(Not) A Movie Review of X-Men: Why We Love Wolverine (Even Though He's Kind of a Jerk)

Previously, I wrote a post about some of the reasons why the X-men story works. In this post I want to focus on the character of Wolverine and why many X-men fans will choose him as their favourite.  

Using example scenarios from the movies X-men, X-Men 2, and X-men 3, here are some of Wolverine's faults... and why we find ourselves so forgiving of them:

Jerk Symptom 1
He looks out for number one.

In all three movies, we hear other characters repeatedly complain about his tendency to ditch everyone at a moments notice. He often makes it clear that he feels he doesn't owe anyone a thing (lack of memory might add to this attitude), and is happy focusing on solving his own problems.

But That's 'OK' Because:
When push comes to shove, he will join, and even lead the team. Sure it may take circumstances to force him into leadership and teamwork... but he wouldn't, say, leave a bunch of school kids to fend for themselves outside when their school has been invaded by snipers. Granted, he did need a little reminder of this in X-men 2... during the scene where he has to choose between pursuing his past and protecting the (almost) defenceless. There was definite hesitation there, but he made the right choice in the end.

Jerk Symptom 2
He blatantly flirts with Jean Grey - even though he's fully aware that she's spoken for.

From the beginning of the trilogy, Wolverine makes it clear that he is interested in Jean, hardly phased that she has a laser-eyed boyfriend.

But that's 'OK' Because:
He truly cares about Jean. He loves her to the point that he would risk his life to save her. This is a bit unfair to Cyclops, because he loves her too, and he is actually the epitome of a gentleman - conventionally the ideal mate for a female protagonist. So why do we take Wolvie's side? I think this is because the writers play on our love for drama. We don't want to watch a relationship with mutual love, respect and stability (Jean and Cyclops), we want to see what happens when the boat is rocked, when the forbidden enters the picture, and the tension builds between these alpha males. Who will she choose??? Questions like this keep us watching, and drives the story forward.

Jerk Symptom 3
He has a terrible temper.

It has even been famously named the "Wolverine berserker rage": laws out, no-holds-barred, roaring, unstoppable fury.

But That's 'OK' Because:
He directs his wrath on the villains. Look at it this way - Wolverine has beef with Cyclops and he could easily have destroyed him (that's my bet anyway, you're welcome to place yours*), but he recognises the difference between an in-house grudge and a world-changing battle. And so he chooses relatively carefully when the claws will come out... berserker rage style!

In conclusion, I think the main reason we're cheering for Wolverine (to the point that an entire spin-off film can be made), is that a lot of us are like Cyclops. We follow the pressure of behaviour norms, and try to do the right thing. It would be liberating if we could do whatever we wanted - looking out for number one, berserker rage and all, and just not care about the consequences. 

But, even Wolverine comes back to doing the right thing, which is why he stays on the right side of the line between hero and villain. 


*Vote in the poll on the top right of the sidebar! Who would win in a fight between Wolverine and Cyclops?


  1. Never really thought about why I like Wolverine before, but your points are quite valid. It's the attitude that makes me a fan. Which of the 3 symptoms, place you in his corner EE?

  2. I would say it's not just one aspect, but a combination of all of them. The fact that he is a complex character who doesn't fit a mould. His range is broad, he can go from boiling rage to sensitivity and still stay true to Wolverine.

    Of course the movies handle Wolverine in a certain way, the comics portray him differently, and the cartoons may have a slightly different twist on him as well.

  3. Maybe that's why he's so popular- he has so many relatable or enviable characteristics across the various media.


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