Sunday, July 21, 2013

What I took away from X-Men

Popular culture is often written off as fluffy or shallow, and a large amount of it is. Sometimes though, I stumble on something that seems to go a bit deeper than a love triangle or flashy car explosions.

Up until a few months ago, I had little to no interest in X-Men franchise. Any movie with a lot of fight scenes don't hold much appeal to me, so I hadn't paid attention. My only experience with the franchise was when I went with friends to see X-Men: First Class, which was good, but I was still meh about it.

Then after Les Mis, I started becoming a fan of Hugh Jackman. It's really not hard to develop a crush on him if you have a thing for good guys (like me), and once I have a celebrity crush I like to track down their work so I can fangirl properly. Thanks to the promotional hype, I've had a chance to watch 3 of the X-Men movies on tv: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men, and X2. It's easier to commit to watching these things when you have ad breaks and are on your own couch than when you have to pay $15 for them, so I watched them all.

To be honest? I couldn't bear watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine at first. Too much violence for me. I stuck it out because there was nothing more interesting on TV. I ended up liking the character of Wolverine, but the movie didn't make much of an impression on me. The other two though...

I almost couldn't bear to watch X-Men at first too, but for an entirely different reason. Senator Kelly attempting to pass the 'Mutant Registration Act' and the prejudice against mutants made me shudder, and I found myself entranced by the theme of discrimination more than the cool mutations and fight scenes. Being picked on for the way you were born isn't just science fiction; you don't need to have blue skin or shoot laser out of your eyes to be set apart from the crowd. The opening scene of the movie was set in a Nazi concentration camp.

All my life, I always feel like an Other. Being a descendant of Chinese immigrants in Indonesia didn't resign me to a life of oppression or even to a real minority group the way it was for the mutants, and the large number of people I've met in Australia are tolerant, open-minded people. Nevertheless, I'd go to a smaller town - a place that hasn't seen a lot of non-white people (or pale-skinned folks in the case of Indonesian further regions) - and I'd catch some people looking at me a second longer. I'd never had a racist rant in my face, thank goodness, but that doesn't mean I'm not aware it's out there, and it's a sad feeling to think I've just been very lucky that I haven't been subjected to that sort of overt hate (though implied, casual racism is just as bad, but that can be a whole other post).

So the mutants' plight struck a chord with me, and I can see both Magneto and Xavier's reasoning behind their approach to human beings. I understand why Magneto thinks mutants should be at war with humans - haven't we proved time and time again that fear/ignorance of the different and unknown is stronger than sympathy? - but I also would like to believe that Xavier is right, that we should have hope in our ability to sympathize and tolerate.

It's fun when movies aren't black and white.

Also, I love this from X2:

Nightcrawler: You know, outside the circus, most people were afraid of me. But I didn't hate them. I pitied them. Do you know why? Because most people will never know anything beyond what they see with their own two eyes.
Storm: Well, I gave up on pity a long time ago.
Nightcrawler: Someone so beautiful should not be so angry.
Storm: Sometimes anger can help you survive.
Nightcrawler: So can faith.

I still don't care for the part where people get stabbed or blown up or whatever else they do to kill someone, but there is more to X-Men than the 'super'powers and good-looking action heroes. I like that. I'm still considering whether or not to see The Wolverine, but I think I will see Days of Future Past.

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