By Rachel Haywire
X-Men: First Class is primarily an exploration of mutant politics. There’s no right or wrong, because each mutant character has a detailed history that explains their views on mutant issues. The film gives a central place to the real life mutant youth ideal of “finding the others.” Many of the mutants in the film resemble 21st century intellectuals or artists.Â Inside jokes are everywhere. One can view the film as a satire of humanity as a whole. We are reminded of the gay community’s struggle for civil rights and of all the countercultural types (“freaks”) hiding their true colors to blend in to society.
Is this not the world that we live in today? Momentarily putting aside the mutant powers, it appears that we cultural mutants are meant to see ourselves in this film. We start out as children who think we are the only people like us in this world until we meet others we can relate to and feel a sense of connection. Could something like X-Men actually happen? If we lived in a world where having posthuman abilities made us a different class of citizen, what would we do? Would our government fear us and want to round us up and put us into camps? Would we end up working for the (pre-post)human race as mutant slaves? Would we eliminate the human race, chanting “mutant and proud” in the streets? Any and all of this seems possible and it seems that X-Men: First Class is trying to tell this story.Â It’s a reflection on the bifurcating human species both now and into the future.
So let’s deal with the mutant powers now. Are you a mutant? If so, how and why? Magneto gains his abilities from rage. His family was tortured in the holocaust and his mother murdered before his eyes.Â His magnetic powers result from being forced to endure the impossible. Mystique has the power of shapeshifting because she’s insecure about her true appearance as a mutant. Even Professor X rejects her for refusing to hide it.Â Should we have to hide ourselves to be accepted into society? Is it worth living a lie for the social benefits? We relate to these characters because their struggles are human.
I imagine “Mutant and Proud”Â will become a popular message within mainstream culture. I await the inevitable t-shirts. I have no idea if this is a good or a bad thing. And I wonder when we will actually become mutants. In some ways, aren’t we already there? I believe â€” as we expand our minds toward higher levels of consciousness â€” we are gaining access to the mutant or superhuman mind. With technological evolution, it’s only a matter of time before the mutant transhuman becomes an unavoidable unreality. We will be able to modify our own bodies and genetics so that almost anything is possible. Here in 2011, we are already in the early stages of biohacking.
Will all humans evolve at once, or will unenhanced humans live alongside a new species? In the world of the X-Men series, there are mutants living alongside humans. I am not sure how likely this is, but it’s easy to see people down at the mall as “humans”… and I do find myself saying, “She’s another mutant” when tintroducing my friends to each other. How many times have we said, “I don’t want to deal with the humans” when referring to not wanting to go out in public?
In the context of this particular film, most of us real world mutants will tend to side with Magneto â€” who believes that mutants will never be accepted and that they must fight the humans.Â Although Professor X tries to strike a balance (changing the system from within), it’s impossible not to be drawn into the Magneto struggle. He is the film’s focus. Indeed, I think it may have been better if they had stuck with the original idea â€” making this essentially a “Magneto movie.”
Mutant politics are no longer a thing of the past. We need look no further than all the diverse new Transhumanist movements. There are Transhumanists everywhere with hundreds of varied positions regarding a plethora of issues. We have created a human version of X-Men because we are excited about the next step of evolution. We are mutants in the same sense that the X-Men are humans. These are two different worlds of the same design.
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