Cyclops Syndrome

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Author: BimWebsite:
Bim is a socially adjusted geek with an unhealthy obsession for burgers. Follow him on Twitter (@TheBim) if you like high fives and nonsense.


A couple days ago, I made a quick survey about who their favorite Ninja Turtle was over on my Twitter, Plurk and Facebook. Unsurprisingly enough, Leonardo was the last to be picked. In fact, had I not goaded people into picking him, no one would have. Those who did pick him said he was their favorite because of his blue bandana.

That got me curious so I asked why no one liked him. The most common reasons were "he's too vanilla" and "he's such a boyscout." These are pretty much the same things people say about Cyclops. So, what gives? Why are team leaders immediately branded as that?

What other characters are seen like that? What makes them that way in the first place? Let's take a look, shall we?

Vanilla Leaders

Off the top of my head, I can name Cyclops, Leonardo, Superman, G.I. Joe's Duke, all the red sentai guys, Omega Flight's Guardian and probably that guy from the Silverhawks. I can see a certain common thread between these guys, sure - they're all of standard build with no real physical distinguishing trait.To most people, they're nothing but the boyscout team leader stereotypes. But why are Captain America and Batman spared from this?

The Constant

All the vanilla leaders have one thing in common - they're seen as 2-dimensional characters. Mind you, I said seen as, because more often than not, it's merely a predefined perception developed through the years of being portrayed as just that - a leader, with no real defining characterization. People fail (or refuse to) realize that a lot of them have grown out of that role.

Over the years, Cyclops' character has evolved into something complex. No longer just the yes-man of Charles Xavier, he has grown and has been responsible for some of the most bad ass scenes in X-Men history. But of course, no one sees this. They still see the skinny guy, blindly following the bald guy who can control minds.

Leonardo, the favorite son of Splinter, may be flat on the surface, but if you dig deeper, he really isn't. He knows he's the best but reigns it all in, taking responsibility for himself and the team. He wields lethal bladed weapons because he knows he's disciplined enough to not kill unless necessary. But nope, he's still "that boring turtle who tells everyone what he thinks is right; that arrogant, pompous prick."

Golly gee willikers!

Supes started out as a true blue boyscout, but as different writers took on Superman's character, he's clearly no longer the same guy as the Superman in the funny pages in the 1940's. Still, some people see him that way.

Team Defines Them

One possible reason for this is that other than the team they lead, there's really nothing about them as individuals. Cyclops and the X-Men are inseparable. Cyke is the X-Men. Gambit can have solo adventures, and Wolverine's on, like, fifty teams. Cyclops, though, he can't ever be thought of without the X-Men. Same goes for Leo, Guardian and Duke. All they are, are leaders. Thing is, since when was that a bad thing?

Well, it's not a bad thing per se, but no one ever really likes the man.

Human Nature

I think it's natural to us humans to detest the brightest pupil in the class. We all love to hate the teacher's pet. We want to stab that class beadle motherfucker in the spine with a rusty screwdriver. Prettiest girl in the room? Women secretly hate her like menstruation was a 24/7 thing.

The closer they are to perfection, the more people loathe them. Look at Spider-Man, the first, most relatable super hero. He was a nerd, he got picked on and he had no luck with the ladies. People fucking loved him. Cyclops is a 6 foot 3 inch tall man with the body of Adonis, who scored the hottest girl on the team. Of course, we're going to throw piss in his face every chance we get.

So, why not Captain America or Batman or Iron Man or the White Ranger? Why don't we hate them?

Apart from being able to stand alone in their own stories, even though their characters are intrinsically tied into their teams, they are all flawed characters. We don't hate Iron Man because Tony's got a drinking problem and is a bit of a douchebag. We don't hate Batman because he's a fucking psychopath. Captain America is a time-displaced soldier who fought Nazis for freedom. Tommy used to be a bad guy.

Okay, now, compare that to Cyclops - guy who can never open his eyes without the visor, therefore making his world a constant shade of red. Add that to the fact that everyone around him is in constant danger because his eyeballs might peek out of those shades and blow everything to pieces so he's constantly protecting EVERYTHING around him. And all the while, he's carrying the weight of leading the X-Men in a world that hates and fears them.

Also, he sanctioned X-Force. He practically told Logan to "Go kill me some motherfuckers."

Not so easy to hate now, is he? But still, the syndrome persists.


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