Namor’s Vagina Dentata: A Freudian Reading of ‘Dark Reign: The List: X-Men’
In the recent Marvel Universe event "Dark Reign," a villainous Norman Osborn (a.k.a. Green Goblin) took charge of a major government law enforcement agency, and like anyone with a serious commitment to vengeance, immediately pulled out a list of people who would be first against the wall.
In "Dark Reign: The List: X-Men" #1, Namor the Sub-Mariner is in his crosshairs, and Osborn decides that the best way to screw with him is by taking his ex-wife, who now looks like a giant anglerfish, and turning her into a "genetic W.M.D." by -- wait for it -- manipulating her into a state of perpetual sexual excitement. Here's a glamor shot of the red-eyed lady in question:
Abhay Khosla at "The Savage Critic" has an interesting interpretation of the story that makes liberal use of Freudian psychology, particularly its ideas about sexual symbolism:
The monster is a canal with teeth, plainly invoking the classic image of the "vagina dentata"-- the vagina with teeth... In the monster genre, the origin of the monster frequently contains a warning to the reader. The Frankenstein Monster is a folly of science. Godzilla is awoken by the atom bomb. The Host is created by pollution the United States forces Korea to inflict upon itself. The origin of a monster is the part that speaks to the audience's true fears.
The origin of our vagina monster? It's a woman wanting sex. Sex makes women crazy and dangerous. The result of female sexual excitability is a "genetic W.M.D."
Now, I've certainly seen Freudian analysis get out of hand before -- sometimes a giant fish-woman with crazy teeth is just a giant fish-woman with crazy teeth, after all -- but it's hard not to consider the subtext in a story where a horrifying lady-monster who is specifically invoked as an ex-wife is made evil and violent by her desire for sex.
Of course, there's no real way of determining whether or not this is "true," particularly if it wasn't the conscious intent of the author, but it's certainly interesting, which the whole point of doing different types of analyses on a text. As is Khosla's final summary of the comic:
The obvious conclusion to draw from DARK REIGN: THE LIST-- X-MEN #1 is that at the close of 2009, a woman with an appetite for sex is apparently the very definition of fear and horror for Marvel comic creators and their audience.
There's a lot more about castration anxiety, decapitation, and this issue's thematic similarity to the Adam Sandler movie "You Don't Mess With the Zohan," and while some of it goes fairly deep into the realm of speculative psychoanalysis, it's an extremely entertaining read.
What say you?