I was never into comic books. Well, there was that brief four or five month period when it seemed prudent to buy comic books for their profit potential. But, my interest in that faded quickly. Although I think I still have them in storage. Anyway, my exposure to X-Men started when the first movie came out in 2000.
I think the success of X-Men can probably be attributed to two factors. Sure, you have to have a good story, put together with good actors and a great director. But, there are two factors in this franchise people can identify with. One is most of us, as kids wondered what it would be like to have some sort of super power. That’s why super hero movies do so well. But, the other, is that a great number of people, as kids, felt like mutants. There’s a certain time in every kids life where they aren’t sure how they fit in. There is that awkward period in early adolescence , where your not a kid anymore. But, your not really an adult either. You just want to be normal.
Can you imagine what it would be like to feel awkward all of your life? That’s how life has been with me. I’ve always been shy. Social anxiety and depression have been the norm for me since I can remember. To this day, I plan out conversations in my head before I walk into a room. If I don’t, I’m afraid I’ll stutter through a conversation while my mind sucks in every detail of what’s going on. When my ex-girlfiriend said I had a brain like a vacuum cleaner, she wasn’t far off.
There is a scene in the original movie, where a U.S. Senator is leaving in a helicoptor. It soon becomes evident that the helicoptor has been hijacked. By a blue woman. I was in love. Here was a person who could be anyone she wanted to be in an instant. Male or female. Anyone. I was envious. I wanted to know more about her. Thankfully, the new movie explores her background. She has blue skin. So, unlike Charles Xavier’s character, she can’t exactly hide in plain sight. She’s embarrassed about her mutation. She wants to be normal.
When she first meets a young scientist, she’s thrilled to hear that he’s working on a vaccine that will make her and other mutants “normal”. But later, Eric/Magneto provides the argument that she is beautiful in her natural born state and she should be proud to be who she is. There is a scene in the new movie where she is lifting weights as her non-blue self. Eric walks in and immediately uses his powers to lift the barbell out of her hands and into the air above her. He says to her “If your using half your concentration to look normal, then your only half paying attention to whatever else your doing.” I can only imagine what life would be like to have been born normal. Either way. Male or female. Either way, I wouldn’t mind at this point. Male with male mind. Or female with female mind. It doesn’t matter. Life would be easier. But, I can’t do that. I was born this way, to steal a song title. Outside of suicide, I have no choice.
As someone who has taken great strides to fit in. As someone who saw from an early age how being different was bad, this movie really clicked with me. Bryan Singer was the director of the original movies. And I believe he was a producer of First Class. He’s openly gay. And I remember seeing an interview with him where he said he took how he felt, growing up as a minority, and tried to infuse it in these characters.
The first time I saw First Class, I saw it with a trans friend of mine. When a scene in which Charles, a telepath, accidentally outs a mutant, he apologizes. Then, says “It’s ok. Your amongst friends.” The “Yes!” from the seat next to me was a clear indication of something she identified with in that scene. I felt the same way. I just happen to be more subtle with my emotions. When you know society won’t accept you, you feel embarrassed when someone finds out. As if this thing, this HUGE thing, will be the only thing people see from now on. So, you hide it. You pretend this huge thing isn’t bothering you. You try not to slip up, afraid you’ll be exposed. I swear, I think transgendered people would make excellent acting coaches.
When I saw the original X-men movies, I saw Magneto and Mystique as the bad guys. I liked Professor X. I was still trying to hide. I felt vulnerable. But, after First Class, I felt empowered. I actually found myself agreeing with the things being said by Eric/Magneto. I should be proud. Society should be the one’s accepting me for who I am. Well, as you can imagine, much of that new found empowerment wears off once your a few blocks away from the theater. I don’t think it was the movie that changed how I see things. I’ve been on a slow march toward pride for awhile now.
We all just want to be accepted for who we are. And none of us want any small or big thing about us to be how society sees us. So, we get by. We live. We express ourselves in other smaller ways. We dye our hair. We drive a certain kind of car (or bike). We have hobbies on the side. I’m no different from you. I want to live without standing out. Without being killed or beaten up for who I am. For what I really, truthfully cannot change. But, I wish society would see my mutation as a gift instead of a curse. Wouldn’t that be great?