X-Men Keeps Screwing Up Consent When It Comes to Jean Grey

WARNING: spoilers for X-Men #5!

The Uncanny X-Men have no shortage of world-class telepaths who navigate the murky ethics of mental manipulation, but with the one and only Jean Grey, Marvel Comics can’t stop dropping the ball when it comes to consent. Marvel Girl may be a hero, but lately, she’s been crossing more than a few telepathic lines, and the X-Men aren’t doing enough about it.

While X-Men comics frequently engage with the morality of different superpowers and the unique power imbalances present in the Marvel Universe, for some reason creators seem to have a blind spot when it comes to Jean. The character’s actions in X-Men #5 by Gerry Duggan, Javier Pina, and Zé Carlos don’t do much to paint the character in a positive light, even as her fellow mutants seem to approve of her crossing boundaries.

Related: X-Men's Professor X Doesn't Actually Respect His Students

Featuring a flashback to Krakoa’s inaugural Hellfire Gala, this issue opens with Jean reading Polaris’ mind to see whether she intends to put herself forward for a vote on the new X-Men team. While Lorna’s wish initially reads as “just not me,” that doesn’t satisfy Jean, who reorganizes Polaris’ thoughts into “just pick me” and inducts Dr. Dane into the newest lineup of mutant heroes. Later in the issue, after a confrontation with the mutant-hunting Reavers, Polaris questions Jean Grey on her mental meddling without any apologies from Marvel Girl. When Polaris asks Jean why she made it onto the team despite her thoughts to the contrary, the telepath simply responds, “I went with your first impulse. Not the one where you talked yourself out of succeeding.” Polaris relents and tells Jean she was right, but at the end of the day, this is still a huge violation of her agency. Though Lorna may have eventually regretted doubting herself, her X-Men membership was still her decision to make, and yet Jean used her telepathy to essentially draft Polaris under the premise that it’s what she needed.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Jean Grey has used her psychic abilities to blur the issue of consent. After all, it was a teenage Jean Grey who outed one of her fellow X-Men, Iceman, in All-New X-Men #40, when the time-displaced first X-Men team found their way to the present. As in X-Men #5, lip service is paid to Jean's bad behavior, but it's ultimately treated as if she’s helping Bobby come to terms with himself, rather than violating his privacy and forcing him into an intensely personal situation he doesn't feel ready for.

Fans saw an even more extreme version of this in New X-Men #139, where Jean took revenge on Emma for her psychic affair with Cyclops by subjecting her to a tour of her most traumatic moments, such as the deaths of her students. While her behavior is treated as cruel, it's also quickly forgotten, and the run later sees Jean reach back through time to push Cyclops into altering the course of his life by remaining with the X-Men and beginning a real relationship with Emma - heroically preventing a dystopian timeline by once again overriding another hero's right to choose for themselves.

For some reason, when it comes to Jean Grey, Marvel just can’t seem to navigate consent with delicacy or introspection. Fans are simply expected to judge Marvel Girl on the consequences of her actions, not the principles behind her superior power. Marvel Girl is a definite hero and a fan-favorite X-Man, but her powers put her in a dangerous position. While the character may have the best intentions at heart, that doesn’t justify her growing pattern of behavior that goes not only against traditional heroic standards, but simple standards of human decency as well. Hopefully, Marvel Comics can get a handle on Jean Grey’s characterization and powers before she manipulates even more X-Men.

Next: X-Men Prove They're Better Heroes Than the Avengers (Even to Humans)

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