Magneto Was Right

Susana Polo liked X-Men: First Class but has some concerns, including the fact that “[b]y the end of the film every single non-white mutant allies themselves with Magneto or Sebastian Shaw” so that by the end “the X-Men become an all-white team.”

This didn’t bother me so much (the issues she raises about the depiction of women is a different matter) because if you restrict your attention to what’s actually in the text Magneto is clearly in the right and Xavier’s X-Men are a bunch of dupes. The film is a pretty serious departure from the conventional depiction in this regard, but it’s quite thoroughgoing. Magneto’s mutant pride attitude is in every way more admirable than Xavier’s preference for the closet, and Xavier’s political view that mutants and humans can coexist peacefully if mutants avoid provocations is directly contradicted by the events at the end of the film. When Xavier is trying to convince Magneto (and the audience) that Magneto’s more militant methods will cost innocent life he literally says—to a Holocaust survivor!—that “they were only following orders” and therefore their sins are forgivable.

The mutant pride message is a radical one. It’s too radical for those whose WASP male privilege in their non-mutant lives makes them instinctively want to identify with existing power structures. But a mutant who’s also a Jew, or a woman, or a racial minority, or has had blue or red skin all of his or her life doesn’t suffer from that kind of false consciousness and gets ahead of the curve.