Sunday, July 26, 2015

Of Mice and X-men

Of Mice and X-men
Chris Costello

 I like X-men.

In fact, my opinion on the X-men franchise does not often differ from popular consensus. But in light of Iceman being outed as gay in the pages of New X-men #40, I feel that I need to discuss a few problems I have with the series, and the ways in which we might go about repairing them. Buckle up, everyone.

My first problem with the X-men isn’t so much an issue I have with those characters specifically, but rather with the Marvel Universe as a whole. Namely, that the X-men exist in it at all. See, the X-men are analogues for every oppressed minority out there, from the black civil rights movement in the sixties to the worldwide struggle for gay rights today. If the mutants are supposed to be a metaphor, it’s odd that they would routinely do battle with malicious aliens for the fate of the world. They ought to be dealing with more sober, socially relevant issues in their stories. But the Kree and other evil extraterrestrials are integral to the Marvel Universe, which is why the X-men never felt like a real part of that canon. Nor should they.

But here’s the thing. The X-men are not analogous to oppressed minorities, for the simple fact that, unlike literally every other oppressed group in the world, it is totally okay to fear them. Some of them, anyway. Think about it this way: Is it so wrong to be terrified of somebody who can burn you alive just by staring at you? Is it wrong to refuse someone who is always on fire service at your restaurant? In both those cases, you and others would be infinitely more safe than if you had allowed them into your society.

Now, that’s a similar argument to the one that Christian bigots use against same-sex couples, but the X-men are actual living weapons, whereas gay people are, shocker, just people.

So, the metaphor falls apart no matter how you slice it. Now is about the time when I would save the day and tell you how to fix the problem. But, to be honest, I don’t know how you would fix this particular problem. See, the flaw is inherent in the Marvel Universe. The X-men are an integral part of it, and that isn’t going to change. Like gun control, we’ve gone too deep to do anything about it. I fear that this is a lost cause.

But, hey, you know what they say. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Just something to think about.

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