Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The value of X people.

I had a conversation about the X-Men this evening that reminded me that I haven't posted anything here since February. They're probably the most popular super team franchise ever and they have a movie out right now, a movie that I haven't seen yet, so few spoilers, please, so they seem as good a place to start as any.The X-Men are mutants sworn to protect a world that blah blah blah-blah, you all know it by now. Let it be clear. I love the X-Men. Despite some of the things I will say throughout the rest of the post, the X-Men remain one of my favorite ideas to come out of superhero comics. Still I have some issues with the X-Men franchise itself, as well as some of the ways it's been presented and perceived over the years.

One of my main problems with the comics is the way that mutants, as a metaphor, have been used. You know the whole thing where mutants represent racial, sexual, social minorities? Despite its popularity with fans, and in the face of many of the series' best known writers overt use of this metaphor, I don't buy it. If this metaphor has given you succor in your own struggles with feeling different, as I know it has for many, I don't mean to sell short your interpretation of the X-Men, but I have some trouble getting behind it for a few reasons. The primary reason is that fear of various social minorities in real life is irrational, fear of mutants in the Marvel Universe is actually kind of rational. A gay person can't blow my house down just by looking at it; a black person can't walk around inside my mind to learn any personal secrets I might have; a Jewish person can't grow footlong claws, making them an instant killing machine. (Except for Mossad agents, who I have been assured have all these and many more powers at their disposal.) I think it sells short both the X-Men's metaphorical potential and the very real problems faced by actual members of minority communities to equate mutants too explicitly with these specific issues.