“Does it hurt?”
One of the most revolutionary comic book series of all time and spawning several spin-off series, X-Men, finally hit the big screen in 2000. It was the debut of Hugh Jackman’s notorious portrayal of Wolverine, as well as many other great (and some not so great) performances that nerds across the country loved and loathed. It garnered four more films and counting. It’s become its own intricate universe separate and apart from the rest of the Marvel world in its own right. In all of the excitement, however, we never stopped to think what the films were trying to tell us.
Let’s start with the story.
At a plain old regular-sized house in Mississippi, a girl named Marie kisses her boyfriend for the first time. It sends him into a coma. Said girl runs off and ends up running into Logan (a.k.a. Wolverine), who takes her on as a little sister of sorts. Following an unfortunate run-in with Sabretooth, the two unlikely friends find themselves in the care of Xavier and his…eccentric teaching staff.
Meanwhile, the political scene is tumultuous for mutants, as a “Mutant Registration Act” is in Congress. Mutants are faced with publicly revealing themselves and their abilities, which the mutants insist will lead to persecution.
So naturally, Magneto hatches a plot to kidnap Rogue and use her to turn everyone into mutants. Because that definitely makes total sense. The heroes make a trip to Long Island and Wolverine stops them because he’s awesome.
The film as a whole was really done pretty well. It remains one of my favorite X-Men films even as the list multiplies. I found the plotto be a pretty cool take on the story and characters and the acting for the most part was really good. Ian McKellen as Magneto, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier were all excellent choices. I didn’t really like Anna Paquin as Rogue or Halle Berry as Storm, but I can live with it. Mostly.
Now for a look at the film’s worldview.
The X-Men storylines have always been about unapologetically political and always about civil rights. That was the very point of the comic’s inception. X-Men as a whole has been related to racial issues. There’s a lot to explore there. For example, Magneto was a holocaust survivor, and that had an important impact on his worldview (this is explored more fully in X-Men: First Class). Xavier and Magneto are sometimes compared to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, respectively. That’s definitely in the film. The X-Men are often referred to in the comics as “Xavier’s dream” (a reference to Martin Luther King’s famous speech) and Magneto in the movie quotes Malcolm X with the line “By any means necessary.”
One of the most interesting things about the films and the story in general is that on a very basic level, Xavier and Magneto want the exact same thing: they want mutants to be respected. It’s about civil rights, plain and simple. However, one tries to accomplish those means through peace and one through violence. Those are two very commonly methods used to get change accomplished. The filmmakers are sending us a very clear picture that violence should not be a vehicle for change.
One of my favorite things about X-Men is the focus on civil rights. It makes for much deeper superhero flicks than most and is a very godly message as well.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
– Galatians 3:28
Half of the New Testament is spent combatting racism in a very real sense.
I will offer a caution, however.
The first film seems to be primarily combatting racism. The second, however, breaches some very dangerous territory. It (as well as the third) instead largely surrounds homosexuality.
When the heroes make a visit to Bobby’s home in the second film, Bobby’s mother asks “Have you tried NOT being a mutant?” This part of the agenda becomes even more clear in the third film, when Beast responds to being a mutant by saying “You didn’t ask, I didn’t tell” (a reference to the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy regarding homosexual soldiers). Still don’t believe me? Director Bryan Singer says that’s what it’s about. Sorry.
The Bible has some very direct words in regards to homosexuality.
“and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” – Romans 1:27
So what we’re left with is a film franchise that appears to support something completely contrary to the Biblical model. That’s obviously a problem.
Granted, the film’s source material is intended more for the racism issues of the 1960s. If you can interpret the films as addressing those issues, by all means watch them and enjoy them. Be cautious, however. As time goes on, Hollywood is becoming more and more direct, even with action and superhero flicks. Be sure you will pull the plug on a film franchise when the need arises. In this case, the time may not be far off.