X-Men: First Class felt like a big “what If”? What if, instead of the way they told it in the comics, the X-Men had been formed like this?
What if, out of the first group of recruits, the only woman is a thin, conventionally pretty woman of color… who is working as a stripper? What if she’s based on comic writer Grant Morrison’s Angel, who was not thin, and certainly not of a disposition to flatter men for money? What if film Angel was the first one to defect to the forces of evil? What if she wore leather hot pants after she defected, and never got another line of dialogue (as best I can recall)?
What if the other recruit who was a person of color was a black man, and he died first? What if the only purpose his death seemed to serve was to motivate his teammates?
What if Emma Frost wore tacky underwear and had no personality? (Paging Greg Land…) What if Sebastian Shaw’s other lackeys were a red Russian demon (with terrible clothes and terrible hair) and a guy who makes tornadoes, played by a Spanish actor who I’m pretty sure is supposed to look “exotic” and who never speaks?
What if Havok practiced his aim on headless female mannequins, and Henry McCoy groped one of them for an audience laugh?
What if Charles and Erik were basically in love, but Hollywood couldn’t possibly allow them to kiss when they realize they’re breaking up and will only meet as enemies hereafter?
What if the filmmakers made sure that by the end of the movie, the First Class of X-Men was a group of white American men (one who had turned blue and furry) and Magneto’s “brotherhood” was composed of everyone foreign and female?
My brother mentioned that he’d been hearing that X-Men: First Class was “the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight" and I laughed and I laughed and I laughed because I couldn’t have scripted it more perfectly.
The best comic book movies (and the best everything, really), of course, are obviously, indisputably, objectively those things which focus on cis, able-bodied, heterosexual white dudes’ feelings to the exclusion of all else and otherize, objectify, exoticize, and just generally shit on everyone who is not a cis, able-bodied, heterosexual white dude.
It took me more years than I want to count to be able to accept that sometimes (even most times) it’s actually okay for me not to care about yet another story about white dudes’ feelings and it took me even more years to be able to accept that it was just as okay for me to fucking want more. To accept that it wasn’t selfish or needy or childish or embarrassing or shameful to want to see people like me in my media treated as human beings, with dignity and with respect.
I teethed on X-Men comics. I am not exaggerating when I say that 90s X-Titles are probably the single most formative narrative of my life. Not even primarily because it was a (often wildly faulty) parable about racism, but because I could look through the innumerable series about disenfranchised outsiders struggling through life and I could find women and people of color being heroes. The first time I heard about the idea of them making an X-Men film, I was about twelve years old and I was convinced that the day I got to see it would be the most important day of my life. I was sixteen by the time that movie came out and though I didn’t think it was the single most important thing that would ever happen anymore, I was still crying in the theater out of sheer joy the first time Storm showed up and figured it was at least top five.
I have been growing increasingly, uncontrollably furious about X-Men: First Class for weeks and weeks because I was forced to accept (and once again remind myself that it’s okay) that I don’t care. And I wanted to care so much, more than I could possibly describe to you, but no matter what I do, it won’t give me anything but more white dudes’ feelings as it debases and humiliates and dehumanizes everyone else. And I would like to care about the fact that it’s about Erik Lensherr and Charles Xavier being in love — because fucking teethed on X-Men, remember, and I was shipping Magneto and Professor X as a matter of course years before I had even an inkling of what slash was, sitting there crying buckets and buckets of nine-year-old tears as I read and reread and reread X-Men #25 which was the most tragic thing I had ever seen because they loved each other but they came to this — except they’re not actually in love because they’re not allowed to be which means that I don’t care.
And the fact that I don’t care — that I have been meticulously and thoroughly stripped of any and all reason to care — makes me so angry and so frustrated and so sad and so tired that…
Well, I make posts like this.
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