Why Rogue and Magneto’s Relationship in X-Men ‘97 Is Fake
(Photo Credit: Disney+)

Why Rogue and Magneto’s Relationship in X-Men ‘97 Is Fake

X-Men ’97 is an awesome breath of fresh air, and it has been fantastic seeing our favorite Saturday morning mutants back in action, but the lives of Marvel’s genetic powerhouses aren’t just about the fighting; there’s also the love triangles. Long-term fans of the characters have been rooting for Rogue and Gambit across the decades, these people push the Romy ship, (thanks, I hate the name) but that’s a couple that has more baggage than an airport. So, the new episodes of the cartoon look to be going in a different direction, taking a potentially even more volatile pairing from the comics and giving Rogue and Magneto one more chance to try to make something real out of their consistently doomed dalliance.  

In episode two of X-Men ’97, “Mutant Liberation Begins,” the drama bomb goes off and secrets are dropped about Rogue and Magneto’s shared pasts, “That was a long time ago, Erik. And that cat’s got to stay in its bag, you hear me?” This is right after he tries to take her glove off, a smooth first step in rekindling an old flame. Later, after some pretty stressful events and one de-powered teammate, we see Rogue take her glove off herself and offer the hand to Magneto, searching out for his touch in a time of need. Viewers see her walk out of the office, still minus only the glove, so we don’t know the full extent of what else happened in there, but Gambit sees enough. We’re supposed to feel bad for him here, especially after the wonderful line he gave her in the first episode about how “Any worthwhile man would gladly suffer your hand in a dance.” The missing glove is damning because she and Gambit haven’t been able to touch due to her absorption powers, so (almost) no one can be intimate with her without said ‘suffering.’ But what if they didn’t need to?

In the comics, Magneto’s mastery over magnetism and electromagnetic fields gives him full control as well as full sensory manipulation across that spectrum, meaning he can create a force field thin enough to block Rogue’s life-draining touch and help imitate the skin-on-skin contact she has desired for so long. Is it real, though? There are scientific theories that argue if any of us truly ever touch anything, but this extra layer of Magneto’s would certainly complicate that even further. It isn’t hard to imagine that she isn’t receiving realistic sensations, simply what Magneto wants her to feel through his powers and trying to ensure he doesn’t overstimulate her in the wrong way (that gets messy). Looking at it closely from a speculative point – because these are comics/cartoons, any writer can say how it ACTUALLY works – its electromagnetic manipulation, a form of tactile sex that isn’t quite the same as wearing a condom, because the touch isn’t real. The sex is more like assisted masturbation meant to simulate the real thing. Erik is probably experienced enough that this is an excellent approximation of the titillations she’d genuinely be receiving, but it is still only a tolerable facsimile.

This works more for Rogue because she has so little experience with these sensations. Face it, it’s likely that if she and Magneto didn’t go all of the way, then the heroine is still a virgin. No matter how much practice time she’s put in for self-love, doing herself won’t feel quite the same, and she will most likely be weak in the knees for any touch from another person she’s into, even one the team used to battle. What the Master of Magnetism’s abilities offer here is a high-level sensual temptation and a way to achieve a goal that is at the core of her character development. How can she refuse, especially when Magneto is in that new sexy outfit that almost looks like the skin-tight full-body condom fans keep saying Reed Richards should make for her (he’s really busy)?

Their relationship stuff wasn’t great in the comics either, and I’m not just talking about the problem some readers have with the age difference. Most know about that first encounter in the Savage Lands, but a few of the panels could be read as forceful and manipulative, while writer Mike Carey took it even further, having the two become sexually entangled based on alternate-world memories and even letting Erik propose to her (X-Men: Legacy #274). Some fans were upset that parts of this relationship were worked through off-panel and left it up to the reader to fill in certain blanks. There are also her feelings for Joseph, Magneto’s clone, but most believe the less said about that, the better. In fact, Magneto and Rogue have been the most successful as a couple in alternate realities like the Age of Apocalypse and Age of X, which probably says a lot about how much of a chance they have, ever.

Many fans wonder why she doesn’t just wear one of the power-dampening collars to get frisky, but it’s a question of access, concentrated pro-longed damage (as we just saw with Storm), and in the comics, she does eventually get one, but it does quite the number on Rogue with headaches. I saw someone also mention asking the Morlock Leech for help to temporarily nullify her powers, but that might borderline on child abuse in some way. And why do those things when Magneto already has the answer? There are a couple of other people who have been shown to have the strength or abilities to be with her (if we could just forget the Sentry stuff I’d appreciate that), she’s lost her ‘gifts’ a couple of times, giving her a window to be sexually active, and in recent years Anna Marie simply learned how to exert more control over her powers, but if it were easy there would be less of a story there and those things don’t apply to what X-Men ’97 is doing at the moment.

This is also Rogue we’re discussing here. We see her as this powerhouse character who likes bad boys like Gambit and, maybe even worse, Magneto, who is defined as a literal mutant terrorist, but I have often questioned her judgment on anything romance-related. Writer Kelly Thompson told CBR that Rogue is a, “heroic woman that was largely stunted in her emotional growth – if only in her own mind – thanks to her inability to be in a “normal” physical relationship and her obvious fixation on changing that aspect of her life.” Magneto’s even worse, but that would take a while to get into, and I know why he’s into this. Rogue isn’t just a catch, most likely, he’s manipulating her and through her, the whole team. I like good guy Magneto as much as the next X-Fan, but that doesn’t mean I trust him.

The other big aspect that’s being questioned now is: what do these two talk about when they aren’t boinking? In the third episode, the pair was supposedly out patrolling when everything went crazy at the mansion, but I’m curious what the sweet young Southern belle and a Holocaust survivor, former villain turned headmaster, talk about on an evening stroll. I just feel like those are talks no one wants to have and I can’t see them taking in a concert or going fishing. What seemingly fuels their union are those new sensations, the opportunity, and the secrecy – that’s all that’s driving the sexual tension between them, along with a little human nature, but when you live the dangerous life of an X-Men, that might be enough.

It all simply feels fake. It’s hard to take the relationship seriously, knowing their sex life is so close but still not quite there, that the quiet moments are probably painfully awkward – would we even call it dating – and historically, it’s doomed, even if this isn’t part of a larger scheme Magneto’s running. At least they have these moments to get all of that sexual frustration out before it crumbles. Part of me hopes I’m wrong. Maybe this animated series can do something the comics couldn’t and make this pairing feel like it works, but I doubt it. That blue light we see when they touch is probably not a spark, just a fizzle.