Few stories of diversity and tolerance are as popular as The X-Men. It featured one of the first heroes of color (Storm) and more than nodded to the Nazi level of hatred that man is capable of. It carried an over-arching story based on real world prejudice and bigotry; hating someone for who they are. With the upcoming sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past, bringing together one of the largest ensembles in super hero history, I am shooting bolts out of my nether regions in anticipation.
In the real world, people are still being “held back” and their freedoms limited due to skin color, for the people they choose to love, for religious beliefs, and so on. It is shocking that after the slaughter of Blacks, Jews, and Native Americans here in the US, that people still find it acceptable to apply different rules to different groups. Hey, I thought we were the United States?
Christians disregard gays, citing the bible (though honestly, the bible was misused to enslave blacks, cited when attacking Jews, thrown about when fighting bi-racial couples etc). The biggest argument being that a man and a woman were meant to populate the Earth. I’ll bypass the fact that there seems to be an issue of “overpopulation” most noted in history in China. I mean…there are plenty of people having babies, right? A lot of them being abused, neglected, and/or abandoned. Yet, as someone who worked in the child welfare field, I am shocked that there are so many Christians in my little town, but so many kids in need of homes. I digress, though. My real question is “What about hermaphrodites, women that can’t have children, and men who are sterile?” Based on the Christian argument regarding the purpose of man to have children, are these people going to hell? Are they going to suffer for something they cannot control?
My point is not that Christians shouldn’t have their beliefs. What concerns me is the self-inflicted authority these types of Christians give themselves to “rate” homosexuals as somehow unworthy of things such as respect, protection, or happiness. It is one thing to have an opinion about how someone lives their life, it is another to become active in disrupting that life. From the debate of marriage to the fight to add sexual orientation to anti-discrimination laws, we somehow allow one group of people with certain religious beliefs to dictate something that has very little to do with them personally. When will we learn as a whole that our decisions to alienate a certain group of people (treat them different in any way) can be wrong…and has been in the past (again, Native Americans, Blacks, Jews, mentally disabled, etc.)? We just keep doing it over and over…each time with a different group.
In the first two X-Men films, Charles Xavier and Jean Grey fought politically to protect mutants and their right to live a life in peace. Mutants were referred to as abominations, though there were good and bad mutants, just as their were good and bad humans. This mirrors real life. It is a poor argument to say that gays are out converting children just as it was wrong to say that black men are criminals waiting to happen or any other negative stereotype. Because on the other end, there are plenty of married pastors and priests who were caught in molestation scandals, plenty of straight men having sex with underage girls, Caucasians in prison for drugs and murder, etc. There are good and bad in every demographic.
The message of tolerance is usually what people most refer to when getting philosophical about the X-Men, but what I appreciate more is the counter-message to those that are different. The foundation for the mutated heroes is that they will do what is right even in the face of being despised. Professor X’s character pushes to set a good example of mutants by saving those that hate them, being respectful to the harshest opposition. He takes on a Martin Luther King Jr approach to helping the mutants by helping the non-mutants. In this day and age, most non-Christians who have felt attacked over the years, find it hard to take this approach of “helping those that don’t help you.” It’s where we justify our actions because of the actions of others. In the example of homosexuality, I think gays should do less Christian-bashing and look for the balance. Not all Christians are bashing gays, just as not all gays are sexually promiscuous perverts looking for young boys to corrupt. Christians have a right to their beliefs (not a right to YOURS OR MINE, but theirs), and as Americans we should be willing to protect that right, even if it is against us. That’s how we have peace…agreeing to disagree and protecting the right to do so.
Of course, there is the balance that comes with the Professor’s frenemy, Magneto. Magneto is a Malcolm X-type, ready to push back when pushed due to his horrible treatment in a concentration camp. He is a great villain due to a deep understanding of why he is the way he is. He was all about using his power to overcome the prejudice. However, I find him to be weak. He has allowed the behavior of others to influence his good decision making, in such a way that only keeps the war going. It is a cycle that bigots, hypocrites, and victims keep going. This probably resembles most people with the inability to control ourselves in the face of our emotions. We get hurt and we want to hurt back.
As history continues to repeat itself by people not minding their own business or realizing their opinions are nothing more than opinions, I find that we need more Professor X’s of the world…believing in doing what is fair despite our personal beliefs and opinions. We need to believe that the world can be more peaceful than it is, without compromising our strength. A world where we don’t make it easy on ourselves by labeling everyone into a certain group based on things that in the end don’t matter at all. We are all mutating; getting older, changing our minds and hearts, and hopefully learning better ways to live. There will always be Magneto’s, but we have the ability to deal with them.
These are the elements that make the X-Men special. Sure, you can watch them for the action and special effects. Yet, there is so much thought that can be generated from them about our real world and how we live. Yes, I cannot wait to experience the excitement and the furthering struggle for equality in The X-Men. Bring it on!