Anonymous said: Thoughts on Orion Martin's "X-Men of Color?"
regarding the article by Orion Martin: http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2013/12/what-if-the-x-men-were-black/
Here is my problem and what my problem has always been as a black boy and eventually a black man: discrimination is real but real-life bigotry is based on irrational fear. The “mutants” of the X-Men world are actually horrifying. They are monstrous. They can kill with a thought. They can kill even without a thought, many of these characters have killed people by accident. Because they are monsters with horrific powers that nobody can hope to contain.
The “mutant” metaphor does not work as a stand-in for bigotry because people in the comic book world have every right to be Absolutely Terrified about the prospect of being blown up, disintegrated, mind-controlled, crushed or slashed up by these superhuman creatures.
Also insulting is the Xavier character whose plea for “tolerance” centers around the assertion that he would convince these walking weapons of mass destruction to not cause harm to people while also insisting that the free exercise of these devastating abilities is a right that any individual would have.
I was a black boy and now I’m a black man. There are people who wish me harm and people who would do me harm. But I have no more ability than they do. Bigotry in reality is unjustified. In comic book land, people are (quite rationally) at least suspicious about people who have the ability—no scratch that—the tendency to unleash massive casualties, often by complete accident. Black people cannot blow your head off by just looking at you.
It’s an exceedingly offensive concept of how bigotry works.
That said, I’ve always enjoyed X-Men comic books and movies for what they were. Even though they are built on a terrible foundation, they’ve got some good and entertaining stories out of it.
ALSO, A L S O …
I MUST ADD because people keep making this mistake: the idea to make the X-Men explicitly about racism/bigotry wasn’t introduced until a little over a year into the series. In the beginning, the very first issue, you see the X-Men concerned with outcast status and being “freaks” (“freak”ism is a concept that pops up frequently in white speculative fiction) but as Grant Morrison once rightly pointed out, the X-Men’s initial push was more closely associated with generational fears and ideas such as the fear that the Establishment has of Youth, new ideas, new generations. The specific turn toward making the concept focus on racism and bigotry was introduced later, in the first Sentinels storyline (as far as I know).
All apologies to Orion Martin though, I was frustrated by the article because he takes so much of the stuff about X-Men at face value instead of probing deeper. One does not have to simply accept the construct as it is presented. One should question it. Professor X is NOT Martin Luther King Jr. Magneto is NOT Malcolm X. These are stupid and toxic ideas that were introduced by writers who didn’t mean harm but were still perpetuating ridiculous and ultimately disrespectful notions.
I don’t know, the premise of the X-Men is too shaky to critique it as-presented. One must cut past the nonsense.
it’s worth considering, maybe, who “i can kill you if my temper flares the wrong way but i’m a saint for saving you and how dare you fear and despise me” is actually a message for.
Strong, strong points all around, but for Tara’s last point, cf. this essay on Ender’s Game and who that story is a message for, too. I’m not sure there’s ever such a thing as a harmless power fantasy, but if there is, these aren’t it.