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May 27, 2006

Super Heroes Shouldn't Be Funny

To prepare Isabel for the new X-men movie, I showed her the first two films this week. I had forgotten how heavy-handed the gay issue was in these movies.

Characters are perpetually worried about being outted or exposed.

The government considers frightening laws that would limit their abilities to live "normal" lives.

Professor X even runs a school just for students dealing with their identity crisis (which apparently manifests during puberty).

Rogue discovers that her special "power" prevents her from engaging in any form of physical intimacy with another person without wearing protection because it might kill them (as if she were HIV positive).

Iceman (Rogue's boyfriend who wants to engage her physically despite the risk) actually has a "coming out" scene with his parents in which they tell him they still love him and ask him if he ever "tried not being a mutant."

The moral is pretty clear: homosexuals have super powers, and all of the hetero-normal straight people are just afraid of their superiority.

There are some problems with this dynamic, however. Pretty much every non-mutant hates mutants in these movies. Never once do we see a "straight" character support the mutants' cause. This is preposterous. Let's take a look at real life: the reason why legislators are trying to pass laws against gay marriage is because judges have already started ruling in favor of gay marriage despite its questionable constitutional basis. Nevertheless, the Democratic party (sans its chairman Dean, evidently) has rallied around the cause. Party politics would guarantee that if a senator ever tried to pass a "mutant registration act" in a universe that more closely resembled the real world, he would face self-righteous outrage from the opposing political party (if only to win the mutant vote...nobody knows how many of them there are, you see).

Does prejudice still exist in the real world? Sure. But I can't help but wonder what happens if the stories we tell ourselves depict that prejudice as worse than it really is. What happens to us when we consume a narrative in which one group is only ever the bad guy?

Posted by Peter Terp on May 27, 2006 at 10:14 PM | Permalink


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Keep in mind that within the X-Men stories normal humans aren't always the bad guys. Magneto's group I guess can be compared to radical Islam. If anyone goes against them even slightly, then they need to be taught a lesson. This is quite evident in the newest movie (don't know if you've seen it). Personally I didn't like where this most recent one went (though I do have to say I enjoyed Cyclop's part in this movie, he was definitely rewarded for his acting in X-Men 2).

Of course within the Marvel world many of the mutants are do not openly push their own agendas. A lot of them tend to want to just live out their lives. In the real world we tend to see the more vocal ones who claim that we are intolerant (or even bigots) if we believe it is wrong, yet are they not being intolerant themselves for pushing their views on us?

What does this teach us? Movies only represent those that have the power in Hollywood (same with Da Vinci Code). Ifthey can make money and also take some stabs at groups they don't like, then it's icing. Then again, maybe I'm too much of a pessimist...eh who knows.

Posted by: Wulfstan | May 28, 2006 1:44:02 AM

Of course, even Magneto is a likable bad guy. He is, after all, a Holocaust survivor (though Isabel said she wondered what Jewish audience members would think about having a survivor labelled as a bloodthirsty villain). The mutant bad guys such as Magneto, Mystique, Pyro, Lady Deathstrike, are all bad guys because they are the victims of non-mutant discrimination.

In the first X-men movie, non-mutants are cruel without provocation. In the second movie, they at least have attempted to assassinate the president (as the result of a plot designed by an evil and exploitive non-mutant...it's kind of like The Phantom Menace with an X-factor). Sabretooth and Toad are perhaps the only unsympathetic mutant villains, but they are just thugs.

Maybe the new movie will have Storm rescued by some dapper young non-mutant gent and realize that her angst against straights is misplaced.

Also, compare the universe of the X-Men with that of Spider-man...where J. Jonah Jameson does his best to expose Spider-man as a freak, but all the New Yorkers seem to love him anyway because he's the kind of guy that gets stuff done. The Spidey franchise seems a lot more balanced, even if it is a little more campy.

Posted by: PeterTerp | May 28, 2006 8:55:11 AM

Having seen the third one on Friday, (and trying not to spoil any of it) mutants become the ones who are cruel. In fact I would say they have become more like terrorists feeling that even the smallest slight deserves a violent response. (There are also a lot of pointless deaths)

Now technically Spiderman and the X-Men are in the same universe both being made by Marvel (and sometimes having cross over appearances). In some comics Spiderman is even believed to be a mutant. I completely agree that Spiderman tends to expound upon more ideals than X-Men tending to focus upon the responsibilities that power requires you accept. I wonder if we should send copies of Spiderman to the politicians to point out that they basically are not yielding their political power in a way that is responsible. (Both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of using their own political power for illegal gain).

On a side note, Lady Deathstrike (at least the one in the movies) was being controlled by Stryker so we have no idea whether she was good, bad or indifferent.

Posted by: Wulfstan | May 28, 2006 9:38:01 AM

Hm, that's interesting - I actually never thought about that angle of it, but it fits, and given Hollywood culture the way it is, it's a reasonable interpretation.

No, the one that always irked me was "Bewitched," because I couldn't help suspecting that What's-her-name's magical nature was a trope for some sort of immoral behavior, probably sexual. I can't let my parents find out! "Why not?" They wouldn't understand! They're SO "old-fashioned."

Posted by: Thomas | May 30, 2006 9:33:09 AM

And on the topic, Drudge linked to an article about Superman's gay appeal:

Favorite snippets:
"Two of the executives said the focus could actually expand the film's audience, much as gay moviegoers have responded to the "X-Men" superhero series, which has been praised for its metaphorical plots about acceptance. The first two "X-Men" movies were directed by Bryan Singer, the openly gay filmmaker who also made "Superman Returns.""


"Defamer has posted a number of stories on how gay the "Superman Returns" posters and Topps trading cards make the character look, particularly in one trading card showing Superman literally coming out of a closet."

Posted by: PeterTerp | Jun 2, 2006 1:59:03 PM

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