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Whither Comics After the X-Movie?
(2/16/01)


A response to my essay X-Men:  All-New or Same-Old? in Indian Comics Irregular #51:

>> My primary knowledge of "X-Men" comes from the movie, which didn't have too many non-Euro characters at all (and I think we are meant to infer that the mutant chief baddie is Jewish). <<

Magneto is Jewish in the comics. I think the movie correctly depicted Wolverine as Canadian. About the only other multicultural touch was Rogue's Southern heritage (i.e., Anna Paquin's faux accent). The movie could've used the German Nightcrawler, the Russian Colossus, et. al (they're still around). It chose not to.

>> Storm was depicted sympathetically (not her fault she wasn't very well acted :) ). <<

Sympathetically but shallowly. She barely had any lines, and her power displays were limited. In the final scene, she could've flown and attacked Magneto herself, with any one of about five weather phenomena. Instead, she lifted Wolverine to the attack because the moviemakers thought his claws would be more dramatic.

In the comics, Storm is a two-dimensional cipher with little cultural background. One could call her an Oreo: black on the outside, white on the inside. Even her white hair and cat-like eyes make her less "ethnic" and thus more acceptable. The movie merely sanitized her further, making her one- instead of two-dimensional.

>> I think the movie wound up being kind of neutral in terms of ethnic politics not much to be read into it one way or another. <<

Yes, but you have to ask what's the meta-message of a so-called neutral message. If minorities exist in reality but are invisible or ignored (except for the obvious Jewish connection) in the movie, that sends a message itself. The message is that the predominant culture and its values are normal and "good." Minorities are outsiders who should be seen and not heard.

>> I thought the idea of mutants who manifested in adolescence seemed more like an analogy for gay people <<

Right...the comics have made the mutant/gay analogy fairly clear. There's even a fatal disease spread primarily by mutants. Again, this is a sanitized version of reality. No doubt Marvel thinks kiddies can handle a made-up prejudice against mutants but not the real-world prejudice against gays.

>> If you have Native American (or Hispanic or African or Asian) ancestry, your life has to be *about* your ancestry you can't decide you'd like to concentrate on medicine, law, drama, inventing new yogurt flavors, whatever. <<

That's what we're missing: dramas about ethnic yogurt makers! Why didn't I realize that before?!

>> *This* kind of stereotyping even when the stereotypes are "positive" is something I'd like to see recede. <<

Yes. I've written before that positive stereotypes are better than negative stereotypes, but they're still not ideal. Reality is ideal.


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