I recently read Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park. It’s a fine read! The story is about two high school kids in the 1986 who end up sharing a seat on the school bus. They bond over comics and music, eventually falling in love.
If you are looking for a good book for a thirteen/fourteen year old girl. I would strongly recommend this book. As an adult I don’t much care for first love stories, but it’s not for me. I get it, I just don’t like it.
So why did I title this review Eleanor & Park & The X-Men? As I said, one of the things Eleanor and Park bond over is comics. As a fan of the Chris Clarmont era of X-Men, I have some nerd girl issues.
If you only came to check out my thoughts on Rainbow Rowell’s book, you got it. The rest of this is a nit-picky nerd girl rant about the way this book portrays the X-Men.
I’m going to go through every exchange Eleanor and Park have about the X-Men:
It kind of reminded Park of the way artists drew Jean Grey sometimes when she’s using her telepathy, with her eyes all blacked out and alien. (34)
Either Park misremembered the epic Phoenix saga, or he doesn’t read X-Men, Now I’ve never read X-Factor so maybe the artist there gave Jean Grey black eyes, but I’ve read Chris Clarmont’s Uncanny X-Men and the only thing I’ve ever seen that was even close to what Park is describing was when her eyes burn yellow with the Phoenix force. The X-Men films gave Jean black eyes for Phoenix, but I doubt Park is supposed to be a time traveler.
“I love the X-Men. But I hate Cyclops.”
He whipped his head back. “You can’t hate Cyclops. He’s team captain.” (59)
No he’s not Park! As of January 1986 Storm was team leader. Based on the timing of this conversation in the book, it must be around November. How do you not know this Park? The January issue was all about Storm kicking Scott off the team! Cyclops wasn’t even with the X-Men for the rest of the 1980’s he was part of X-Factor. Now, Scott was the leader of X-Factor, so maybe that’s what he means.
Even so, Scott did walk out on his wife and son to join X-Factor, so it’s not weird to hate him for that.
Frankly Rowell, you missed a character moment here since part of Eleanor’s back story is that her dad walked out.
“So Psylocke is another girl telepath?” . . .
“Why do the X-Men need another girl telepath?”(63)
What are you talking about Eleanor? This conversation takes place before Christmas. Psylocke didn’t debut as Psylocke until the October 1986 issue of New Mutants. Psylocke wasn’t part of any team, but she did end up going to the Xavior school at the end of that issue, and she appeared in the November X-Men, so I guess that’s what your reading? Now maybe Parks been reading both X-Men and New Mutants (and X-Factor apparently), in which case he’s just needlessly confusing a newbie.
Even if Park is reading all the X-Men offshoots, here’s my big question: Whose the other telepath Eleanor is referring too? Her frustration at “Another” means there must be at least one other on the same team as Psylocke right? So who is it? Karma? Does mind control count? Mirage? no, she just creates illusions. Jean Grey? She was dead, then she was with X-Factor. Emma Frost? A villain! Rachel Summers? Maybe, but still, she and Psylocke weren’t technically part of the same team.
“The girls are all so stereotypical girly and passive. Half of them just think really hard, like that’s their superpower, thinking. And Shadowcat’s power is even worse, she just disappears.”
Let me go over the female X-Men (and New Mutants) in 1986 so I can explain just how stupid this statement is:
Jean Grey – original member of the X-Men. Telepathic / telekinetic. Spent most the the 1980s dead. I’ll give you that she’s a bit of a girly-girl. She’s always been written as a nurturing person. Heaven forbid we give characters likable qualities.
Karma – original team leader of New Mutants, Vietnam war refugee, and rape survivor. Karma’s mutant power allows her to mind control other people. She gave herself the name “Karma” after loosing control of her powers and accidentally killing her twin brother.
Mirage – She can create illusions of people’s fears. The first illusion she created was her own greatest fear: Her parent’s violent deaths. When her parent’s later went missing, Mirage blamed herself.
Magik – Kid sister of Colossus, Magik can teleport. oh, and she was stuck in limbo for years where learned to control powerful magic, because what else are you going to do in Limbo?
Magma – Caught in a power struggle in her home country, Magma was thrown into a volcano as a human sacrifice. She didn’t die. turns out she can control geothermal forces, even turning her body into magma. She’s like a gooey Human Torch!
Rachel Summers – Alternate reality daughter of Scott and Jean. Telepathic / telekinetic. Saved her brother’s life by leaping into the time stream.
Storm – While people ignorant of mutants often hunt down mutants as demons, Storm get worshiped as a goddess! While Storm was powerless for a while in the 80’s she is still a bad-ass hand-to-hand fighter.
Shadowcat – A trained ninja (because 80s) who can walk through walls.
Rouge – Can absorb thoughts and abilities from others just by touching them. In the 1980s she touched Carol Danvers for so long that Danvers fell into a coma and Rouge seamed to have absorbed her powers permanently.
Stereotypical girly?! What about these ladies is stereotypical to you?
“. . . You’re forgetting Storm.”
“I’m not forgetting Storm. She controls the weather with her head; it’s still just thinking. Which is about all she could do in those boots.” (64)
Again, Storm was powerless and the leader of the X-Men at this point.
“The X-Men aren’t sexist.”
“Are you trying to think of empowered X-Women?” Eleanor asked. “How about Dazzler? she’s a living disco ball.” (65)
Dazzler is truly, truly, truly outrageous! Dazzler IS the 1980s wrapped up in spandex and dipped in glitter. Dazzler is a side character, and in the world of X-Men she’s a pop-star who uses her powers to add a light show to her act. When the X-Men first met her in 1983, Dazzler was kind of cool because she didn’t want to join the X-Men since she was doing her own thing.
“the White Queen? She thinks really hard while wearing spotless white lingerie” (65)
Again Emma Frost was a villain throughout the 1980’s! She was also one of the most important members of the HellFire Club. The code name “White Queen” should have told you that. She also runs the Massachusetts Academy a college preparatory school for mutants. As for the way she dresses. . . yeah, I think it’s safe to say Emma is a pro-sex feminist. Emma is a master manipulator, and the way she dresses is a part of that.
How did you lose this debate Park? Do you even read comics?! 1980’s X-Men absolutely passes the Bechtel test! Which, ironically, Eleanor & Park does not.