This is about X-Men: First Class. If you haven’t seen the film yet, there are some spoilers here. SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
There. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.
Oh, what the heck. Just to be safe.
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
That should do it.
So I started writing a blog post about X-Men: First Class. It was a digression into racial politics and the problems that we’re still wrestling with as a society. It pointed out that all the non-Caucasian characters “go bad” in the end, and our theoretical “good guys” are all white males. With the exception of the Beast, who is, technically underneath that fur, a white kid too. Oh, yeah, and the black guy dies first.
But there’s a point where it’s just wearying. Yeah, I think there’s quite a bit of unintentional racial baggage that shows up in First Class. On the one hand, it’s not strange that they’d kill off Darwin, as he’s an obscure character and nobody really cares much for him. But it’s also kind of strange to pick Darwin, considering his power is expressly the ability NOT to die. It’s not that I couldn’t believe he could be killed. But it should take a hell of a lot more than what it does in the movie.
But let’s put all that aside. And let’s put all that other stuff aside too. Because it’s all something worth talking about, but it’s not stuff I want to talk about now.
Instead, I’d like to talk about the very heart of First Class. And that heart is this:
Magneto is right.
Shaw is a madman. Xavier is naive. But Magneto is neither.
And he’s right.
It’s weird to realize this because I’m not sure if that’s the intent of the film or not. But it certainly seems like it. Humans, as a whole, are presented as intolerant, obnoxious, and dangerous. They’re also completely justified in their fears. When four mutants are able to literally kill every human in their path without any difficulty, you realize just how powerless the humans are against these foes.
X-Men are often used to explore the concept of fantastic racism. And usually, it’s handled deftly and with interesting nuance. But First Class destroys that nuance by presenting characters which are so dangerous that humans would be stupid not to fear them. The problem with this racism metaphor is that we’re not talking about superficial differences like skin color and eye color. We’re talking about very real differences in just what they are capable of.
Magneto is right. If mutants banded together and worked as one, in very short order, the world would be theirs.
Okay, so let’s ignore that for a moment. Even if it’s possible for mutants to be good, productive members of society, the movie makes it clear that humans are not interested in that. It’s always been a problem for the X-Men stories (in whatever form they’re presented) to make the humans both the enemy and sympathetic. More often than not, the humans come across as small-minded and bigoted. There are a handful of human characters in the X-men universe that are open-minded and friendly, who have a live and let live attitude. It’s ironic in a story about acceptance that the humans are often portrayed as a uniform, intolerant hive mind.
First Class has the problem. There are only two sympathetic, fleshed out human characters. One is killed and promptly forgotten. Another has her memory erased because even idealistic Charles Xavier knows you can’t trust humans. Yes, even Prof X knows this:
Magneto is right.
I can only assume the film does this intentionally. It can’t be an accident. Perhaps because the film was written by humans, for humans, it’s assumed we’ll automatically side with the human race. But I find myself rooting for the other side. And if Prof X stands with the human race, I think Magneto would’ve been better off just killing him.
The film has managed to convince me that in the struggle of mutantkind, the X-Men are the bad guys. And I guess that’s impressive if that’s its goal. Although I’m not sure it is. Marvel makes a lot of money of the X-Men. It’d be strange to believe they want you to dislike them.
All I know is that the world would be a much different place if every repressed minority and subgroup had the power to shoot laser beams out of their eyes and spit acid. And maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
So congratulations, First Class. You’ve turned me away from tolerance. You’ve convinced me, in at least this case, that Charles Xavier’s dreams of peace are the products of a delusional mind. Maybe that’s just the way it goes now. I’m used to disliking the good guys in this modern dark age of comics. But I guess I’ll have to just get used to cheering for the “bad guys”.
Magneto is right.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,