Thursday, August 16, 2012

Uncanny Metaphors


The obvious theme in the X-Men comic books is racism.  For me it had a very interesting resonance.  Having been born with a Cleft Palate and Lip, I am what real world genetic mutation is like.  It is not a beneficial thing in most cases in the real world.  To a teenaged kid struggling with having a facial deformity, though minor, in 1980’s Southern California, the Uncanny X-Men was a revelation of sorts.  It helped me accept my differences.  Yes, the Marvel Mutants had wonderful, amazing and extraordinary powers.  In many cases those offset any negative mutations.  I felt a kindred spirit though to those with more challenges like Rogue, who could not touch another person without negative consequences.  I liked Nightcrawler, who wore his mutation on his skin, like I did.  He like me could not hide his differences.  In 1980’s Southern California’s cult of physical perfection, I felt definitely on the outside of normal.  Now in retrospection, the cult of physical perfection was not normal especially on the altar of plastic surgery. 

I felt that no matter what I did or how much reconstructive I got, I would never measure up.  I was a freak; the X-men taught me that is not necessarily a bad thing.  The X-men themes included not just societal acceptance, but self acceptance.  Some characters like Angel (pre-Apocalypse’s modification) and Beast reveled in their differences.  That exampled helped me realized that being different may not be a curse, but a blessing.  Whether by design or unintentional, the X-men helped many who felt on the outside of society see their differences as something wonderful. 

Many have used the mutant struggle as analogy for the Civil Rights Movement, the Gay Lesbian and Transgendered Rights Movement, Religious and Cultural Tolerance, Body Modification sub-culture, and the Disabled Rights Movement.  With the recent Things Get Better Campaign and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Anthem, these themes still resonate after almost fifty years of Publication.  Be it race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, sexual identity or anything that can be used to divide people, the X-men speaks to those who feel left out of the norm or majority.

The Various Writers on the X-men Titles have explored almost every reaction to disenfranchisement: Extreme Militancy, Pacifistic Resistance, Isolationism, Integration, Self Loathing, and Self Aggrandizement.  All of these themes resonate to the feelings of individuals feeling on the outside.  Every human being needs and wants to be accepted by someone, but everyone fears rejection.  The X-men calls to these feelings and fears, they also address those concerns in both a person and societal level.  In the U.S., the idea of being different, but part of something bigger also rings true.  We are a country made up of many cultures, Races, religions, and philosophies.  So the idea of the acceptance of anyone is part of our National Ideals.  These ideals are not always practiced.  The X-Men try to aspire to this Ideal.  I think that is a noble sentiment. That is my not so humble opinion.

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