I know this is going to be controversial, but I never much cared for Kitty Pryde. That’s a bit harsh, she’s been in some great comics and is extremely important to the mythos. But… she’s just too perfect for me to get really invested in. Think Annie Edison on Community but without ANY of the character development, motivation, flaws, humor or personality. Kitty Pryde was built to be the perfect mutant girlfriend for every lonely young boy and girl reading the comic. She’s cute, but nerdy. Smart, but approachable. Your mom would approve of her but she still likes to be spontaneously wild. She’s unwaveringly moral and ALWAYS right. She never, ever makes mistakes other than being TOO sweet and TOO enthusiastic. But always being perfect isn’t a personality on its own, and nothing was ever done with it! What bugs her? What stresses her out? What does she need to work on? Who knows! Long before the Manic Pixie Dream Girl became so insufferably unavoidable there was Shadowcat, the Politely Nonthreatening Dream Mutant.
But Jubilee? Jubilee is the Kitty Pryde template done right. Jubilee is not perfect, because she’s a teen. She’s rude, she’s stubborn, she’s ignorant and she is rarely apologetic for any of it. She’s also kind, funny, brave and all those good heroic qualities too, but its not her sole defining feature. She ACTS like a teenager with problems. She thinks she’s cooler than you, and she often is. If she’s ever not, she still acts like she is. The other X-Men get ticked off at her sometimes.Her screw ups don’t lead to saving the day anyways and getting a pet dragon and kissing the 19 year old Russian boy like Kitty’s do. No, when Jubilee screws up, SHIT IS BAD. That’s the way it should be. She’s with the X-Men to learn and to find a family, she should be a screw up sometimes.
The comics try too hard to convince us that perfect Kitty is just a wholesome, down-to-earth dork but lets be real here she’s way too cool. I don’t mean in a “fake nerd girl” way, I mean as in “like a cucumber.” She never has any real problems or conflicts. Everyone loves her instantly upon meeting her, she learned to be a ninja overnight, she’s a genius computer expert and she has a pet space dragon. The worst thing that ever happened to her is, what? Colossus deciding to date someone his own age? Everyone took her side instantly and she had another five super boys ready to date her (and a super girl. Poor Karma, you can do better)! Oh wait, I remember now, Kitty’s biggest conflict was the existential crisis she suffered when Storm changed her hair. Mohawk-related angst that went on for about six issues. RELATABLE! Meanwhile, Jubilee is a believable cool dork. She hangs out at the mall loitering and playing arcade games because she’s both too cool to have other plans and also not really popular enough to have any other plans. She’s got steez (how else could she rock that jacket and those shades for so long?) but that goes along well with her dorkiness. Her problems are worrying about alienating the people she wants to think she’s cool, dealing with a developmental disorder (dyscalculia), and finding time to be herself while part of a larger community. How many perfect, Jewish ninjas computer geniuses did you know in high school? Now how many hip but dorky alt kids did you know? Exactly. Jubilee is associated with the 90s (what with the whole mallrat thing and her color-scheme) but she could just as easily work as a modern kid. Jubilee should be making mutant vines, playing ironic ukulele covers in the Xavier School dorms, and embarrassing Wolverine with Game of Thrones references he doesn’t get.
Of course, you might be saying “hey, lay off Shadowcat! What’s wrong with young girl comic fans having a protagonist who is like them only perfect and rules super hard at everything?” and you know what? That’s a fair point. I mean, have you SEEN how we normally treat young girls? If anyone deserves an escapist fantasy where they get to be the smartest, bestest fighter who also has a space dragon and all the cute boys, its every girl in the world (just replace cute boys with cute girls where necessary). On the other hand, there is an undeniable cynicism to how Kitty Pryde is used to pander to male fans. Perhaps that doesn’t matter, as long as she means something to young girls, but it does feel like it limits her.
Kitty Pryde was built to be a surrogate girlfriend for boy readers while Jubilee is a character that anyone can see themselves or their friends in. Good Jubilee stories can therefore emerge naturally while good Kitty Pryde stories have to struggle against her perfection. The fact that there have been more good Shadowcat stories than Jubilee stories is mostly due to the eras they were each created in, rather than any innate storytelling potential. Jubilee got to be cool while fighting the endlessly forgettable 90s villains, which didn’t do her any favors. Kitty got to be lame while fighting actually good villains like the Dark Phoenix, Magneto and Reverend Stryker. But Kitty doesn’t have to be so lame. Just pair her with Jubilee! They’re both the same template of the wide-eyed young newcomer who hangs out with Wolverine, so having them be an odd-couple could actually provoke Kitty into displaying a personality. How does she react when her new partner doesn’t immediately love her and do everything for her? How does she react to someone who gives her shit and even mocks her? How does she deal with the fact that sometimes this uncouth upstart mallrat is RIGHT about her? The flipside works just as well. How does Jubilee react to the fact that Kitty is just as much of a wet-behind-the-ears screw up but everyone gives her the benefit of the doubt they don’t give her? How does Jubilee deal with the fact that Kitty really IS super sweet and brilliant and deserves much of the adoration the other X-Men give her? C’mon, this thing writes itself. The two become bosom chums and rub off on each other. Jubilee learns to believe in herself and study despite her dyscalculia and Kitty learns to unwind and chillax. We get a musical montage of Jubilee taking Kitty shopping for funky new clothes. They fight racist robots and make boys cry. No, seriously, how hasn’t this happened yet? Was there some kind of rule in the 90s that no super hero team could have two teen girls at the same time?
Of course, now both characters are adults and no longer wide-eyed teens. Kitty is a teacher and Jubilee is (groan) a vampire. But they could STILL work well together. Kitty still could stand to be taken down a peg and given an actual personality. Both had similar journeys, so how do the reconcile their very different attitudes and current positions in the X-hierarchy when they are forced to work together? You’re never too old to try on funky clothes, fight racist robots and make boys cry.