various quotes and moments, I wanted to take a deep dive into Peter Gordon as a character. Mainly how things like his father’s death, alcoholism in the family, and Phil may have contributed to some form of trauma.
“When my father passed, I wanted nothing more than my mother’s happiness. For what kind of man would I be if I did not help my mother? If I did not save her?”
-Peter Gordon (The Power of the Dog)
The movie starts off with this quote. Because of the death of his father, Peter essentially was the “man of the house” and was in charge of making sure his mother was safe. This also foreshadows how he approaches Phil later on in the story, specifically more towards the end, giving what he did more motive.
He has to worry about his mother, since he is all she had until she marries George Burbank. And when she does get married, he still worries about her.
While Peter did become independent, his relationship with Rose could be seen as a form of parentification. He genuinely loves his mother and wants to protect her, because of his father’s death. However, in some ways, Peter had essentially become a caretaker for Rose.
Parentification is defined as a child taking on the role of parent for other children and/or parents. There are two main subsections in parentification: instrumental and emotional parentification. Instrumental is where the child performs duties that might normally fall on parents, like making dinner for the household, taking care of sick family members, and taking other children to and from school. Emotional parentification is when the child takes on the role of emotional confidant/counselor/caretaker to their parents.
I would say that Peter could suffer from a combination of both. Because while he does care for his mother and had cause to confront Phil on her behalf, he shouldn’t have been required to. And while Peter was mature for his age, he was still a sixteen year old who was dealing with the lose of his father with his mother. He shouldn’t have had to with him being sixteen, but he did. Things were also much different in the 1920’s too.
While I am not a psychologist, I can’t say that he does exhibit that behavior. However, I could see how Peter could have developed a sense of parentification after his father’s death. The trauma of losing his father and how Phil treated her could have culminated into something along those lines.
“…Yeah, your father. I guess he hit the bottle pretty hard. The booze.
Until right at the very end, then he hung himself. I found him, cut him down. … He used to worry I wasn’t kind enough. Then I was too strong.
You, too strong? Huh! He got that wrong. Poor kid. Things will work out for you yet.”
-Phil Burbank and Peter Gordon (Power of the Dog)
At this point of the movie, Peter is back home for the summer and finds himself essentially under Phil Burbank’s guidance. The man, who for the most part, was belligerent to his mother and picked on Peter, wants to start over by helping Peter and get to know him. During a moment of peace, the two end up discussing Rose, Peter’s mother, and her alcoholism. This discussion takes a turn when Phil asks about his father, resulting in the excerpt above.
The alcoholism is discussed, but rather it being a tale of abusive alcoholics, it’s more a tale of how depression and distress can lead to it. While his parents’ alcoholism might not have effected Peter in the way of physical or emotional abuse, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t effect him in the long run. Whether that be in the form of inheriting their alcoholic tendencies or being completely turned off by drinking entirely.
Essentially, while not being abused due to a drunken rage, it could have caused Peter to be turned off from it. Seeing what happened to his father and how his mother fell into a drunken state because of Phil, he could have hated how it effected the people close to him. And seeing the spiral it caused, it could have made him hate it and maybe fear losing people because of it.
Antisocial Personality Disorder as a Result of Trauma
Antisocial Personality Disorder, also commonly referred to as sociopathy, can be defined as someone who has a hard time in social settings, may have a hard time caring for right and wrong, and can be seen as manipulative. Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) is a term that was used to describe sociopathy, however ASPD is a bit more complex than that.
While I am not a psychology major, I do like to look into psychology from time to time. Especially if I want to better understand a condition. When it comes to ASPD, I’ve found that there doesn’t seem to be one set definition or ruling on the condition. DSM or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental defines it as
Do I Think Peter is a Sociopath?
Yes and No
I feel this really comes down to how the character is interpreted. Some might say that he was a sociopath given the nature of his plan and/or sympathizing a bit with Phil given where his character ended up. Some might say no, because of Peter’s motivation and Phil’s antagonistic behavior towards Rose.
One thing that could add to a viewer’s interpretation of Peter is Peter’s father. While the movie addresses that he dies, viewers are never really shown what lead up to it. As such, it could be easier to infer that Peter had no qualms with killing Phil and how he could have been behind his father’s death.
I have also seen the case made that Peter could have autism, and how the director, Jane Campion, may have brought that to the foreground of his character. ASPD, Autism, and Psychopathy, while all different conditions, do have some overlap in symptoms. Similar to how ADHD and autism may have similar or overlapping traits. Yet, despite the similarities, an individual can have one or both.
In the case of Peter Gordon, I think he has ASPD, but isn’t a sociopath. Because while his actions may have been manipulative, may not be as empathetic, and crosses a line of morality, his motives weren’t out of indifference. Rather out of love.
Because while he nay have a hard time expressing emotion, it was out of love and a sense of duty to keep his mother safe. Based on my interpretation of the character, and with the general research I did, I would say that Peter has a comorbid (two or more conditions diagnosed in an individual) diagnosis of autism and anti-social personality disorder.
Autism would help explain things like areas of his interest in becoming a doctor and the repeated behavior with running his thumb through the teeth of the comb in a repetitive and relaxing way (stimming). The manipulative tactic he used and disregard for whether it was right or wrong could be explained by anti-social personality disorder. While both could explain why he seems emotionless, not particularly social, and seen as awkward in social interact.
It might not be a perfect diagnosis, but it is a reasonable explanation. With Campion putting it to the foreground according to some sources and some of his behaviors being associated with it, it’s not hard to see why he would have autism. And with the movie taking place in the 1920’s, it wouldn’t have been diagnosed and could have been a factor in people making fun of him. Not because he should have been made fun of for it, but because understanding of autism wasn’t as understood back then as it is today.
As for anti-social personality disorder, I believe the death of his father is what triggered it. While the movie doesn’t show what happened to his father, it’s understandable if people would see Peter as more of a sociopath and possibly killed his father. However, if someone has read the book, it does state that his father took his own life. Whether he had autism or not, seeing that at a young age would have effected him negatively. I suspect that seeing this was what pushed him into the quiet, introverted state readers and viewers got to see. I also think it could have been what caused him to feel it was his duty to go as far as he did to protect his mother. conclusion
With everything Peter has been through, I believe he has had his fair share if trauma and struggles. From the death of his father to the way Phil treated Rose, he probably had some baggage. He felt like it was his duty to keep his mother safe, he probably had animosity towards alcohol, and due to seeing how his father died probably contributed to an ASPD diagnosis on top of a possible autism diagnosis.
A while back I had created a post discussing one of my favorite guilty pleasure reads, the urban fantasy series Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs. While I may no longer have that blog around, I thought I would revisit this series, why I enjoy it, and why I like it over the author’s longer running and more popular Mercy Thompson series set in the same universe.
Urban Fantasy: a Subsection of Fantasy
I’ll admit, I am not much of a reader of the Urban Fantasy subgenre. Not many really caught my eye with the exception of Patricia Briggs’ two series on-going series. For those of you who may not be familiar with this subgenre, Urban Fantasy can be defined as a type of fantasy taking place in a more modern day and, well, urban setting.
What kind of Clichés Might Urban Fantasy be Guilty of?
Like any kind of genre or subgenre, Urban Fantasy does fall victim to tropes/clichés.
Heavy reliance on romance
How the romance is developed
Usually focusing more on vampires and werewolves
Leads who readers can’t help but wonder how they stay together
Why I consider it my guilty pleasure genre
I consider this a guilty pleasure because, while I enjoy fantasy, this is a subgenre that I mostly avoid. And while I’m sure there are plenty of good Urban Fantasy series, I feel like it is a niche subgenre. Meaning, it’s a subgenre that, feels like it has a set target audience. At least that’s how I see it, as I don’t see Urban Fantasy being a genre everyone will whip out.
Alpha and Omega: Why I Like it. Flaws?
The Alpha and Omega series is a series that branched off of the Mecy Thompson series. Both take place in the same universe (the Mercyverse as it has been dubbed), but rather than focusing on Mercy, her romance, and the creatures around her, Alpha and Omega focuses on Anna and Charles (the son of the North American Alpha and adopted father of Mercy). Anna was saved from her abusive pack by Charles and it is soon discovered that she is a rare breed of werewolf: An Omega, who are known for their calming presence and being able to soothe the pack.
Along the way, she alongside Charles, who is her partner/husband, go on various adventures usually with Charles tasked to keep an eye on or handle issues his father needs enforcing. Like Mercy Thompson, this series explores various fantasy staples with Anna learning more about herself, love, and overcoming her traumas from her previous pack. As of right now, this series currently has five books and a prequel novella that can be found in collections like Shifting Shadows as well as the hardcover copy of the first book, Cry Wolf.
What are the Flaws?
I would say that it’s biggest flaw may come in the form of it fitting into a savior complex trope and some scenes either feeling odd or unneeded. While maybe not an overemphasized trope, one could see Charles as being this savior to Anna. Saving her from her previous pack was important for the story and her character, however, readers could find some aspects of their relationship fitting into this trope. I don’t interpret it that way, but I do feel like it could be interpreted that way.
When it comes to odd scenes, I can think of one from the fifth book, Burn Bright. This scene is actually one that seems to be generally critiqued when it comes to what reviewers didn’t like about the book. Basically, the scene in question has to do with a comment made between Anna and Charles about Bran and his relationship with Mercy. Specifically how Bran might have developed something more than just a parental feeling towards her. I agree with this critique as it does feel weird and out of place.
Those are my main critiques. While some people might find the clichés annoying, they don’t bug me enough to turn me away. It doesn’t feel like it goes too overboard, for me anyways, and I would know when it does. That scene in Burn Bright, however, I can see why it would turn readers away. It hasn’t turned me away, though it does hinder my enjoyment of the fifth book.
Why Do I Like Alpha and Omega More Than Mercy Thompson?
While Mercy Thompson has the longer run and appears to be the more popular of the two, you may be wondering why I enjoy the Alpha and Omega series more. It took me a minute, but I’ve narrowed it down to three main reasons.
Reading Alpha and Omega First
The Alpha and Omega series was the first of the two I picked up. I believe I decided to give it a try after I saw Burn Bright when it was first released back in 2018. And since it was the fifth book, I ended up reading the entire series. Then again when I was reading the Mercy Thompson series, since the two intertwine without really interacting with the other series. Cry Wolf, the first book in the series excluding the prequel novella, is my favorite. It’s also the book I’ve read the most. Because while it might not be perfect, I think it was a great first book to the series. It set everything up in a neat way.
Had I read the Mercy Thompson series first, I may have liked that one more. However, when I was introduced to both series isn’t the only reason I like the Alpha and Omega series.
Length of the Series
So long as the series is good, how long it runs might not matter. Shows like PBS’ Arthur and Doctor Who are examples of longer shows having typically positive responses. One Piece and Boxcar Children would be examples for longer running book series that are enjoyed.
That said, longevity can either make or break a series. If there is enough material to last without feeling repetitive or stale as well as having a foreseeable end goal, that’s great. But not all series have that grace. For example, Once Upon a Time, the ABC original series. While seven series might not sound like too terrible of a run, there were times where it could have ended. While some people might say it started going downhill earlier, I personally think that it could have ended on season six. Yes, the stories were formulaic and maybe a but predictable, but the sixth season felt like a great place for the series to end in my opinion.
Looping back around to Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega, the former has a bigger, and still ongoing run as of this post. Alpha and Omega has six books, a prequel novella, and a handful of vignettes. It’s not a long series, and outside of maybe the prequel novella, Alphas and Omega, readers can stick to the main story. Mercy Thompson, on the other hand, twelve books, five vignettes, and a thirteenth book expected to be released in August of this year.
And while there are books in the Mercy Thompson series that I enjoy, I do feel like it has kind of dragged on. After a while, for me once the series got to book ten, it didn’t feel as engaging as it used to. It started to feel repetitive, running in a cycle of, Mercy getting into trouble, Mercy feeling like she has to take on whatever it is her own way, feeling distant from Adam and noting her relationship with Bran’s pack, everything coming out fine. Rinse and repeat. Could Alpha and Omega have a similar issue? Maybe, but it isn’t one I’ve noticed as glaringly so as I have with the Mercy Thompson. Of course, I’ll still read the thirteenth book when it comes out since I’ve been keeping up, but I feel like I would be lying if I said I was wholeheartedly excited.
With Alpha and Omega being the shorter series with books being released every one to three years, it at least feels like it isn’t cycling through similar stories. The creatures and people may feel the same, but not the atmosphere.
Both series have enjoyable characters, be it the main and/or secondary characters. Mercy Thompson had some neat side characters and for a time I enjoyed Mercy. However, I like the overall cast in the Alpha and Omega series more.
I feel more drawn to Anna and Charles than I do with Mercy and Adam. In my opinion, Charles and Anna feel like they have a more natural. I don’t know if I would say they feel more developed since technically Mercy and Adam had more time to develop, but there does feel like there is some form of development there that Mercy and Adam may be lacking for me. There’s also the fact that there isn’t any conflict with a third party like there is with Adam and Mercy. While the ex-wife plotline can be enjoyable when done right, I wasn’t sold on it in the Mercy Thompson series. I didn’t particularly care for Christy, Adam’s ex-wife, and she ended up being at the center of one of the book’s main conflict. Overall, Charles and Anna’s relationship feels a bit more natural, simpler maybe, and it’s the one that feels more likeable.
Looking at the leading ladies, both Mercy and Anna have some similarities like having their own trauma and being with their packs’ alpha, but their personalities. Mercy has a more independent and headstrong personality while Anna is more calm and introverted. And while I wouldn’t say the “strong, independent woman” angle is bad, something about Mercy specifically doesn’t feel well done in some instances. Maybe it’s the fact that the Mercy Thompson series has been going on for as long as it has, but Mercy whole demeanor feels stale after a while. Some of her inner monologues feel very repetitive too. First person is a perspective that can be enjoyed, but I think after a while, Mercy stating how she always finds herself in trouble, her relationships with Bran and Samuel, and how she feels different because she is a coyote skin walker feels repetitive after a while. I won’t say that Anna is without flaws, as her submissive demeanor and maybe letting others doing more of the fighting (which partially has to do with how omegas are more so support/comfort than fighters), but it doesn’t feel as blatantly repetitive as it does with Mercy. Which may fall on perspective as much as portrayal.
When it comes to Charles and Adam, both are enjoyable. Adam is a good father and husband as well as a solid pack leader. Readers can tell that he cares about family and is reliable. And he knows when to let Mercy do what he needs to. Charles is also very supportive and caring of Anna. While Anna might not be a brawler, Charles understands why Anna needs to be involved with situations. They have good communication and with how the series treats Charles and his werewolf side (it’s set up as his human side and wolf side share a body but have their own thoughts) connects with Anna well. He also understands the abuse that Anna went through in her previous pack, and doesn’t go overboard with protecting her and knows what she’s been through. Of course, Charles does feel a need to keep her safe, but it’s not an overly possessive kind of desire. Between the two, however, I like Charles more. This could be a constraint of first person, but Charles feels a bit more developed. Adam does have development, but since the Mercy Thompson series is told from Mercy’s perspective, it’s a little harder to see from a perception perspective. With third person, like in Alpha and Omega’s case, it’s able to build both Charles and Anna up in a way that feels easier to pick up on. It also gives readers the chance to understand Charles’ history and character from a way that doesn’t feel one-sided.
As for background and secondary characters, both series have enjoyable characters. Stefan, Mercy’s vampire ally, Zee, a fae and Mercy’s former boss, and Warren, a werewolf and close friend to Mercy, are interesting characters. Jesse, Adam and Christy’s daughter is also a neat character, who works well with Mercy. There’s also Samuel and Bran, who appear in both series, who bring their own stories with them, with the former at one point having romantic feelings towards Mercy. As for the Alpha and Omega series, it has its fair share of enjoyable side characters too. Asil, who’s deceased wife was an omega, has knowledge about omegas and has given Charles advice. He is also shown going through grief of losing his wife, feeling a similar presence in Anna in the first book. Leah Cornick, Bran’s current wife, though usually cold, goes through some development and learns to warm up to Anna. There are plenty of side characters in both that readers might connect with.
Even if the Alpha and Omega series isn’t a masterpiece, there is a lot that I enjoy about it. When I started it and the length helped as well as an enjoyable story and characters. It may have its flaws, like scenes that feel odd, clichés, and/or some repetitive things, it has qualities that I found likeable. It’s a guilty pleasure series of mine and it is a fun read more than anything.
Believe it or not, I am not one for Westerns as a genre. A big reason probably has to do with me not being a fan of a lot of John Wayne movies, and most of his were either Westerns or War movies, the latter being another genre that I never really had an interest in. And while my exceptions for war films include Imitation Game, I never really had that one exception for western, aside from Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which I feel is just as much of a horse movie as it is a western.
Then along came a video that popped up on one of my socials talking about a scene, specifically one of the last scenes, in the Netflix adaptation of The Power of the Dog with the least amount of spoilers possible. It got me a bit curious, and when I asked about it, thankfully, they kept it spoiler free and recommended I check the movie out. So, after about two weeks of getting motivated to, and getting the book it was based on, I finally sat down and watched it. I recently finished reading the book, which I may review in the future, but today, I thought I would discuss my thoughts on the movie.
With that in mind…
I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but it goes without saying that spoilers are bound to occur.
The story itself is certainly a curious one. It takes place in 1920’s Montana, two brothers work on a ranch, Phil, a crass and somewhat feared cowboy who deep down has a more complex and surprising nature, and George, the kinder and more soft spoken of the two. George marries Rose Gordon, a widow, who’s husband died by his own hand. Rose is tormented by Phil throughout the story, who doesn’t seem too fond of her or her son. Peter, Rose’s son, is a young man studying to become a surgeon. He is protective of his mother, feeling it is his duty to keep her safe after the death of his father. To others, he appears gentle, fragile, and feminine (by 1920’s standards), however, like Peter, he is not all that he appears to be, having an inner strength, confidence, and intellect that no one would expect.
The story focuses on these four characters, the ranch, a hill that, depending on ones point of view, looks like just hills or a barking dog, and what one sees vs what is really there.
The story might not be for everyone, though it does have good qualities. While some people may find it as slow, simple, and/or straightforward, others might see it as intriguing, I’d argue the characters, and how they are characterized are something worthwhile. It doesn’t need a lot of action to get it’s point across. The slow burn type movie that really utilizes this technique really well.
As someone who doesn’t normally watch westerns, this was one that caught my attention because of the story it was telling. Yes, at times it feels straightforward and slow, but given the small details throughout the film as well as the characters, there is a story about appearances not always being met. Secrets that wouldn’t be expected based on perceptions at the time and how seemingly unimposing people can hide inner strength and manipulation.
Nuance is something that has significance in this movie. Details that have more meaning than one might think. For instance, what Peter does with the rabbits he finds in the movie. Body language, like how Peter caries himself when walking passed Phil and his men to check on some birds. He ignores the less than friendly reactions, holding himself with a sense of unfazed confidence.
Quiet moments, like the scene in the barn during the climax, says something despite very little being said. Dialogue has importance as well. Like when Phil and Peter are talking about Peter’s father. How he died, how Peter feels it is his duty to protect his mother, and how Peter’s father told him to be kinder. That he was “too strong”. And while Phil would scoff at the notion, it does foreshadow what’s to come.
Things like this is what I enjoyed in the movie. While I may not always need a movie that makes the viewer think, when done well and in a
What really makes this movie stands out is the casting. Even if viewers don’t like how the story is presented, the characters are something worth enjoying. The main four characters are casted and acted perfectly. Kirsten Dunst plays the role of Rose Gordon, a widower who was living with her own demons (Phil, grief, and growing alcoholism) really well. Jesse Plemons really played off of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Phil as George Burbank. And I think the background characters were pretty well too.
However, if there were two performances I was really drawn to, it was Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Peter Gordon. Not only because of some of the underlining subtext between the characters, but because of how the actors portrayed them. Both characters can be seen as different sides to the same coin, and viewers can get that feel from the actors.
While the story focuses on the main four characters, these two have a lot of focus, and the dynamic is really intricate and interesting. Phil appears masculine and intimidating, deep down, there’s actually an intelligent and a softer side to him. Peter, meanwhile, appears introverted and feminine (by 1920’s standards), yet, he has an inner strength and is more cunning than he seems.
Benedict Cumberbatch pulls off the abrasiveness of Phil’s character really well. Watching a bit of the behind the scenes, it’s noted how Jane Campion really wanted him to embrace the character, which he did well.
While one could argue that he feels out of place, I’d argue that he plays a range of character types. So things like westerns and portraying a character who is more crass or confrontational weren’t impossible. Because while Benedict Cumberbatch is known for intellectual roles like Sherlock Holmes and Alan Turing, as well as Dr. Strange, he’s also done other types of roles.
For instance, he’s portrayed menacing and sly persona as Smaug and Khan. He’s played more comical characters like Rory in Fortysomething. Roles in animated features like the Penguins of Madagascar and The Grinch. As well as several stage performances. So Benedict Cumberbatch was bound to break onto the western scene eventually.
Then there’s Kodi Smit-McPhee. What I really enjoyed with his performance is how he portrays Peter. Peter throughout the movie, is seen as someone who isn’t all that imposing or strong, which he is belittled for. Especially by Phil.
It isn’t until later in the film that viewers get to see that Peter has an inner strength and the mind of someone who can do things that most wouldn’t expect. That this seemingly weak character has a deeper strength and cleverness to him alongside his intellect and kind heartedness.
Considering the character being described as particularly introverted, slim, sickly around the time of his birth as the book mentions, and not appearing particularly masculine/macho, I feel like Kodi Smit-McPhee also brings a physical accuracy to the role. Considering how the character is described in the book, I feel that Kodi was able to pull off the physical ingenuous impression that was required for the role. And as far as the characterization of someone who’s introverted, appearing emotionally detected, and unthreatening, yet intellectually crafty and caring, I don’t think I could picture someone else in the role. It goes without saying that, much like Benedict Cumberbatch, Kodi is not a type cast actor while still pulling off a role like this really well.
Overall, the movie has a great cast of characters and actors. Each bring their own personal touch to their roles and have great performances. Whether viewers like Phil Burbank, Peter Gordon, or any of the others will depend on their preference, but each character has their own story.
1920’s and The Company of Men: Phil, Peter, and Bronco Henry
This is the one thing that can draw in a number of discussions. Especially in regards to Phil and Peter. I may do a post breaking down my thoughts on it as well as a post discussing Peter Gordon specifically. That said, I did want to touch on this considering it does have a significant point.
It starts with Phil and his stated admiration for Bronco Henry, a man who taught Phil everything he needed to know to get where he’s at (riding, rope tying, etc.). With how much he talks about Bronco, it’s easy to see how much Phil respected the man. Yet, it isn’t until later that viewers would get to see the true depth of said admiration.
As the movie goes on, viewers come to realize that Phil, with all his admiration towards and fond memories of Bronco Henry, that he was a closeted gay man. Given the time period this takes place in, Phil’s relationship with Bronco Henry would be scrutinized more than it would be today. So keeping up the façade of not being gay most likely contributed to why he comes off as hostilely as he does (or toxic masculinity as it has also been described). Or at least partially. And in keeping up with this façade, that could help explain why he was so demeaning towards Peter at first. While that might not excuse all of his actions, forcing that part of himself to stay secret, probably didn’t help.
As for Peter, while his motives would become more apparent and dealt with the vitriol alongside his mother, he left an impression on Phil. It isn’t until Peter finds Phil in the woods that things seem to take a shift. Phil seems to want to start over with Peter, claiming they “got off on the wrong foot.” While this could also be seen as a way to bother Rose, things tend to shift a bit the longer the two are together.
Phil does mention Bronco Henry, at one point even stating that Peter was a late rider much like Bronco Henry was. And when Phil finds out about his father, he seems sympathetic, only really disbelieving his father’s statement on him being ‘too strong’. While the book may go more in depth about the death of Peter’s father, the sympathy was apparent in both.
However, I think if there’s one scene that really shows off how both characters shifted, it was in the climax when Phil finds out that Rose sold the hides he was going to burn. Both the book and the movie have details that make this scene impactful. From body language to dialogue to the details described in the book, the moment Peter offers to give Phil the raw hide he found, how Phil reacted was one of gratitude and a form of sentiment.
Whether it be one-sided or not, this interaction has symbolism. This moment and the conclusion told viewers what it needed to.
Whether viewers see the ending as justified and what Peter’s motive was could be debated, I do think that the ending was a great way to conclude it. Whether viewers think Phil was the true villain and deserved his fate or if Peter was the true villain or was justified, it was a suitable conclusion. This was a story that didn’t need a happy ending to be good.
All and all, I would certainly recommend this movie. I know it might not be for everyone, but the subtle details, cast, and story was interesting. I would give it an 8 out of 10.
Friendships are wonderful little things. Anyone can form friendships with anybody. Maybe they have similar interests and/or backgrounds. Maybe they have some similarities and differences and those differences do not hinder a healthy friendship.
Friendships can be found anywhere. School. Work. At the park and so on. Even online. So long as people can interact with each other, friendships can be made. You’ll even find friendships in media, be it shows like Degrassi, movies like The Outsiders, or books like Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.
The point is, friendships can be found anywhere and everywhere. They are a significant relationship in everyday life, and can be with anyone.
Now, there are a lot of friendships in media that people will know of and/or enjoy. A few examples include, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson from Sherlock Holmes, Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck and Peregrin “Pippin” Took from Lord of the Rings, Samwise “Sam” Gamgee and Frodo Baggins from Lord of the Rings, Han Solo and Chewbacca from Star Wars, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and Flash (Barry Allen), and Woody and Buzz from Toy Story.
If there’s one friendship that might not get as talked about, especially outside of the X-Men sphere, it’s the friendship between Logan (Wolverine) and Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler). Compared to the likes of the Scott, Jean, and Logan trifecta, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver), Mystique, Rogue, and Destiny, Mystique and Kurt, and the Erik and Charles friendship, this might not be a relationship people think about when someone says “X-Men relationships”.
So I thought I would take the time to discuss what I believe one of the best friendships in comics. These two have such a close friendship and is one that should be appreciated for what it is. Because even with how different these
Isn’t that just a passionate quote? And it really says a lot about how people view Logan and just how different Kurt was in that regard. This quote also says a lot about being human, something both characters have an odd relationship with.
But what does it mean to be human? That’s something that can cause confusion or understanding depending on how you approach the question.
There’s the physical/biological side, where one would be able to identify the differences between say a human and a panda for instance. Or in the case of Science Fiction and comics, the differences between human and alien. Some aliens look human, but have superhuman abilities (Superman) and those that don’t (Martian Manhunter) and have different abilities and anatomy.
In a metaphorical sense, ‘being human’ can refer to imperfections or emotions. As the old saying goes, ‘nobody’s perfect’ and that seems to be synonymous with being human. And the emotional side of it refers to how, as human, people are supposed to have emotions. People are not robots and emotions are a key factor into that.
For X-Men, and more specifically Logan and Kurt, being human seems to refer to how good/kind hearted/pure a person is. And despite mutants being, well mutants, they are as human as anyone else. And considering X-Men was inspired by and originally an allegory for the Civil Rights Movement, being released on ’63, its safe to say that a feeling of being human is prevalent for this series.
And in the case of Logan and Kurt, being human has a double meaning. Both characters are known for being human (pure/integral or in appearance) in one sense and monsters in others (appearance and actions).
Logan: Human in Appearance, Animalistic in Nature
Starting with Logan, one would say he looks generally human. Barring the adamantium skeleton and claws. He could pass for human more so than Kurt, not even needing an image inducer to do so. When it comes to looking human, Logan certainly passes the appearance portion, much like a great number of other mutants. It’s only when the claws are drawn when he doesn’t.
But on the inside , he would be considered a monster. A man with a violent streak, who isn’t afraid to kill and with a berserk mean streak, it easy to see why people would be more scared of him and see him as a monster. And Logan knows it. He also has a more cynical world view. And while not inherently bad, it may make approaching him that much harder.
Kurt: Demonic in Appearance, Saintly at Heart
For Kurt, it’s the exact opposite. Being labeled as a monster and a demon were things that he grew up with. He was drugged by the circus, abandoned as a baby, even chased by a mob when they thought he killed some kids despite only killing his adopted brother in self-defense and a promise (if his adopted brother ever went insane, he promised to do whatever it took to stop him).
Yet, Kurt is the most pure hearted mutant out there. Logan even went as far as to say Kurt was the closest thing to a saint there is. While maybe not perfect, he is a wonderful human being. And that’s even more apparent when you consider who his parents are. He represents never judging people based on their appearances.
Time and time again, they show that there is good in them. Even if Logan is harsher in his methods, he does have a kinder side. And Kurt, despite looking like he would hunt someone down and kill them, has a heart of gold.
Logan and Kurt
For them, being human is less of a feeling of normalcy, but something that shows how good they are as people. That while having faults and at times making not great choices, they are no less human than the average person and deserve respect.
Seeing their humanity is something that makes their friendship worthwhile. In a world where people’s humanity can be forgotten at times, friendships like these can help humanize people. That’s not to say that everything that criminals have done should be sympathized with, and that certain actions are inexcusable. Merely that the average person is human and should be understood, and sometimes it can be easy to forget a person’s humanity in the heat of a moment. And that’s what this friendship can symbolize.
This ties in with the previous point, but in regards to how well both characters understand each other and respect their humanity. Humanity and psychology is something that’s noted when it comes to Logan and Kurt, but it’s not always understood. Not every X-Men will have as deep of an understanding as these two do as friends. Even less so for the average non-mutant. There are a few people who have a general understanding of the two and why they are the way they are.
One example would be Storm. When Kurt died, she understood that Logan was grieving despite disapproving that his anger was getting the better of him with some of the students. Yes, he shouldn’t have been on the offensive when they were just trying to light some candles, but she knew he was grieving and that he thought they were taking Kurt’s belongings. She also understood Logan wishing he had killed more people if it meant Kurt lived. Even if it meant this moment would have been their last. She also understood where Kurt was coming from when dealing with a case with a child and demons. He was taking his time, but understood why he was.
Out of the two, Kurt would probably be considered the morally pure of them. Not just because he’s Catholic and that somehow gives him higher morality (people can be kind hearted whether they are religious or not), but because his character has always been presented as forgiving, kind hearted, and wanting to understand. Him being Catholic may be part of the reason, but not the only reason.
That doesn’t mean he is without flaws. Like everyone else, he’s not perfect. He has flaws and has made mistakes.
His biggest personal struggle comes in the form of his trauma growing up and showing his true colors. Because the mob was so intent on killing him, and the circus treating him as less than human, being self conscious about his appearance is reasonable.
Logan, meanwhile, is the more pragmatic of the two. Having lived for more than a century, it should be no surprise that he views the world more coldly. He experienced wars starting with the Civil War, was experimented on, suffered losses, and was used as a government tool.
That’s not to say that he isn’t a good person in some ways. He may choose to kill, but his motive is not one of malicious intent or animalistic desires (anymore).
Like Kurt he has his own internal struggles. His memory being one. Being treated as an animal and experimented on is another. The world he was exposed to makes him a lot more cynical and the horrors he’s seen traumatic. Yet, it’s being treated and perceived as an animal that really strikes a nerve. Logan knows he’s done a lot of things in his life, some that can be more rationalized than others. And while part of him may be used to the reactions he gets, he seems to have this drive to prove he’s not some animal that kills for nothing.
Some people may be able to understand their plight, however, the people who seem to understand the most about Kurt and Logan is Logan and Kurt. There’s at least one instance for each that stand out (though there are more). Wolverine (2003) #6 and Classic X-Men #4 The Big Dare.
Wolverine #6 (2003) by Greg Rucka
In Wolverine #6 (2003), when discussing how Logan killed twenty seven men to rescue hostages of a cult, Kurt tries to understand the reasoning behind it. He wasn’t looking for an excuse, but to better understand of Logan’s situation. He argues that had Logan acted in malice by killing innocent people, Logan would become the very thing he hated, and Kurt would try to stop him.
However, if the men needed to be punished for their evils, they got what they got what they deserved. Considering what Logan witnessed, justified would be pretty accurate. Kurt then uses a wolf allegory, asking if a wolf is evil for culling the sickness out of a heard. Said allegory can be interpreted as wolves not being evil for plucking off the weakest link. Or in the case of Logan, how killing the sicknesses (evils) of the world he is not evil for doing so. Probably a little bit of both.
After having time to think it over, Logan states how he’s not an animal, to which Kurt affirms that he isn’t. Because while Kurt’s allegory was metaphorical, one of Logan’s struggles is being seen as an animal. Something he has issue with in the past. Kurt knows this and has never once seen Logan as an animal (confirmed by Logan at Kurt’s funeral).
This shows how understanding, in this case Kurt, can be. Having an understanding of people is something worth having. Especially in friendships. Even if agreement isn’t always in sight, understanding and respecting friends is something worth knowing. And while there are lines, it never hurts to better understand another person.
The Big Dare (Classic X-Men #4, 1986)
One notable way that Logan accepts Kurt’s humanity comes in the form of The Big Dare. While he would later go on to say that Kurt is the closest thing to a saint there is, it’s this issue that cements their friendship while also trying to help Kurt get more comfortable walking around as his true self. Blue fur, tail, and all.
So Logan dares Kurt to walk around a town they were in without his image inducer. Note that he did not inherit Mystique’s shapeshifting, so he uses an image inducer to blend in. Logan wasn’t being malicious in doing so. He is well aware of how people treated Kurt in his past and doesn’t berate Kurt for hiding because of it. Logan just wants Kurt to be confident in his own skin, and to do so, needs to get comfortable being around people without hiding his appearance. Which is also gets brought up in the previously cited Wolverine issue.
Kurt agrees, and is surprised when most people seem unbothered by his appearance. Compared to the mob who attacked him, most people were either unfazed or curious about Kurt’s appearance, not malicious in either case. The only exception was with a gentleman who, upon realizing Kurt wasn’t wearing a costume, was going to attack Kurt. Logan retaliates by tackling the guy and going on the offensive, to the point Kurt has to separate the two.
Even though there was a bump in the trial, Kurt appreciated what Logan did for him and Logan replies with, ‘what are friends for?’ So not only does this issue confirm their friendship, but shows how having Kurt walk around as himself helped Kurt gain some confidence with it back.
Logan does this to help Kurt accept the part of himself he’s had to hide. He questions how Kurt expects to be accepted when even he won’t accept himself. There are things in life and relationships that will have to be accepted. Why that’s important in a friendship is because, whether it be a boundary, a limit, or what have you , being able to accept who you are is important. And sometimes it’s a friend that can helps you see it.
Both characters have died. Both have been revived. The reason I bring up death in regards to their friend is how they approached the others’ deaths. It was never brushed aside, even with how meaningless death can be in comics at time, they grieved, and they never forgot how impactful they were.
Now Logan has died a few more times than Kurt has, with the whole soul shenanigans that rendered Kurt nigh-immortal. But that’s not to say Kurt never grieved over the loss of Logan. While I may not have read every Logan death, one that sticks out as far as Kurt grieving is in Nightcrawler #7 (2014). This series picks up after Kurt’s revival at the beginning of 2013’s Amazing X-Men.
About half way through this short lived series (issue #7 from what I recall), readers get to see Kurt processing the death of Kurt. And though we do not get to see Kurt shedding any tears, we do get to see how he processes the loss via an internal conversation. In a similar way to Logan, he wonders what he could have done differently to prevent his death, but with the added acceptance/hindsight to know that there was nothing he could do.
Using Jean as a comparison, readers get to see how Logan’s death hurt him. He’s a good friend to Jean, and did miss and grieve for her, but the fact that he admits that losing Logan in the present, hurt so much more. That alone, goes to show how much he cares about Logan. And though expressed more than shown, it doesn’t need to paint a picture to know how good of friends they are. The last few decades already helped establish it. Though we would get little things here and there that references parts of their friendship. Like when he gives Old Man Logan a framed picture of himself, much like Logan had decades prior.
And then there’s Logan. When Kurt died while protecting Hope Summers, loss only begins to describe how much Kurt’s death effected him. He nearly attacked a student, thinking they were going to take stuff from his room when they were only going to leave a candle. He regrets not killing more people, feeling like if he had Kurt would be alive. He bitterly hopes that his sacrifice was worth it
But most of all, the connection they made is significant to Logan. Not many people have been close to Logan, whether it be out of fear of him or Logan generally being a loner. Logan has a hard time making connections with people, so when he loses one of the few people he has, it only makes sense that he’d be broken up about it.
While showing emotion between friends is always a good thing, how the characters express them is one thing. And while they might not always express their emotions to each other, they know them well enough to recognize it.
Logan is typically known for exhibiting one of three kinds of expressions. Hardened realist, gruff loner, and angry. He’s not one for expressing emotions a lot. Love seen in a few instances, and sadness even less. The usual picture viewers get to see is a stoic or angry character hardened by his life experiences.
That’s not to say that Logan is without any “softer” emotions. After all, he has had a few loves, almost marrying Mariko at one point. I can also think of emotions surrounding Kurt’s death that he exhibited. Guilt that he couldn’t prevent it. Sadness and anger as he tried to cope. The one tear shed when he was reunited with Kurt before they fought Azazel and Kurt was revived. He can be a little more open with Kurt, be it with his philosophy, thoughts or feelings.
Kurt, meanwhile, isn’t as closed off emotionally. He will get angry, flirty, and sad. And if there was one way he reacts that’s notable is his self-consciousness as a result of trauma. Usually, he tries to appear happy and friendly, but does experience negative emotions and dower moments.
So when he appears withdrawn and depressed, like after he was resurrected in Amazing X-Men or when he was unusually quiet in Nation X #1, it’s something Logan is able to pick up on. Not only that, but try to get to the bottom of what’s eating away at him.
They are able to read each other better than others might. Both know the other’s quirks and demeanor well enough to know when something is wrong. They also aren’t afraid to be open with each other.
It’s also worth noting that they aren’t afraid of things like contact. While Kurt is certainly much more approach able, scenes like the one pictured here show that they aren’t afraid to show how much they care. Or at the very least the writer’s and artists, aren’t afraid to express how deep of a friendship they have.
While not trying to overgeneralize male friendships as a whole, in media, I don’t think it’s wrong to say that it isn’t common for two guy friends to express certain emotions or ‘hug it out’. Unless it was played for comedic effect or the media allows it because of the content (like a drama or something). Of course, entertainment has evolved in a lot of ways, but typically, it’s more likely that viewers will see girl friends hugging than guys (with other gestures like fist bumps or something as an alternative).
So little moments like Wolverine and Nightcrawler hugging in purgatory upon being reunited, while not groundbreaking, are moments that can be appreciated.
I conclude with a discussion on why the friendship between Wolverine and Nightcrawler is important. I’ve gone over a few reasons why/how it works, so I will only recap those briefly, while also adding a few more comments.
In summary, the fact that these two characters are complete opposites, can understand their quirks, and do have genuine emotional reactions with each other, especially when the other dies, Logan and Kurt make for an iconic duo. They might not always agree or share the same beliefs, but they respect/understand them.
With that said allow me to close out with one last question…
What Makes Their Friendship so Important?
One thing that has been consistent about X-Men is it’s message of acceptance. Being created during the Civil Right’s Movement, it’s easy to see why it would be. And when compared to DC, some people may consider Marvel a bit more relatable (though that’s not to say DC doesn’t have relatability whatsoever). Of course, given the nature of comics and superheroes as a genre, they aren’t as relatable on a technical level, but readers may be able to relate to Peter Parker as an everyday Joey was compared to billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne.
Circling back to X-Men, it’s safe to say that acceptance is it’s biggest symbol/theme. Not only that, but it is a theme that is timeless and will always be relatable. That’s something that make X-Men as timeless as it is. Because beneath the adamantium claws, teleporting, and psionic prowess, are characters who fight for acceptance and equality.
Acceptance is also a big factor in Wolverine and Kurt’s friendship. Both characters have the hardest time being accepted by others. A big factor of that comes down to perception and how people could fear someone as violent and cold as Logan or as demonic looking as Kurt. Both deal with their fair share of grief and panic from the masses.
Yet, somehow, when these two are put on a team, they almost instantly connect. Logan quickly comes up with a nickname for Kurt (Elf) and Kurt isn’t immediately discourage by Logan’s gruff nature. Both characters are considered monsters by their peers, the average person, yet somehow found each other and connected. Kurt was the first to learn Logan’s name, and Logan the first to push Kurt towards self-acceptance.
The weight of the world’s perceived disdain with them creates a sense of loneliness. Yet, that distance created a relatability and spark between them. Both characters needed someone who could understand them. Someone who wasn’t afraid of them. Someone who cared about who they were as people. And that is exactly what they got when they met each other.
That’s what gives this friendship such an impact. When the rest of the world was against them, they found each other, saw the best in each other, and proved that neither were as monstrous as people made them out to be. They saw them as the people they were and accepted each other for who they were.
Nightcrawler. Kurt Wagner. Demon. Elf. Several ways to name this member of the second class of X-Men. Though not as popular as his teammates, Wolverine and Storm, Nightcrawler is a character that is typically appreciated and enjoyed by just about anyone.
If there’s one thing I like about Kurt, it’s that he shows how he opposes every assumption and expectation that’s given to him in order to be heroic and kind hearted. I also enjoy how he seems to be a walking irony. Irony is a term that generally has a difficult time explaining itself, which can sometimes result in misusing it in daily situations.
Irony: When someone says or does something that is the opposite of what is norm. A literary device where contradictory statements or situations coincide when it normally wouldn’t. A humorous tool depending on the situation/statement.
Defining irony is hard. As is having a proper example. I had to look at several explanations so I could properly define it as simply as possible. The problem with defining irony and expressing it is that people may use irony incorrectly in place of coincidence (two coworkers wearing the same shirt on the same day, running into someone several times at the supermarket, etc.). Not intentionally I would presume, but it happens. Both have very similar executions, but coincidences are merely unexpected turn of events, where as irony is usually a literary technic or situation where the exact opposite of an expectation happens in a singular instance.
Some easy examples include, a. A fire station burning down, b. telling a quiet group to not speak all at one, and c. delivering bad news with “good news…”
With the definition of irony now kind of set, you might be wondering…
What Does X-Men’s Nightcrawler have to do with Irony?
It has to do with the character himself. Anyone who is familiar with Nightcrawler will know that he typically exhibits the following traits:
His appearance: blue fur (as opposed to Mystique, who’s blue hue is her natural skin tone), three fingers and two toes, fangs, yellow irisless eyes, and a prehensile tail.
He grew up in the circus
He was born and raised in Bavaria, Germany
He’s had multiple romances, including Ororo Munroe (Storm) and Wanda Maximoff (Scarlett Witch)
His mother is Mystique, the iconic shapeshifter and known adversary to the X-Men
His father is Azazel, a demonic mutant
Rogue is his adopted sister
He is often referred to as a demon among non-mutants, but to people who know him, as saintly and kind hearted as they come
There are two ways that this fuzzy blue elf fits into an ironic architype. That being his demonic appearance vs his Catholic roots and the fact that he comes from two morally questionable parents, yet is seen as one of the purest characters.
The Irony of Being a “Demonic” Catholic
“What does it look like?” -Kurt “Incongruitous. I guess I never figured you for the religious type.” -Logan
Uncanny X-Men #164 Binary Star (December 1982)
While Kurt would be categorized as a mutant (though how they define Azazel’s whole biblical demon shtick can get a little murky at times), there has been multiple instances where people would call him a demon. For instance, when he first met Charles Xavier, he was being chased by a mob who thought he was a demon.
As the series would go on, readers would find out that Kurt Wagner is a devout Catholic, who took the last name of a priest who protected him when he escaped the circus. This would become one of his defining traits and he never uses it as a way to make himself feel like he’s better than anyone else. In fact, it’s one of several differences that he has with Logan, his best friend, and they have a mutual understanding and respect for why the other believe what they believe.
His religious beliefs, coupled with his appearance would be a perceived irony as well as a literal irony to some degree. Because he looks demonic, people might not expect that he is particularly religious, least of all a Catholic (or similar). A general observation/assumption would be that demons wouldn’t be known for practicing any form of faith, yet, Kurt shows that such perceptions can be false.
This is something Logan kind of notes when he finds Kurt praying. He didn’t really care, but he notes that he didn’t see Kurt being particularly religious, and seeing him pray felt out of place . Kurt, wondering if it had to do with how he looks goes on to mention how he doesn’t get to church often, more than likely because of how he appears, but finds comfort in pray and his beliefs.
“Why, don’t I look the part? I’ll admit I’m rarely seen at a church — but I draw comfort from my beliefs and from prayer. Such comfort is dearly needed — by us all…” -Kurt
Uncanny X-Men #164 Jan. 1983
Logan doesn’t question it, but does tell Kurt why he isn’t particularly religious when Kurt suggests he tries praying. Like his friend, Kurt accepts Logan’s position, but notes how it must be lonely. Logan says he isn’t lonely, he has Kurt.
This scene shows how ironic/odd Kurt appears as someone who looks like he does while being Catholic as well as giving a respectful approach to their differing religious beliefs.
The Situational and Genetic Irony of Kurt’s Morality
If there is one aspect in Nightcrawler’s character that I would like to delve into has to do with his spirit and never falling to his past trauma. He is a character who, despite being given the worst deck in X-Men, manages to stay strong and not fall into darkness. If there is one thing that people seem to enjoy about Marvel and its characters, it’s the relatability and complexity characters have. While the same can be said for DC characters, it may be easier to enjoy or relate to a character. X-Men is a series that plays on that a lot, because the concept of unity and acceptance is something that people can relate to and each character has their own individual struggles alongside that. Even characters like Magneto may be considered antagonistic, can be easy to understand.
With that in mind, Kurt’s parents acts as both a struggle and an irony. Because both of his parents are more antagonistic, that would create some tension. And the face he wasn’t raised by either, shows how he may have had a better chance at making his own choices.
Mystique abandoned him as a newborn, throwing him over a cliff in some cases. She would later adopt Rogue. And despite coming around to him to some degree, she isn’t exactly winning any awards for being the best mother, even if her reason to abandon him had some validity to them. For her and Kurt, there isn’t much of a familial bond.
Azazel, on the other hand, only really wanted children to expand his legacy and return to Earth from the Brimstone Dimension (that little pocket dimension Kurt goes to when bamf-ing). For Azazel, Kurt’s existence was to justify his need. And while some sources say that Mystique was the only woman Azazel loved, where Kurt fits is anyone’s guess.
Of course, this is about irony and not Nightcrawler’s family quarrels. However a little context never hurt.
What makes Kurt and his family dynamic ironic is when you consider both parents would be considered morally suspect and Kurt being the exact opposite. One might think the old saying “evil breeds evil” would apply to this situation, or at the very least, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Mystique and Azazel’s child was corrupt.
So when their child ends up being one of the least corrupt characters in the franchise, it says a lot. While readers could look at this as two negatives creating a positive, which I could see as well, I think irony suits their morality dynamic very well. And while his upbringing with a mother who wasn’t Mystique, this kind of genetic/situational irony could work in an instance where he was raised by Mystique.
One example that came to mind was Kovu from the second Lion King movie. He was raised by Zira to follow in Scar’s footsteps. She spent years raising him to hate Simba and to take him down. Becoming like Scar and taking over Pride Rock was a big driving force for his character. Yet, as he infiltrated Simba’s pride and connected with Kiara and Simba, Kovu ends up not becoming like his adopted father and instead becoming his own lion and a better character.
Kurt becoming the opposite of what his parents were, much like Kovu, is a notable example of irony in a situation/genetic irony setting.
Irony is a hard thing to define or give example of. It’s tricky and confusing, but with enough practice, something that can be made easier. Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, is a perfect example of irony. His evil appearance matched with his Catholic upbringing and kind hearted nature coupled with him becoming the opposite of what his parents are on the morality scale are great examples of it.