The X-men are a group of superhumans whose extraordinary abilities are derived from a mutation in their cells. In their universe, we the humans, either love them or hate them. Yet many of these mutants dedicate their lives to using their powers for good and proving to a hate-filled world that they aren't just a threat. Then again, many of these mutants are also driven by a heart of vengance, bent on bringing humankind to its knees for having marginalized mutantkind throughout history. But it's worth analyzing the sciological subtext of the series as a whole and taking a deeper look at it's underlying themes. So, without further ado, lets begin!
Be Proud of Your Identity in a World That Tells You Not to
Mystique, when portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence in 'First-Class', is a very intriguing and vulnerable character. She not only has to face institutionalized sexism for being a woman during that time but, along with Hank McCoy (Beast) portrayed by Nicholas Hoult, also faces the problem of not being able to live up to societal standards of beauty.
This theme is touched upon in many reimaginings of the X-men. Many mutants, such as Kitty Pryde, have held prejudice against mutants with physical deformities.
Throuought the film, she constantly battles with the inner turmoil of not being able to fit into the perfect image of beauty, something many women (and some men), especially those who face disabilities that alter physical appearance, face.
This is a reflection of what it is like to be a woman who does not fit social standards of beauty, person of color, LGBT+ individual or person with disability in our world.
It is especially hard to be proud of who you are when mainstream media focuses so much of its attention on people who look nothing like you and experience the things that you dont. This calls for the importance of diversity not only in media, but in other places as well. We should all be able to find role-models whom we can look up to in the media that we endorse.
However, I do have to stress that, as a Queer person, being mutant and proud is also reminiscent of a far too common narrative that many LGBT+ individuals face, especially those living in areas where queerness is outlawed and/or looked down upon. It is especially hard for people who grow up in homo/transphobic areas to love themselves, resulting in higher rates of suicide and depression, so it's really nice to see a reassurance of self-esteem in a popular franchise.
Understand the Need for Protest, Movement and Resistance
The tension between Magneto and Professor X is something that is continuosly touched on during the run of the series, in comic and on screen. It is meant to parallel the beliefs and actions of Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement.
While Professor X is more interested in making peace with humakind by having started the X-men, Magneto was driven by revenge. Though at first it seems easy to be hesitant towards Magneto's character, you can't help but think that perhaps he has every right to be angry towards the human race for having treated him and the rest of mutantkind terribly.
Although Magneto does take his actions too far, endagering lives of innocent (but ignorant) people, it does make us question the need for protest and resistance in our world. People protest and get angry about many things because they are tired of living in a world where they are constantly devalued.
It is with a vocal platform do many marginalized groups of people get their message across, and when no one is listening, sometimes extreme measure is required. Professor X is representative of the power of voice and reason whereas Magneto is representative of the power of affirmative action.
With this being said, I think it is important that we analyze the underlying motivation for certain forms of protest. Why are the people angry? Why are they so vocal? Are they trying to fight aginst injustice or maintain an oppressive status quo?
All very important questions to ask.
Make Use of Your Talent and Just Do You
The entire story of the X-men centers around Xavier's School for Gifted Students, a school specially designed to cater to the needs of mutant youth. However, many parents are quite reluctant to send their children to the school as they harbor a lot of prejudice against mutantkind.
Sound familiar? This narrative resonates very well with people living in traditional communities such as myself.
This comes from the need to preserve culture. In the X-men universe, tradition is redefined as mortality, being normal and fitting in with society. By sending children to a school catering towards their abilities, parents are afraid that their children might have to face discrimination for embracing this part of themselves.
Same goes with the narrative of traditional preservation. In Asian communities, we are always expected to do what everyone else does, be successful at it and maintain our customs. I understand that this is not what every Asian practices but I see it happen a lot in most communities including my own.
Once you step out of that norm, people will see you differenty, talk about you and judge you much harshly. I think many Creative Arts major will understand the financial difficulty when it comes to job opprtunities as well.
But at the end of the day, starting a family is what's important right?If you're a man, how can you start a family with such a degree right? What kind of job can you expect? If you're a woman, can you preserve yourself long enough before finding a succesful husband? Why put yourself before people you have never met before right?
Well getting married isn't always the goal in life. There. I said it.
But traditional importance is often always at the detriment of queer people. Many cultures worldwide practice traditional importance. Though not all, most traditions are heteronormative and cis-sexist, catering only to those who are straight and cisgender.
When you are encouraged to embrace your 'dark side', that's when people start to fear you. That's probably why parents enforce these norms onto their children. Safety and self-preservation are the two things every parent wants for their child.
However, it should never be at the cost of happiness.
It is important to analyze all parts of media we consume, for better or for worse, and understand the important role they play in reflecting our society. So, what have you noticed about the X-men? What can we learn from our mutant heroes and villains?