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Do Marvel Teen Shows Send the Right Messages About Consent?


Marvel's Runaways (Hulu) and Cloak and Dagger (Freeform) casts

As a sexual violence prevention educator, I’ve watched the Marvel Comics-based, teen-centered TV exhibits with added curiosity. Hulu’s Runaways, Fox’s The Gifted, and Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger all function teenage protagonists, and the storylines have been already very compelling to me, however seeing the three collection cope with problems with consent and the violation of sexual boundaries gave me one other robust cause to tune in.

That’s very true as a result of I’ve labored principally with teenagers and younger adults, two teams that type a big portion of those exhibits’ audiences. It’s necessary in my work to maintain up with the messages that popular culture sends to younger individuals about sexual harassment, assault, and rape. Did these collection do a very good job with that? Right here’s what I discovered.


marvel runaways cast for Hulu

(picture: Hulu)

Hulu’s Runaways addresses consent very immediately, depicting the close to rape of certainly one of the essential characters. There are a number of different situations of sexual interplay amongst the present’s teenage leads, however whether or not it’s on-screen kisses or off-screen intercourse, all appear to have the prepared consent of each companions.

The tried rape clearly doesn’t. The horrible act takes place at an enormous home get together, which has the stereotypical parts: a crowd of younger individuals dancing, loud music pumping, alcohol flowing, and medicines altering arms.

As the candy and harmless Karolina arrives, a male stranger provides her a capsule, saying it’s going to “set you free.” It’s a roofie, a drug used to render a sufferer unconscious so he or she may be raped. After she collapses on the dance flooring, two males drag her limp physique upstairs to a bed room, closing the door behind them.

Karolina’s pal Chase sees this and acknowledges immediately what is occurring. The 2 guys are his faculty lacrosse teammates, and as he bursts into the room, he sees that they’ve begun to take off her garments. He bodily intervenes, and even begins throwing punches. The would-be rapists bolt, and after Karolina returns to a foggy consciousness, he helps her again down the stairs.

Chase’s actions type a principally constructive instance of what violence prevention educators name bystander intervention. That occurs when an individual notices conduct amongst others that seems to presage an assault or rape, and he or she intervenes to maintain the state of affairs from additional deteriorating.

But Chase’s intervention isn’t wholly constructive. Punching his teammates with a purpose to shield Karolina makes for dramatic TV, however in actual life, the place the escalation of violence makes a state of affairs rather more harmful, it will have been smarter for Chase to have tried one thing else. For instance, he might have threatened to name 911 on his teammates, after which executed it in the event that they blew him off. He might even have referred to as individuals in the hallway over for assist, yelling, “Rape!” Each programs of motion might have been efficient.

I’m not saying that bodily violence isn’t an choice to cease another person from getting harm, however as a result of it considerably escalates the hazard for each the bystander and the initially meant sufferer, it needs to be a very final resort.

Should you’ve seen the episode, you already know that, as Chase drives Karolina from the get together, she throws away the roofie. It seems that she hadn’t collapsed as a result of the capsule knocked her out; she had turn into bodily overwhelmed by the new expertise of her alien powers!

So Runaways might have proven a wiser technique of bystander intervention, nevertheless it sends the proper messages about sexual boundaries.


fox the gifted cast x-men mutants

(picture: Fox)

In distinction to Runaways, The Gifted addresses sexual violence in a really oblique method. The truth is, there aren’t any situations in its first season through which one character tries to sexually pressure himself or herself onto one other, however 4 of the present’s characters incessantly use their powers of thoughts manipulation to get different characters to do what they need. There are robust, unmistakable parallels to real-world sexual consent, or the lack thereof.

One instance considerations the three villainous Frost sisters. At one level, they exert thoughts management on a whole group of regulation enforcement brokers and army personnel, inflicting them to kill one another and themselves. It’s horrifying to observe.

The extra difficult instance of boundary violation includes Sonya Simonson, a.okay.a. Dreamer, a member of the heroic Mutant Underground. Her energy is the means to control the reminiscences of others, enabling her to see what they noticed and to even implant false reminiscences. At one level, she’s pressured to abort her studying of a federal agent’s reminiscences, inflicting him to overlook the final a number of years of his life. Her mutant means is controversial even amongst her fellow mutants.

Her battle with new Mutant Underground member Clarice Fong (additionally referred to as Blink) builds up over a number of episodes. Early in the collection, with a view to assist Clarice use her energy to save lots of mutant chief John Proudstar (nicknamed Thunderbird), Sonya implants a false reminiscence in her thoughts with out asking for permission. Particularly, Sonya causes Clarice to “remember” her passionate kisses with John—kisses that really passed off between John and Sonya.

dreamer gives blink a memory in the gifted

(picture: Fox)

John’s life is saved, however Clarice has all types of psychological and emotional difficulties afterward. Her sleep is significantly disturbed, and she or he feels a robust disconnect between what she “remembers” of John and his precise aloofness from her.

Ultimately, Clarice confronts Sonya:

CLARICE: (angrily) I can’t go ten minutes with out this reminiscence of John coming again to me. I’m asking you straight up, did you mess with my head?

SONYA: (defensively) You couldn’t use your talents. Johnny was in hassle, and in the event you have been gonna assist, you—you wanted a connection to him.

CLARICE: You had no proper! Have been you ever gonna inform me?

SONYA: Look, I do know that you simply’re indignant, however it’s a must to perceive, individuals’s lives have been at stake.

CLARICE: (livid) I don’t have to know something! What you do is flawed! You determined that you simply wanted to repair me, and now I get to reside with the reminiscence of loving somebody I barely know. Somebody who doesn’t love me!

Nothing Sonya says can persuade Clarice that what she did was justifiable, even to protect lives.

Sarcastically, Clarice later asks Sonya to assist a younger mutant woman, Norah, to overlook a very traumatic reminiscence. Norah is unable to sleep as a result of she witnessed the brutal homicide of her foster mother and father, who have been attacked when the authorities discovered they have been as soon as Clarice’s personal foster mother and father. Clarice feels accountable, and Sonya obliges.

To the extent that Sonya’s thoughts manipulation has an undesirable impact on others, the story clearly demonstrates the nice hurt her actions trigger. Just like acts of sexual violence, Sonya’s energy allows her to enter the intimate area of one other individual uninvited, to devastating impact.

In fact, the analogy between thoughts manipulation and sexual violence breaks down as a result of Sonya’s energy also can assist one other individual, because it does for Norah. Sexual violence, on the different hand, by no means has something however adverse penalties for everybody concerned.

So, The Gifted addresses consent not directly, and it does nicely to point out that violating private boundaries causes nice injury, however the variations between fictional thoughts manipulation and real-world sexual consent imply we will solely take the comparability thus far.


marvel cloak and dagger freeform

The newest of the three collection, Cloak & Dagger, does look at sexual consent by way of the direct strategy of Runaways, portraying sexual encounters, nevertheless it additionally employs the oblique tack of The Gifted, utilizing psychic powers as a roundabout technique of addressing boundary points. Let’s take a look at its direct strategy first.

The collection’ dramatization of sexual boundaries principally exhibits constructive encounters during which each companions appear to be absolutely assenting. The truth is, in a single scene, consent is explicitly requested for and given.

In that interplay, Tyrone (a.okay.a. Cloak) and his girlfriend, Evita, are kissing, and because it’s turning into extra intense, she giggles. Tyrone stops and asks if she needs him to decelerate. She says she doesn’t, explicitly saying, “Green light.”

Due to the work I do, I’m so glad for this dialogue! It fashions the sort of communication about boundaries that we would like individuals to make use of.

The present additionally dramatizes a transparent act of sexual violence. Tandy (the Dagger of the collection’ title) is attacked by a person whom she had beforehand met at a celebration. As he overpowers her and unbuckles his pants, her panic causes her very first dagger of sunshine to type in her hand. When it does, it stabs him, wounding him significantly and enabling her to flee.

tandy holds a light dagger in marvel's cloak and dagger

(picture: Freeform)

The story then takes a real-life flip, when the detective working the tried rape case tells Tandy that the man has been launched and that she gained’t be capable of press costs. It’s in line with what we find out about sexual assault and rape—that such crimes are massively underreported, and solely a fraction of these go to trial. Justice is served a lot lower than it ought to be.

Addressing consent not directly, Cloak & Dagger exhibits Tyrone and Tandy gaining powers harking back to thoughts manipulation. For many of the first season, they’re solely capable of see into the psyches of people who they bodily contact. Tyrone is ready to see individuals’s fears; Tandy sees their hopes.

The 2 of them truly speak a number of occasions about the ethics of utilizing these talents with out consent. Tandy seems like she wants to make use of no matter she will to her benefit. Tyrone is extra reluctant, questioning in the event that they’re violating others’ boundaries. Greater than as soon as, he discourages Tandy from deliberately using this energy.

As their talents develop, they study not solely can they see others’ hopes and fears, however they will additionally work together with them. On one event, they use that means to heal a person who has been in a catatonic state for eight years, however Tandy additionally makes use of these powers to unfavorable impact. She begins getting into the hopes of others and “taking” these hopes for herself, getting an emotional and bodily excessive in the course of. The opposite individual is left indignant and even considerably violent.

Tandy’s willingness to violate private boundaries is definitely a constant theme in her life. Dwelling on her personal in an deserted church, she supplies for herself principally via theft. Her modus operandi: She is going to ceaselessly get wealthy younger males to take her again to their houses, the place she’ll slip roofies into their drinks. As soon as they’re unconscious, she is going to, in her phrases, “jack them of their rich kid stuff” and promote it for money.

It’s ironic that medicine so typically used to sexually victimize younger ladies develop into Tandy’s personal weapons towards males. The storyline of season one exhibits that she’s making an attempt to go away that life behind, however struggling to take action. General, the collection portrays her violations of consent, each via her psychological energy and roofies, in a unfavourable mild. It’s the proper message for the present to convey.

And utilizing the direct strategy of dramatizing sexual boundaries, Cloak & Dagger does an excellent job of modeling consent in a number of scenes, particularly Tyrone’s and Evita’s makeout session. It additionally illustrates, via the investigation into Tandy’s attacker, that assault survivors regularly don’t get justice via the courts.

So do Runaways, The Gifted, and Cloak & Dagger ship the proper messages to their audiences about consent? By and enormous, they do, each immediately and not directly. So whether or not you’re binge-watching to catch up, otherwise you’re seeing every episode because it’s launched, take the alternative to debate with different viewers how the exhibits cope with private boundaries, particularly in a sexual context. In our age of #MeToo, the three teen-centric TV collection based mostly on Marvel comics give us an abundance of fabric to advertise relationships constructed on the communication of consent and a mutual respect for each other.

(featured picture: Hulu & Freeform)

Eugene Hung has labored in nonprofit and better schooling as a ladies’s rights activist and a violence prevention educator. He presently speaks round the nation on those self same points, in addition to on issues of racial justice. Along with The Mary Sue, he has additionally written for HuffPost, Sojourners, and Christians for Biblical Equality, and he blogs at

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