“I learned more about good and evil in that one day than I ever have before or since. I was thirteen. When I think about Evil, when I think about the concept of evil, yours is the face that I see. I don’t have to ‘watch you’, Miss Frost. I can smell you.”
—Kitty Pryde (Whedon 45-46)
“There are still X-Men in the future, so what does that tell you? [We fight for the] same thing we’ve always fought for…Not to die. We live to see tomorrow, maybe we’ll think up something more eloquent.”
—Kitty Pryde (Bendis 8)
Kitty Pryde—aka Sprite, aka Ariel, aka Shadowcat—has been a vital part of Marvel continuity since January 1980 when she first appeared in Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s Uncanny X-Men #129 (Wikipedia).
She’s also more than a little bit the textbook definition of a Mary Sue.
Which could be a good or a bad thing depending upon who’s interacting with Kitty’s story.
Despite what we talk about in fandom, there’s nothing actually default-wrong in a character who is a Mary Sue—they exist in real life after all; those people who are just too perfect to be real but, somehow, still are—it’s more the glorification and uncritical acceptance of the Mary Sue that’s a problem.
That Kitty Pryde was created by men and is, in a lot of ways, the fulfillment of male fantasy is a problem.
Yet calling Kitty just a Mary Sue or just a fulfillment of male fantasy also ignores that she’s stubborn and stuck-up, ridiculously naïve and ludicrously idealistic, fixated on boys and jealous of the way that other women look as well as, initially, being terrified of mutants whose mutations had caused their appearances to become markedly different—especially Neyaphem mutants like Kurt Wagner (aka Nightcrawler; Comic Vine).
There’s that uncritical acceptance of the Mary Sue: ignoring the flaws that the accused character possesses.
There’s also ignoring Kitty’s character growth where Kitty overcomes some of those more kyriarchical shortcomings and has all the women friends (and even comes to an equilibrium with Emma Frost, which is more than a minor miracle) and becomes very good friends with Kurt (Marvel Universe).
And, none of this makes Kitty any less bamf.
Kitty was the youngest mutant to ever be invited to join the X-Men, which she does at age 13, and is a genius with an affinity for computers—which makes a lot of sense for a character created in 1980 and who was a teenager—as well as an affinity for languages, and she has the ability to phase through objects and make herself insubstantial (Marvel Wikia).
Yet, mostly due to Kitty’s age when she enters Marvel continuity and the time period from which she was introduced, Kitty has a tendency towards damsel-in-distressing while simultaneously being a badass—needing to be rescued time and again but managing to bring disparate groups together to save her or for the common good and then saving the world a myriad of times.
Which—yeah—makes Kitty the Poster Child of the X-Men and the Mutant race in general because, as Cyclops reminds Kitty, “You’re not a fighter. Your power isn’t aggressive, it’s protective. That’s good to show. And, people like you.” (Bendis 18)
However, just like Cyclops, a lot of people seem to forget that Kitty Pryde can kill anyone if she wants to and has been in battle after battle with these supposed non-aggressive powers; moreover, Kitty is nearly impossible to kill.
Kitty survived years in a giant, planet-destroying bullet and kept it phased the entire time (Wikipedia).
Kitty was mind-controlled by the ninja Orn, tried to kill Wolverine (and nearly succeeded), and was retrained by Wolverine in order to become an actual martial arts specialist rather than a mind-controlled one (Marvel Wikia).
Kitty has been to space and to other planets, traveled the Multiverse, and seen futures and pasts and future-pasts and present-futures (Comic Vine)—all of which are imperfect—while still managing to remain disgustingly idealist, which is as admirable as it is annoying.
Kitty’s been a student and a teacher and a mentor and a protector of the original X-Men who have been displaced in time (Comic Vine).
Kitty has saved the world on more than one occasion—more than just Earth—with the X-Men and without the X-Men (Wikipedia).
Kitty’s Jewish—a marginalized ethnicity—as well as being a mutant, and hell, Kitty even caused Magneto to reform a time or two (Marvel Wikia).
And, through it all, Kitty has largely been loyal and level-headed and good.
Yet Kitty’s also left the X-Men on a number of occasions, called Professor X out on his shenanigans because there have been a lot of Xavier shenanigans (re: Jean Grey), and has even gone over to Cyclops’ side of the Cyclops/Wolverine Schism when her loyalty and trust were not met with equal loyalty and trust.
That’s impressive and important especially when it means that Kitty is willing to leave everything that has ever been her home.
Sometime, the people we care the most about don’t or can’t care about us as much in return—whether that’s shown to us through their inability to trust us (because it’s best for us), their willingness to betray us (for whatever good reason they say they have), or their incessant falsehoods (which are, again, for our own good).
Sometimes, you have to let those people go and, to do so, takes an immense inner strength that has nothing to do with being a Strong Person and everything to do with loving yourself and knowing that you are worthy of respect.
And, if that makes Kitty Pryde a Mary Sue, then shouldn’t we all want to be Mary Sues?
As a kid, I never really liked Kitty Pryde; I think it’s something that happens when you grow up with someone in real life who is a bit too perfect. However, as Kitty has grown and evolved, I’ve found myself liking her more and more for her imperfections—her wrath, her stubbornness, her complete done-ness with a world that just seems to keep getting worse—and even coming to like her too-perfect parts.
There’s a reason that Kitty Pryde is the Poster Child of the X-Men after all.
Bendis, Brian Michael (w), Arthur Adams (a), and Frank Cho (a). X-Men: Battle of the Atom. #2 X-Men: Battle of the Atom (October 2013), Marvel. Digital Comic.
Comic Vine contributors. “Kitty Pryde (Character).” Comic Vine. Comic Vine Wiki. 24 Feb. 2015. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
Marvel Universe contributors. “Pryde, Kitty.” Marvel Universe Wiki. Marvel Universe Wiki, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2015
Marvel Wikia contributors. “Kitty Pryde (Earth-616).” Marvel Database. Marvel Database, n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
Whedon, Joss (w) and John Cassaday (a). “Gifted.” Astonishing X-Men Collected Edition Vol. 1 (September 2011); #1 Astonishing X-Men (May 2004), Marvel; #2 Astonishing X-Men (June 2004), Marvel; #3 Astonishing X-Men (July 2004), Marvel; #4 Astonishing X-Men (August 2004), Marvel; #5 Astonishing X-Men (October 2004), Marvel; #6 Astonishing X-Men (November 2004), Marvel. Digital Comic.
Wikipedia contributors. “Kitty Pryde.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 Feb. 2015. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.