X-Men: a mirror to society

I’ve said for a long time to whoever listened that in the super-hero market, X-Men had a very special place as a thinly veiled reflection on the American society.

For example, they were created in 1963, the exact year when Martin Luther King and a Civil Rights movement crowd marched on Washington. Their first incarnation was all-white, but they had to deal with the American society’s conservative WaSP view of the world: they were different, thus a menace.

When I read them regularly, in the eighties-nineties, they had to deal with another important issue of the time: the Legacy Virus (I always thought of AIDS for this one). Its mode of contagion was airborne, so not exactly what AIDS does; but we lacked so much information at the end of the eighties that any mad theory was as good as another – and after all it’s fictional, and targeting mainstream readers, so sex and blood was not an option I guess. Some favourite characters, such as Colossus’s sister, Illyana Rasputin, died of it, leaving readers stunned (most characters in comics died for real at the time – although Wikipedia tells me that she was later resurrected, sheesh).

Anyway. I saw an interview of Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart when Logan was released (on Youtube), and Hugh Jackman mentions this parallel between X-Men and the Civil Rights movement, and goes further than I had at the time. He says that, obviously, Charles Xavier stands for Martin Luther King and Magneto for Malcolm X, the former trying to achieve peace and cohabitation, while the latter wanted to enforce his difference through violence.

I spent so many years not figuring this out, silly me. This Hugh Jackman guy is a clever one.


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