I’m thrilled to see Ta-Nehisi Coates getting a guest columnist stint on the New York Times op-ed page, and doubly thrilled to see him using the real estate to bring the crucial mutant coverage that Bob Herbert never did. But I think he’s sort of wrong:
But as “First Class” roars to its final climatic scene, it appeals to an insidious suspension of disbelief; the heroic mutants of America, bravely opposing bigotry and fear, are revealed as not so much a spectrum of humankind, but as Eagle Scouts from Mayfield. Thus, “First Class” proves itself not merely an incredible film, but an incredible work of American historical fiction. Here is a period piece for our postracial times — in the era of Ella Baker and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the most powerful adversaries of spectacular apartheid are a team of enlightened white dudes.
I already said this, but I think the important thing to recognize is that limiting yourself to the text of “First Class,” Magneto is the good guy and he ends the film leading a rainbow coalition of red-skinned, blue-skinned, brown-skinned, Jewish, and female crusaders for mutant pride. The X-Men are led by a Professor Xavier who’s not just naive, but callow and hypocritical. Naturally he attracts a team of privileged white men and the self-loathing Hank McCoy. But the moral here is precisely that the struggle for justice won’t be waged by a team of enlightened white dudes. The team of enlightened white dudes is offering a kind of craven appeasement, while the multi-hued emergent Brotherhood of Mutants stands for self-respect.