Monday, January 19, 2015

X-Men: Civil Rights, Gay Oppression, and Movie Rights

When I originally sought out to write something about the X-Men, I mostly wanted to talk about how I felt that the live-action rights really didn't matter to the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe and why I actually thought it was a dumb idea for anyone to really suggest that Fox should sell back or give the rights back to Marvel Studios. Hell, despite X3 and both of the Wolverine movies sucked hard, all of the other films in the series have been really good financially, critically, and in my opinion artistically... I was going to write a piece of how Fox is doing just fine with Bryan Singer (thankfully) back at the wheel. Sure, I would have preferred if Matthew Vaughn directed Days of Future Past, but after watching the movie several times, it is probably my third or fourth favorite comic book movie of all time (for now). However after doing a little bit more research for writing this topic I decided to not just go into the whole movie rights thing because well, while that will be covered, I wanted to go into a bit of how I feel the X-Men is seen in today's society.

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Original Social Commentary

People try to talk about how when Stan Lee and Marvel Comics debuted that their strife they faced was an allegory for racial tension and discrimination during the civil rights area which really sped up during the 1960s and even as I watched the amazing (until the final few seasons) X-Men animated series I was able to see this despite being in my pre-teens when it aired -- it was obvious that the differences between Professor Xavier and Magneto were as clear as the different approaches with civil rights between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X: Professor Xavier prefers equality through education, talks, politics, and without oppression while Magneto fought back with any means and at any cost and doesn't care who gets in the crossfire with his side of Brotherhood of Mutants.. of course, a lot of this has changed since the 90s as Magneto became an on again/off again ally of the X-Men. There is no question that race relations in the United States, among other places in the world, have changed quite a lot since X-Men debuted over a million years ago but the dynamic has change a lot. While MLK Jr and Malcom X are both remembered for good reasons and some bad, the only person I can even compare to either them over the past 25 years is Nelson Mandela. Sure, there are other people that have contributed to the race talk in world, but there really isn't anyone I can name as iconic as these two and without them, the comparison to Professor Xavier and Magneto is really lost. Sure, both of them are still quite different but now that Professor X has been dead since the events of A v X, and now Magneto back in his whole anti-hero thing, and of course with the convoluted time travel of the ORIGINAL X-Men now in modern times and teaming up with the Guardians the Galaxy, it's safe to say that the X-Men really aren't about the racial discrimination context anymore.

Changing Hands

In 1996, to avoid their company crumbling, Marvel Comics had to file for bankruptcy and out of desperation sold off the rights to many of their properties to be adapted into live action shows and films, which led to the first X-Men film being released and directed by Bryan Singer (and written by Solid Snake) in 2000.  When I first heard that the X-Men was being adapted into a feature length film, I lost it and was so excited that one of my favorite comics was not just going to be a TV show or amazing arcade fighters anymore, but it was actually going to be on the big screen! I was only 16 when the film came out so my priorities weren't arranged how they are now of course, so a film based on X-Men, or any Marvel comic really was a big fucking deal for me and my friends (well, the ones that read comics anyways). Of course the film was a success (except for Rogue, Storm, Toad, and Sabretooth) and led to the even better X2: X-Men United, which was 10x better in my opinion because it better explored the Weapon X experiment with Wolverine, gave us amazing performances and a great lead-in to any upcoming films, or so everyone thought. I'll pass over X-3 and the shitty Wolverine films and say I am glad for the reboot/prequel/retcon that was done by both First Class and Days of Future Past. I'm going to focus a on these two films because I felt both films handled the xenophobic nature of the 1960s and 1970s toward mutants, the unknowns. The 60s and 70s were not exactly very nice to gays or minorities and it was obvious that despite an amazing script, it did feel like the writers were on their soap box of how oppressed and suppressed mutant-kind were during this era.


Now, I've read many opinion pieces about how the use of "mutant" in these films is some sort of code word
I guess he scene got cut out.
for "gay" and honestly I think that is a bunch of shit. The writers may have made that intention, but I don't buy it one bit. First off of all, being gay is nothing like being a mutant. Let's be honest with ourselves and just straight up say that being mutant can be either pretty awesome or pretty crappy (most of the time and if you remember them) and Homo Superior most definitely should be or already is the next step in human evolution. The crappy part of being a mutant is that there is a pretty good chance you will stand out just simply based on your unfortunate appearance or your flashy powers. Now, let's compare that to being gay: you are either born gay or you're not. Of course, sometimes it takes a while to discover you are gay but being gay isn't going to suddenly change your appearance.. I've never seen anyone gay who has completely blue skin or a giant bushy squirrel tail. Being gay isn't suddenly going to give you the ability to slice your enemies in half with your claws or anything like that. Yes, mutants faced a lot of oppression and anger towards them mostly out of real fear that any moment a dangerous mutant can go on a massacre and kill your family, but being gay doesn't mean you're suddenly go out and rape every man, woman, or child -- it's just not the same! Yes, there are individuals and groups and even entire governments that will harass, maim, persecute and even kill you if they find out you're gay and most of the time when things like this happen it's usually out of stupidity or taking religious views completely out of context and overreacting and I'm sure that given the chance, some governments would love to make a place like Geonosha where they can send all homosexuals to. Hell, it's even absurd that I have to talk about this in the first place.

X-Men in the MCU

Now, what the hell does all of this have to do with the X-Men trying to fit in with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Honestly, nothing. I think it really would be best if Fox kept doing what they're doing with the X-Men even if Bryan Singer has some sort of weird thing with changing the subtext of the mutant plight. Seriously, go watch X2, First Class and Days of Future Past... these movies are amazing. Of course, I might be a complete idiot for not wanting to see the X-Men team up with other heroes in the MCU, but in reality it makes no sense for them to even be included unless they change the way mutants are viewed. Look, you have these individuals with amazing powers that could potentially defend and help mankind yet we now have the Avengers and aside from a couple of stupid people in the world who think they're a danger, the rest of the world really doesn't mind them and of course this might all change after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. So does this mean that both the current super-powered individuals and mutants should be treated the same? That is just one thing that doesn't really make a whole lot of sense in Marvel Comics with certain groups of heroes are celebrated while another group of heroes are to be feared and oppressed.

If tomorrow Marvel suddenly announced, "Hey guys, we got mutants back, expect them in Phase 4", and they went ahead and included them as they have been treated in the comics and films, I'm sure we'll see ten billion posts online about how it doesn't make sense much like how people complained when Iron Man 3 came out, "Where are the rest of the Avengers to help out and bla bla bla?", because if you think about it boils down to who was born with powers versus those who gained powers later on with a wide selection of methods of how those powers were given. But really, who knows what will happen in the films because literally there is a possibility of anything happening with the rights but please don't think that being gay is like being a mutant, because it's not. Obviously, there are holes in my logic and I'm going to be criticized as either cynical or ignorant, but honestly I just don't see the gay subtext in these films and I think comparing it so kinda cheapens the plot of the series, but hey, you don't have to listen to me.

Cinematic Failure, right here.