Thursday, June 9, 2011

Comics as Myth

I haven't seen X-Men: First Class, but big boy bloggers and reviewers are elevating the movie from a comic book geekboy must see to myth.

It is apparently, a metaphor for the struggle for gay rights.  Writing in The Atlantic, Paul Schrodt opines,
In X-Men: First Class, one young mutant-human tells another, "You have no idea what I'd give to feel ... normal." It's a moment anyone who went to high school can empathize with, though it might mean something more to those who grew up gay—the adolescent experience when you discover, like the X-Men, something in your nature that makes you different from the majority of the people around you.

Parallels between the mutant experience and the gay experience pervade First Class, which opened on Friday to a weekend box-office haul of $56 million. The film, a prequel to the modern X-Men movie series, tells the franchise's origin myth: Genetic mutations create a cadre of young superheros who use their powers for good—in this case, by attempting to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis. The mutants are, unmistakably, a social minority. The film's catchphrase is "mutant and proud," a playful riff on post-Stonewall self-acceptance, and a "don't ask, don't tell" joke even finds its way into the dialogue.
In the New York Times, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes that the movie is about race, even as it engages in historical revisionism that promotes musing in people of a certain age who possess a bit of historical knowledge.
When we left the theater, my son and I knew we had experienced the most thrilling movie of the summer. “First Class” is narratively lean, beautifully acted and, at all the right moments, visually stunning. But I had experienced something else. My son is 10 and a romantic, as all 10-year-olds surely have the right to be. How then do I speak to him of this world’s masterminds who render you a supporting actor in your own story? How do I speak of the Sentinels whose eyes melt history, until the world forgets that in 1962, the quintessential mutants of America were black?
This movie seems to explain and people seem to argue about its interpretation. Pantheon.org claims "myths and mythologies seek to rationalize and explain the universe and all that is in it. Thus, they have a similar function to science, theology, religion and history in modern societies."

Stan Lee, creator of the X-Men comics has always said the comic sought to expose bigotry.  Schrodt writes,
Lee has been coy about sexually identifying X-Men, calling it one of several stories directed “against bigotry of all sorts.” At the time the comic book first came out in 1963, it made more sense to think of the characters’ plight in terms of the civil rights movement. Since then, however, it’s become a natural echo of the growing LGBT movement, which is likewise based on a minority that’s “hidden” from public view.
When I go to see the movie, I'll be looking for the explanations of social ills and hopefully be seeing myth not just an adventure story

1 comment:

yanktonirishred said...

From the beginning the X-men has been a comic about bigotry, about being different and growing enough to feel comfortable with being different.
I always have found it interesting that the most non human looking of the X-Men (Nightcrawler and Beast) are often portrayed as being the most comfortable being different and the ones looking and acting the most "human" are the ones filled with shame, regret, embarrassment and often display the worst behavior (Cyclops, Wolverine, Magneto, Charles).

I've seen parralels drawn between Malcom X (Magneto) and Dr. King (Xavier).

One of my favorite recent stories involved humans taking a Mutant Growth Hormone to act like they were mutants....to fit in with the suddenly hip outcasts. Such a smart comment on the upper class spending money to look poor, suburban teens dressing "ghetto" and other sad attempts at being the person you are trying to what...save? Just a great commentary done through sequential story telling and art.

I too am looking forward to the movie. Good summer for comic book geeks at the movies First Class, Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern, Cowboys and Aliens,Priest and Transformers. Amazing to me a 35 year comic book reader and collector just how prevalent comics are in entertainment today.

Shane