X-Men, A Bad Analogue

marvel logo The X-Men are, without doubt, one of the most popular properties that Marvel Comics ever created. They’re also the most problematic, on several levels, and for several reasons. It’s something that’s been bothering me for a while, so it’s time to lay it out. The X-Men, and the core of their overarching story, don’t make any sense in the universe created by Marvel Comics. At all.

Whether they intended to or not (and there is some debate about it), the X-Men have been used to, in the crudest, least sensical way, to explore the ideas of intolerance, racism, and has used obvious parallels to the American Civil Rights struggle and modern efforts for equality and justice. [1][2][3] And they’ve done a really terrible job of it over all. Where it falls apart is in what is the functional difference between a “regular” superhero and “mutant” superhero, how it tries to address “racism” within the Marvel Comics Universe, explicitly racist “solutions” to minority populations, and the disconnect from the rest of the Marvel Universe.

Superheroes are literally everywhere in the Marvel Comics Universe. People with superpowers are literally everywhere. But for some reason, people born with super powers are the only ones who are actively discriminated against. Dosed with radiation, cosmic rays, or “super-soldier” serum? No problem. Build a suit of power armour? Again, no issues. There aren’t any protestors outside the Avengers Mansion, or the Fantastic Four’s Skyscraper, with signs saying the equivalent of “Mutants Get Out” as seen in X-Men comics. Why doesn’t this make sense? Where’s the difference between the guy flying and shooting energy bolts who was dipped in chemicals when the stars were right, and the one born with that power set? The alien with wings is cool, the human born with them is a monster? What?

Building from that, the prejudice shown by normal humans makes no sense. Racism wasn’t a switch that got flipped, it was created in a long process designed to keep one group in power over others. In the X-Men comics, humans went from zero to KKK terrorism in no time, at all, but only against “mutants”. Other superheroes are fine, but mutants are somehow an affront to everything humanity and history has ever stood for. So, to reiterate, if you get your superpowers from exposure to radiation, chemicals, mystic energies, alien technology, or your own technological invention, you’re cool. Be born with it? Monster. The best example of this comes from that utter shit-show that was “X-Men: First Class”, where FBI agents, having literally only just discovered that mutants with superpowers existed, are already treating them like second class citizens and non-people, making “racist” jokes and so on.

Next is the issue that the X-Men are explicitly segregationist. They claim that they just want to “live like normal people”, but in reality practice serious segregation and “separate but equal” politics. They segregate themselves in a mansion and sprawling estate, away from “real world” and the people they claim to want to live with “equally”. The idea of establishing a separate “homeland” for mutants only has been a reoccurring theme through the comics, first espoused by Magneto, and later by Cyclops and other X-Men. If this sounds familiar, it’s because these are and were the common “solutions” to the POC “problem” in the USA. To set them up in “separate but equal” communities away from the “normal” (read: White) population, or to ship them all away to a new “homeland” far away. There’s also very little in the way of attempts to actually “live” around normal humans. the X-Men sally out of their mansion, blast stuff, and then retreat again. There’s no community integration, nothing, and when they do show mutants living outside of the mansion and grounds, its always in poverty or in ghetto situations, which implies that they’d be better off to live separately from normal humans.

Then there’s the serious issues around the lack of logical integration into the rest of the Marvel Universe. For some reason, people are allowed to protest their very existence, blow up busloads of children (shortly after M Day, a bus full of de-powered children was blown up as it left the mansion grounds), and attack their property constantly without police or federal intervention. The X-Men are a bizarre anomaly in the Marvel Universe. S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers, despite being practically next door, never see them, except for the odd time Wolverine in moonlighting with them. Somehow it’s legal for the government to send giant robots to attack peoples houses and kidnap their mutant children, but no superheroes see these robots as an issue. Seriously, Sentinels have rampaged through NewYork on several occasions, but it doesn’t seem to be an issue. Which brings us to the politics of the whole thing. How does it make any sense to pass legislation against mutants, but not every other super human? It’s asinine. It’s crude, ham-handed, and makes no sense with even the most cursory thinking.

So, in summation, the X-men are the worst analogue for “examining” the issues of prejudice or the Civil Rights era, or the continuing struggle for equality and social justice in the modern world that’s out there in the SFF world. The “solutions” proposed in the comics only reinforce older, explicitly racist ideology. The anti-mutant “racism” in the comics makes no sense in the context of a world literally dripping with superheroes and super technology. So, ignoring the continuous lack of diversity within the X-Men or its other othering (that’ll be a separate post), the X-Men come up short as an analogue.