Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"Uncanny X-Men's" Bunn Addresses Psylocke's Racial Indentity

CBR: For the past 25 years, Psylocke has been one of the most prominent members of the X-Men -- and she's also been one of the most heavily discussed. In 1989's "Uncanny X-Men" #256, a new version of Psylocke was introduced when the white, British-born Betsy Braddock underwent a body swap with the Japanese assassin Kwannon. This iteration of the character, characterized as a psychic-knife wielding ninja, proved to be popular enough to become the default version of the character.

This hasn't set well with some fans who view the body swap, which switched the bodies of a white woman and Japanese woman, as plot device born of unintended ignorance at best or outright appropriate at worst. With Psylocke a mainstay in the X-Men, many readers wonder why the issue of Betsy's racial identity -- specifically the character's immediate appropriation of Asian culture following her body swap -- has never been thoroughly explored by an X-writer. Tumblr user tazirai posed this very question to Cullen Bunn, the writer responsible for writing Psylocke in this fall's new "Uncanny X-Men" series.

"I was wondering do you plan to ever address her 'problematics' with racial identity or lack thereof, or put her back in her original body, like some writers at Marvel have said they wanted to like GWW?" asked tazirai, referencing Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson. "Even if you don't I know she'll at least be written beyond the ninja trope, hopefully."

Bunn responded on his personal Tumblr: I’ll definitely do my best to write Psylocke as more than “just a ninja”. As to the “problematics” you mention, I’m torn. I would definitely like to address some of those notes. My X-Men notebook has pages dedicated to that idea. However, I also want the book to be accessible to new readers, so I don’t think it’s a good idea to hit that too heavily in early issues, you know? When it is the right time, I’ll tackle it.

Since it's been subjected to numerous retcons -- as well as one failed attempt by Psylocke co-creator Chris Claremont in 2001 to put her back in her original body -- Betsy Braddock's backstory has become one of the more convoluted in the X-canon. The new "Uncanny X-Men" series, written by Bunn with art by Greg Land, arrives this fall.

Note: G. Willow Wilson previously acknowledged Psylocke's racial problematics and desire to put her back in her original body here.


CmX said...

Bunn confirmed on twitter to someone who tweeted him to keep Psylocke Asian and he said something along the lines of.. "Don't worry it's not happening (any body switch)" and something like... "It's too complicated to go back to her old body"

Same tired excuse.

Alexander said...

If they wanted to, they could switch her back. It's a comic, there's always a way to unwritten/retcon anything even if it doesn't fully make since. Or else it wouldn't be a comic. In terms of her appropriating Asian culture, I had a similar discussion with a few friends at our local store about how she is at heart, a caucasian Brit, in an Asian body, usually always decked out in Asian themed styles. It does seem like appropriation especially if you consider all of Kwannon's personality was purged from her. Then there's that whole debate about Munn's casting & some people not knowing or being able to tell that she's half asian.

Tazirai said...

His twitter answer came before he answered my question with a non answer answer. I'm glad that it's been brought to people's attention and will likely be done so even more with the movie coming out.

Zak N said...

If they do switch her back to her original body, I'm hoping that it will be done in a way that makes sense; in other words, I hope it doesn't destroy the plot just for the sake of putting her back in her original body. I also hope she doesn't immediately revert back to her "old" personality just because she's back in her old body (I put 'old' in quotation marks because I've noticed that in recent years, Psylocke has had numerous moments where she really reflects her personality before the body swap.... I've become a big fan of "recent Psylocke"). Betsy has been through A LOT of troublesome experiences, and deserves something good in her life for once (like getting her old body back), but I just don't think it would make sense for her to be the same person that she was before the body swap, given all that's happened to her in the Asian body. As a person of Asian descent myself, I can confidently say that I don't find Psylocke's inhabiting of an Asian body racist at all, like many people have said. Yes, the ninja thing is stereotypical and the Asian themes often associated with Psylocke often imply cultural appropriation. But that doesn't necessarily mean racist. At least not to me. So I don't necessarily want her old body back for race/appropriation reasons.

So to sum everything up, if Psylocke were to go back to her original body, I think that would be a great thing for her, and could really add some awesomeness to her already very dynamic ongoing evolution. But it has to be done right in accordance with the plot, and the aftermath of its effects on Psylocke's current personality and shouldn't be too drastic. Continuity and plot are really important to me lol

Tazirai said...

Even if she never goes back. She does deserve some Good in her life. Girls gets the sh%t shaft so frequently.. She deserves an Otherworld vacation.