I’m not really a fan of the X-Men and I’m not sure why. Granted there are few Marvel heroes I really gravitate to. For example I don’t really care about the Fantastic Four either outside of their historical importance to the history of Marvel Comics and comics in general. I respect that but I’ve never really been into any incarnation of the FF in comics or TV. Even the X-Men I can say I liked X-Men: Evolution, but that’s pretty much it.
What’s always bothered me is the idea that mutants are always hated and feared but other superheroes don’t suffer that issue…on a regular basis anyway and before the Civil War nonsense. The X-Men group of titles and related titles are supposedly an analog for bigotry, racism at the time though it makes sense that modern readers would throw in homophobia, transphobia, and whatever else is out there. (Though its always about what you are and not who you are. There is no analog for various worldviews because that the internet has decided we’re allowed to hate people for and not bother to figure out what they actually mean. I went over that on Monday with Dr. King’s speech.) However there are two reasons why this analog doesn’t really stand up.
The first is the reason I mentioned and the one that is usually used by critics of the mutant idea, that there isn’t a huge difference between Nightcrawler and Spider-Man outside of specific abilities and the fact that only Peter’s costume is creepy, due to Spidey’s origins in a mild horror comic and Kurt being a Christian forced to look like a classic depiction of a demon. However, there’s another argument that was brought up on Twitter recently. Comics, By Perch recently looked at that Twitter discussion and pointed out that maybe the X-Men are just bad analogs because there’s a difference between the mutants and the aforementioned marginalized groups. Maybe their concern has some merit. Or would if not for the follow-up video I have from NerdSync that cancels both theories out in a very stupid way.
Catch more Comics, By Perch on his YouTube channel.
I think readers and viewers often forget their own near-omniscience when it comes to what we’re reading or watching. WE know that there are mutant superteams like the X-Men, X-Factor, Generation X, The New Mutants, and so on. WE know there are mutants on the Avengers, the New Warriors, and even SHIELD, and yes, people should be able to tell at the time which mutants are protecting them like any other superhero and who are the guys so bad they literally call themselves the “Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants”. However, the X-Men aren’t always in the new, especially in their early years, so people just see teens suddenly bursting with energy or whatever power they have and get concerned. They see things like Onslaught and question things. And remember, the Superhuman Registration Act once existed so there are times people panic over superhumans in general. If you don’t know about mutant superheroes and only see the bad things those darn, dirty muties are doing you live in fear. As a wise puppet once said, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering”.
Like Perch said being black or gay doesn’t mean you’re going to gain powers you can’t control unless you’re in some other continuity like the indie Black AF series, where somehow slavery still happened even though black people all have superpowers and none of the other races do. Could there be a better solution? Yes, and Professor X had one with his school to teach powers. Every now and then some form of training group or academy shows up for young superhumans who aren’t mutants as well. This is a good idea, but if all they see are dangerous superhumans because Xavier doesn’t have Tony Stark’s PR guys the bias against mutants are easier to understand than bias against a skin color or lifestyle. Also, most of the X-Men are straight (until recent shenanigans) white people.
However, there is one more flaw in the analog, and it came when someone tried to retcon in a reason why mutants are hated to continue this plot despite even further ruining the analog…or perhaps creating a more politically charged answer that actually makes thing worse from a different angle. This old video from NerdSync goes into that.
If you didn’t watch that, an alien virus named Sublime created a fear of mutants in humans because the X-Gene, the source of mutant powers, blocks its control of them like it has over every other organic life form on the planet. The sad thing is some more ignorant people do believe xenophobia is genetic, except to non-white people apparently (this is what I mean about politics working its way into as many aspects of our society as possible as I don’t want to talk about this stuff but keep getting forced to–I’m here to discuss storytelling) and this concept simply enhances that point of view. Except the idea of Sublime actually makes it harder to get mad at the anti-mutant humans because it means it’s not their fault that they hate mutants. It’s trying to defend the usual stupidity of the Marvel universe, where they’re invaded by shapeshifting aliens the Skrull and still believe when the big war is over that they were all mutants who somehow just happened to all have the same power. Just admit these people aren’t the brightest civilians in the multiverse when it comes to superhumans.
It also plays into the foolish notion that racism CAN’T be overcome and you can’t blame people for it…despite interracial relationships leading to multi-racial children (who are now told to deny half of what they are to keep the race war happily chugging along….here we go again) and in the Marvel universe we do see that in fact humans knowingly fall in love with mutants and other superhumans and have a family with them, or at least hope to. So did Sublime fail to infect them? Did kissing a mutant counteract his powers? And what happens when the human DOESN’T know his or her love interest is a mutant, and finds out later but still doesn’t care? We’ve seen humans befriend mutants both in and out of the superhero community. The whole idea then becomes a mess just like the real world race war. That’s the closest thing to an analog to racism that’s out there–that’s makes as little sense as real racism.
Don’t let the fact that you know things the rest of the world don’t blind you from their perspective, especially in the “world outside your window” creed of the Marvel universe. You know things the rest of the world doesn’t, like who’s innocent and who’s guilty, who’s really underneath the mask (though Marvel keeps trying to eliminate secret identities since the 21st century began), and that not all mutants are lethal weapons and even some of them are trying to protect humanity. The Marvel Earthlings in particular aren’t always consistent, as seen in how Spider-Man gets treated between Jonah Jameson’s latest editorial against Spidey. The Tweet that started this conversation isn’t wrong. There are numerous ways to look at the X-Men nowadays and ask if they are a proper analog for bigotry and maybe they aren’t anymore. Or were they ever? It’s not fair to actual marginalized groups and it may not be fair to common sense, which Marvel citizens don’t always seem to have. Maybe it’s finally time the X-Men titles just become regular superhero titles?
Of course I wouldn’t miss them if they disappeared. There are a few characters I’d like to see stay on but most of them I don’t really care. Especially Wolverine. Hate that guy. Just keep X-23.