X-Men: Do you prefer the "racism" metaphor or the "homophobia" metaphor?

(Not that it can’t be both, of course.)

When I started reading Uncanny X-Men in the late 1970s, the circumstances of Marvel mutants was pretty clearly a metaphor for racial or ethnic hatred. The notion of mutants being a separate species (and what the HELL was Xavier thinking when he coined the term Homo superior, anyway?) was prevalent. The Nazism parallels in “Days of Future Past,” Magneto’s history as a Holocaust survivor, the Jim Crow aspects of the Mutant Registration Act–all of these pointed to a racism metaphor.

But somewhere along the way the metaphor was changed or expanded to be suggestive of homophobia as well. The Legacy virus is just mutant AIDS; Bobby Drake’s mother in X-2 asks him if he has tried NOT being a mutant.

Which interpretation do you prefer?

You’re not talking about metaphor so much as allegory. Allegories tend to have a “one to one” correlation between the metaphor and its antecedent (for want of a better word). “Metaphor” is a more general term, AFAIK, which includes such specific types of metaphors as allegories and similies, e.g. You’re expecting the metaphor in XMen to be of the allegorical type, where A = A’ and B = B’.

I don’t see it that way. I think the XMen mythology includes metaphors for a great number of human truths, including the kind of prejudice one finds againts race and sexual orientation. Look at it this way: is a story about racism also a story about homophobia? And vice versa? Not necessarily. The XMen metaphor you’re talking about is a pretty NON-metaphorical examination of human prejudices. Whether the prejudices are about race, sexual orientation, or mutant status, the main subject under examination is the prejudice.

No, I mean metaphor. Specifically ‘extended metaphor.’ Though allegory works as well. An entire situation can be “metaphorical,” and some literature teachers (including several of mine) use metaphor to mean the entirety of figurative language. Had I wished to be overly specific in my OP, I might have said “the situation of mutants in the MU is metaphorical for…” etc., but I was too lazy. :wally

Personally, I prefer the “civil rights” metaphor.

You know, the one under which the mutants are members of a group that is discriminated against? One in which popular society says it is desirable to pretend not to be a member of? (Light colored skin, “passing”, etc.)

Why bother with allegory or metaphor when there’s X-enophobia, plain as day?

I’d say it was whatever the current climate needs it to be. You’ve got a group of people, who are “different”, being looked on as utterly seperate from “normal” - either with hatred, dismissal, or fear. That lines up pretty well with any person who’s persecuted for their race **or ** sexuality. I think the only difference is the times you mention - the Legacy virus was AIDS in fictional form. The coming-out scene is not something you’d have to deal with in racism terms - although many people have had similar difficulties with their family if they start a relationship with a person of a non-approved of ethnic background.

The allegory or metaphor doesn’t completely work. It’s hard to feel for an oppressed group when they can shred their oppressors with adamantium claws, fling their tanks and guns around, or cause them to spend the rest of their lives thinking they are kitty-cats.

When I made this argument to a friend of mine he said “Welcome to The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, comrade.”

I don’t know, aren’t there people who genuinely do believe that homosexuality and society’s growing acceptance of it is a danger to civilization, much as mutants have a more literal ability to wreak havock? Perhaps I’m overextending the metaphor, though.

I like the homophobia metaphor, but it is obvious that the Professor X/Magneto divide is a metaphor for the different visions of Martin Luther King and Malcom X.

… even though it’s far more accurate summation of the differing visions of W.E.B. DuBois (as the assimulationist and activist analogue of Professor Xavier) and Marcus Garvey (as a less violent separatist Magneto analogue) …

I think it’s less specifically racism or homophobia as it is Cold-War-esque paranoia and witch-hunts, and fear of social deviants, particularly communists.

Hm, that’s interesting. Do you think that’s what Marvel intended? Because I know I’ve read in…uh, somewhere…that it’s meant to be a MLK/Malcom X metaphor. Now I’m wondering if the comic commentators were wrong, or if the writers only came up with that accidentally.

Women are a majority.

It’s been a while since I read the comics, but I think it’s simply fear of things that are different.

The racism metaphor works best in regards to group identity as a mutant/human relations as a whole. The homopobia metaphor works better on the indvidual level, such as when a kid “comes out” as a mutant and is rejected by their family or shunned by their friends.

The early X-Men were all either orphans or came from supportive families (even though their kids were of a different “race”, so the rejection on a personal level didn’t really come in to play. I’m trying to think of the first X-story where a mutant was rejected by their family when they manifested mutant powers (for reasons other than physical freakishness a la Nightcrawler or problematic powers a la Proteus). The earliest example I can think of is Wolfsbane.

So were Blacks in Apartheid-era South Africa. It’s not about numerical superiority, it’s about power. As South Africa proved, oppressive power can be wielded by a minority, even a very small minority, if they have other advantages. The mutants could have crushed their oppressors. Psuedo scientific handwaving aside, the “mutants” were basically gods with magic powers. (How for instance does magneto generate magnetic fields? Why do the affect non-ferrous metals?) Hell, Xavier, Phoenix and Magneto could have destroyed “normal” humanity on their own. The only thing keeping mutants in control is other mutants, namely the X-men.

That’s why my friend said “Welcome to the Brotherhood.” That was Magneto’s point. Magneto was always saying, in effect, “Why are we putting up with this crap when we can destroy the humans and rule this world as we should.”

Well, that and the fact that they LIKE the society they live in, and the fact that there are non-powerful mutants (And non-mutant loved-ones) who are likely to get killed in a mutant/humanity war.

Well, some of them like society and some of them don’t. The X-men do and the Brotherhood doesn’t. If enough powerful mutants agreed with Magneto’s philosophy instead of Xavier, that would be that for humanity.

That’s why the oppressed minority metaphor doesn’t work. A Jew in Nazi Germany had no chance against his/her oppressor. Nor did a Black slave in the southern U.S. or a Woman in Taliban led Afghanistan. In the comics the humans can only oppress the mutants for as long as the mutants let them, a fact which understandably chafes Magneto. And Magneto, along with most mutants in the Brotherhood, would easily countenance mutant casualties in a war against humans, as long as those casualties led to ultimate victory.

Actually, reviewing the OP, that’s why I would prefer the “homophobia” metaphor. Although the mutant’s power prevents them from being truly oppressed, they still–even the Xmen–have to put up with social and familial rejection. Also mutants are born of non-mutants and their difference manifests during puberty.

Sorry for the double post.

Yes, it works both ways – it’s about fear-of-the-different among the establishment “normals”, in a way that does NOT map exactly to either racial or gay rights, AND it’s also about what goes on in the mind/spirit of the person who knows he’s different, and wonders to himself, “WHY should I try to play nice or fit in, for the sake of others?”

Larry: Nonsense - before Decimation, there were less than a million Mutants worldwide. (Less than 2000, actually, if you take all the copy surrounding Decimation seriously.)

Most of whom had lame non-powers.

Most of the ones with good powers have power levels at best, on par with most superpowered non-mutants - Spiderman, Giant Man/Ant-Man/Yellowjacket, Iron Man, The Hulk and so forth all being as powerful, or more powerful than your average X-Man or Brotherhood member. Hell, even Cap is a match for a lot of powered mutants.

There’s a handful of ‘Omega-level’ mutants, who could do some damage, if they wanted, but few of them want to rule, or wipe out the mundanes - and they’re all kept in check by other Omegas, or groups of lesser mutants, or groups like the Avengers. Or the Sentinels. The Watchdogs. The Reavers. Or any of dozens of other anti-mutant bigots and their tools.

So you have a group of people, most of whom are noticable as different just for being deformed in some strange way, or having a minor power (Ooo! Light from sound! Diabolical! He looks like a bird! Oh noes!) Being oppressed - often to the point of being hunted and murdered - supposedly because a handful of them have powers that could potentially be used for evil that fewer still have expressed any desire to do - and then, mostly, in response to the oppression.

So…how, exactly, is it impossible to oppress Mutants?