Because I'm so very popular, I spent my Friday night on my couch with my television, and I was delighted when I passed X-Men First Class while channel-surfing. I remember going to the midnight showing with my boyfriend at the Movie Tavern, but I don't remember the storyline of the movie very well at all. So when I stumbled upon the movie on FX on Friday night, I was immediately sucked in.
Truly, I love these kinds of films. Action-packed movies based on old-school comics? *Insert googly-heart eyes here* I loved the comics growing up so it's no surprise that no matter how often I watch the films, I'm practically hypnotized. The airing on FX, however, was one of those "commentary-with-the-movie" ones, which I admit I don't always like, but the hosts said something very interesting during a commercial.
Apparently, the idea of the X-Men series was based on minorities, which is why it's set in the 1960s. In fact, the characters of Professor Xavier and Magneto and their friendship parallels the differing philosophies of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. This intrigued me to say the least, and I immediately began digging.
Although the series occasionally makes other references (religious, anti-semitism, the red scare), the comparisons to racism and the fight against it are glaring. Mutant hate groups such as Friends of Humanity and Stryker's Purifiers and their actions against mutants are comparable to African American hate groups of the 60s. Also, a 1980s edition of the comic book mentions a fictional island where mutants are enslaved and segregated by an apartheid state, which draws a striking comparison to the then-conditions in South Africa. Not only does Magneto eventually quote Malcolm X in the first movie ("By any means necessary"), but during a conversation in the Professor's study in X-Men First Class, their differences become starkly apparent as one expresses gradual social change while the other is sure that radicalism, killing the enemy, is the only answer.
Eventually, they both realize that they don't want the same things. That even though both want a better life for mutants, they have different means to get there. The other mutants chose their respective sides. It's almost as if to say that's okay. At least for now, it's possible for these two men, these two philosophies to co-exist.
In 1982, Chris Claremont, an X-Men writer, stated "The X-Men are hated, feared and despised collectively by humanity for no other reason than that they are mutants. So what we have..., intended or not, is a book that is about racism, bigotry, and prejudice." Although he also finds fault with the movie's depictions, Mikhail Lyubansky, a professor in the psychology department of the University of Illinois praises X-Men for "provid[ing] the opportunity to have those much-needed conversations about tolerance and inclusivity. The important of being comfortable and proud in one's skin is one of several prosocial messages of X-Men First Class, as well as the original trilogy." I think that this message was evident throughout the entire movie. As I rewatched the film on Friday night, I watched the characters, especially Raven portrayed by the lovely Jennifer Lawrence, learn to accept themselves. In a scene towards the middle of the movie, Magneto confronts Raven advising her that she could be better if she didn't waste half of her concentration pretending to be something she's not. It's this conversation, I think, that leads to her finally accepting her "blue form." The movie even goes as far as to comment on what happens when you reject who you are. Moments after we see Raven rocking her "blue form" with confidence, we are introduced to Beast, the monster resulting from Hank's attempt at making himself "normal" by injecting himself with a cure.
And because today's post feels so heavy which in fact it is, here's what I gathered from all of this. Magneto is the bomb.com (really how cool would it be to control metal? I'd put a magnetic strip on eeerthang!), but X-Men is about educating one another, about learning to accept the differences in yourself and in others, about annihilating the idea of "normal" - it's about love. And so is today. So on this Monday, and every Monday for that matter, be motivated to love ❤
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.