The X-Men franchise kind of proves how allegories for oppression often fall flat when it comes to being cognizant of stuff like racism. The in-world oppression that the characters do face is serious and important, but the series itself is terrible at handling or recognizing intersectional identities and the realities of life as a marginalized person with a mutation.
In fact, the thought that inspired me writing this little post was looking at how of Black mutants in the United States where the original comic series and the first film in the new franchise (that kills off the one Black guy (Darwin) in the first film and has Afro-Latina mutant Angel sexualized and then killed off in between films) was set.
Think about it: The X-Men franchise largely uses mutants and mutantdom to show characters dealing with racism (as in they are hated for being mutants and not “regular” humans)–
And yet, the series at no point actually and consistently addresses how the reaction to mutants in the franchise would be incredibly different when you looked between white mutants versus mutants of color.
The series focuses mainly on white mutants (especially men) as the most oppressed and lacks intersectionality. That’s how we end up with “mutant” as a racial slur in Rick Remender’s Ultimate Avengers #5. Because there is a serious lack of oversight and knowledge of intersectionality involved when it comes to crafting the X-Men.
Yeah, all mutants would be feared and hated to some degree.
That’s a given because well… if humanity still can’t handle being cool with people with different skin colors, they’re not going to be okay with people who can read minds or turn into giant blue furries or absorb your energy with a touch.
But what happens when the people of color that white humans already hate turn out to have those superpowers as well?
What happens to queer mutants?
The franchise uses allegories to stand in for everything. EVERYTHING. But it’s such a shallow peek at what diverse mutants would go through and experience. We don’t actually get to see regular images of diverse mutants being represented well and with their mutanthood existing alongside their race/sexuality/gender. You know… because intersectionality is so hard for us.
Also: it’s not like the mutant gene skips racists (or any form of bigot considering that it clearly doesn’t skip people that hate mutants). So you’d absolutely have racist mutants with like tentacles who have accepted that they’re different and that’s okay, but fuck that brown kid who can levitate because that’s not ~normal~.
But nah, let’s pretend that the mutant gene or w/e brings us all together and erases the fact that there are some people who would just straight up use their mutantness as a weapon to hurt other marginalized people. How about the fact that different ethnicities would embrace (or reject) their mutant kin differently and we don’t get to see that?
I also hate that for the most part, race is kind of a nonissue in the X-men franchise.
I don’t just mean racism right (though yeah, it’s a reality of not being seen as white where you live) but acknowledgement of race or celebrations of race. The x-men franchise hinges on this weird colorblind ideology where being a mutant is supposed to trump everything else and I’m sorry, it wouldn’t. It couldn’t.
Being marginalized on one axis doesn’t mean that you’d be amazingly welcoming to someone who’s marginalized on another axis. It doesn’t mean that your other aspects of identity stop mattering the way I feel the X-men franchise keeps trying to push.
I don’t want to see trauma porn (a la OitNB) in order to inform people that racism exists, but a seriously nuanced version of life might be like for a mutant of color: the good and the bad.
Like I get that we’re stuck in a cycle of grimdark and edgy in the comics (that has all too infrequent breaks), but I would fight someone for the chance to read a slice of life comic centering on the experiences of a mutant of color that has a visible mutation rather than a near endless line of white (and whitewashed) characters being framed as ~the most oppressed person ever~.