Monday, June 20, 2011

Baby, We Were Born This Way

If you have not yet seen X-Men: First Class, stop what you're doing, clear a space in your schedule and make sure you see it!

I could not speak more highly of this movie. I have already rec'd it to all my friends and my family, and would go so far as to claim it is one of my favorite movies of this summer. I caught the flick last week, and would definitely pay to see it again.

Not only does First Class feature phenomenal actors (McAvoy, Fassbender, yes, even Kevin Bacon!) who are also easy on the eyes (my personal favorite is Tony from Skins, Nicholas Hoult), but this origin story features emotionally layered characters. I never expected a summer action flick to be so affecting.

Since last week, I have not been able to get these characters out of my head. Especially Magneto. He is a beautifully complex individual. I have seen all the films in the X-Men franchise and I never gave him any further thought; I just assumed he was an evildoer. But Erik is not a bad guy. He's actually quite heroic. And even though he grows to be at odds with Professor Xavier and his team, I can't help but agree with his world view.

Because Erik is loud and proud. While Professor Xavier has developed his philosophy based on a fear of not being accepted, Erik takes ownership of his difference. Yes, I see X-Men as an allegory for gay/racial pride.

Throughout the film, Professor Xavier stresses that all he wants to do is blend in with the normal, un-mutated humans - you know, the mainstream. His mantra is not dissimilar from what I heard during my childhood, an iteration of the immigrant mentality: Mutants should do everything in their power to fit in. Act like everyone else and maybe you'll be accepted.

And that's fine for Charles, because he passes for human. The world can't tell there's anything different about him. And if they could, well, he would just convince them to think otherwise via his powers of telepathy.

While his beliefs are noble - unlike Magneto, he doesn't believe that mutants are a superior race to humans - he encourages the X-Men to mask their differences. He continually warns Raven to camouflage her natural blue appearance so as not to draw attention to how different she is. And when the poor, low-esteemed girl experiments in expressing her true self, he chastises her. Keep it in the closet, girl.

Magneto, on the other hand, feels that he shouldn't have to apologize for the way he is. He doesn't come from a place of privilege like Xavier. He's had to fight for everything he has. He sits down with Raven and tell her, "You are beautiful, no matter what they say...." Ok, not those exact words. But his advice holds the same power. He teaches her to embrace her differences and love her natural skin color. While I don't support his belief that mutants are inherently superior to humans and should therefore rise up against them (although I understand why his character feels that way based on his upbringing), I appreciate Magneto's message. Why deny that special something that makes you you?

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