Political Film Society - Newsletter #169 - May 29, 2003



May 29, 2003


 

COMIC BOOK ANALOGIES TEACH TOLERANCE IN X-2: X-MEN UNITED
X2:X-Men UnitedX2: X-Men United, directed by Bryan Singer, takes many of the famous comic book characters into the White House. One of the taglines is "First, they were fighting for acceptance. Now, they're battling for survival." A voiceover at the beginning reminds filmviewers that evolution has produced beings that look like humans but have superhuman powers; soon, Smithsonian Museum visitors are informed that the present human race emerged from a marriage between Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals. X2 begins where X1 left off, with Magneto (played by Ian McKellen) already captured by human authorities. A school, presumably for the gifted, run by Charles Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart), the planet's top telepath, as before enrolls mutants who learn how to live with non-mutant humans. Most mutants, led by Xavier, believe that they can help the planet on an equal basis with humans, using their powers, but Magneto wants mutants to rule. In other words, Xavier is the equalitarian, Magneto the imperialist, providing models that filmviewers will analogize to Democrats versus Republicans, Colin Powell versus Donald Rumsfeld, Europeans versus Americans, or whatever, though some of the very young audience may interpret the conflict as one between children and adults. The conflict among mutants is suppressed for most of X2 because they are threatened by General William Stryker (played by Brian Cox), now retired, who is bent on eliminating mutants from the planet; his son is a mutant whom he has disowned. Stryker, who comes across as a latter-day Nazi, plans a pretext for the genocide (or mutantcide). Accordingly, early in the film, renegade teleporting mutant Nightcrawler (played by Alan Cumming), having been brainwashed by Stryker, tries to assassinate U.S. President McKenna (played by Cotter Smith).

McKenna then supports Stryker, at the advice of his incompetent sycophantish advisers, favoring the Mutant Registration Act (which recalls the Alien Registration Act of the McCarthy period and the current equivalent, the Patriot Act). Stryker then arrests Xavier and all his students; he hopes to use another alien turncoat, Yuriko (played by Elsie Hu), to control Xavier, who in turn will telepathically kill all mutants. (A subplot, with adopted children in mind, has Wolferine (played by Hugh Jackman) searching for his birthparents. In another subplot, Iceman (played by Shawn Ashmore) comes out to his parents as a mutant, though the reaction to his heartbroken mother is as if he were gay. In actuality, he is gay!) Accordingly, when Magneto escapes captivity, the mutants unite to stop the planned annihilation. (The appropriate tagline is "The time has come for those who are different to stand united.") One approach is to eliminate Stryker, the other is to appeal to the president directly, but the outcome is not in doubt; clearly, the mutants have to survive so that X3 will be at the box office next year. When the threat is over, the previous quarrel among mutants resumes, just as onetime U.S. allies Saddam Hussein and the Taliban became characterized as monsters after they were left alone to carry out their own agendas. Adults attending X2: X-Men United should be advised that many small children will not always understand the dialog or perceive what is happening and hence will talk repeatedly during the film to ask the meaning of what is going on; however, that distraction may at least keep adults awake in case they are bored by how the mutants occasionally masturbate their unusual powers or become confused about their roles. The many obvious analogies in the movie, which serve as agents of political socialization, prompt the Political Film Society to nominate X2: X-Men United (which mistakenly is not called X-People United) as best film on human rights and best film on peace for the year 2003. MH

OTHER FILMS TO WATCH
Manic
shows teenagers at a mental institution. L'Auberge Espagnole depicts European college students.