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Mutants: Why does this idea work?


armadillo
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Each generation supplants the ones that were living when they were born.  Nothing sinister about it, though it's not been easy for any elder generation to take, like, ever.

 

So, supplant, if more and more mutants keep being born to human parents, inevitably.

 

But destroy would be a choice. 

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Ethnic groups, religious groups, language groups, cultural groups... nobody wants to see everything they know and value, that they equate with their own identity, disappear, whether it's deliberately destroyed or simply absorbed or supplanted. Human instinct is to fight to preserve that, even if it's hopeless. That's playing out right now around the world.

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Well... The early issues of X-Men that I've read didn't have anything I recognized as "Metaphor for other bigotry." It looked to me more like a nod to Atomnic Horror -- mutants swere appearing because of radiation from fallout. Charles Xavier's father was a pioneering physicist in atomic research, Krakoa the Living Island, etc.

 

"The children are scary different" trope circulating in the 1960s as well. Midwich Cuckoos. Childhood's End. "Little Anthony." A natural time for such a tropoe, since many parents did find their children turning alien, rejecting the traditions and loyalties the parents revered. As Opal says, every generation faces replacement by their offspring -- but to many people, this became a whole lot scarier.

 

Not that this helped the comic. X-Men was cancelled, first time around. The trope didn't mean anything to the young readers.

 

No, I think the hevy-handed equation of "anti-mutant hysteria" with racism, homophobia, antisemitism, etc. came a bit later. 1980s or so.

 

And as mentioned, it falls down. It isn't irrational to fear people who are living weapons of mass destruction.

 

Gotta agree with Duke Bushido here: The real appeal of Marvel-style mutants is the fantasy that anyone, even you, might suddenly discover you had super-powers. You can't be a castaway alien like Superman, or a billionaire like Batman, go on a rocketship ride like the Fantastic Four or learn the mystic arts in Tibet like Dr. Strange. Just >ping< you find you are special. As special as every adolescent thinks theyt are, and as unfairly treated.

 

Now, this approach to mutants could be developed in a way that's not so flattering to teenage narcissism. As you transition from child to adult, you do gain power. You affect the world and the people around you. You can make choices tht matter a whole lot more -- and that you might not be able to take back. Some people use that new power well, even heroically, like Malala Yousefzai. Others use it very badly, like school shooters.

 

I don't know if that would sell as well. But then, comics are no longer so much a youth medium. (Or anything but a "farm team" for movie scripts I suppose, but that's another rant.) But it's a kind of story that's been told for millennia. I doubt it will every really go out of style.

 

Dean Shomshak

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47 minutes ago, DShomshak said:

It isn't irrational to fear people who are living weapons of mass destruction

Its not irrational to fear gangbangers or rapists, either.  It is irrational to fear all black men because there are black gangs, or all men because virtually all rapists are men.

 

Bigots always point to a reason to fear the object of their bigotry - it's not always a made up reason, it's the generalization that's, if not entirely irrational, simply wrong.

 

Yeah, Magneto is a living engine of mass destruction, but other mutants just look different.  

 

 

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13 hours ago, DShomshak said:

 

 

Gotta agree with Duke Bushido here: The real appeal of Marvel-style mutants is the fantasy that anyone, even you, might suddenly discover you had super-powers. You can't be a castaway alien like Superman, or a billionaire like Batman, go on a rocketship ride like the Fantastic Four or learn the mystic arts in Tibet like Dr. Strange. Just >ping< you find you are special.

 

 

Dean Shomshak

 

I must admit I'd prefer Quantum Bands or a Green Lantern ring....

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11 minutes ago, archer said:

 

I must admit I'd prefer Quantum Bands or a Green Lantern ring....


Based on my experiences around dessert, I doubt my willpower would be enough to make a Green Lantern Ring light up more than the one my kids got from the gum machine.

 

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8 minutes ago, Nekkidcarpenter said:


Based on my experiences around dessert, I doubt my willpower would be enough to make a Green Lantern Ring light up more than the one my kids got from the gum machine.

 

 

Ah, but what is your amount of willpower to eat more dessert?

 

 

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9 hours ago, Nekkidcarpenter said:


Based on my experiences around dessert, I doubt my willpower would be enough to make a Green Lantern Ring light up more than the one my kids got from the gum machine.

 

I'm more knowledgeable about my won'tpower myself...

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On 6/9/2021 at 12:06 AM, Opal said:

Its not irrational to fear gangbangers or rapists, either.  It is irrational to fear all black men because there are black gangs, or all men because virtually all rapists are men.

 

Bigots always point to a reason to fear the object of their bigotry - it's not always a made up reason, it's the generalization that's, if not entirely irrational, simply wrong.

 

Yeah, Magneto is a living engine of mass destruction, but other mutants just look different.  

 

 

<curious> Such as? I've been out of comics for a while, but as of the time I stopped reading Marvel (1990s) I don't recall there being any mutants who simply looked different. OTOH there were lots of mutants with dangerous powers who looked like ordinary humans. Most of them, in fact.

 

Okay, I can see the parallel quasi-reasoning:

 

"Some gangbangers are Black. Theefor, I believe that all Black people are gangbangers. I shall ignore all the Black people who aren't gangbangers, and all the gangbangers who aren't Black."

 

goes to:

 

"Some mutants are dangerous supervillains. Therefor, I believe all mutants are dangerous supervillains. I shall ignore all the mutants who aren't dangerous supervillains, and all the dangerous supervillains who aren't mutants."

 

I still think it falls down because, based on the characters presented, most mutants have powers that would make them extremely dangerous if they chose to be: more so than even the most suicidally determined, non-super human being.

 

It might have emotionally rang true to me if Marvel had shown more instances of super-powered people being falsely accused of being mutants. (I remember one instance, but that's it.) So perhaps it isn't the bigotry that rings false to me, as the apparent magical power that people have to tell that a mutant character is a mutant and not some other sort of superhuman.

 

(In my own campaign settings, there are a few "mutant suremacists" because there's no idea so crazy that someone won't believe it, but most people regard mutants with envious admiration for their luck in being born with super-powers. People hope they are mutants too, who just haven't discovered their powers yet. OTOH, in my worlds there are no handy-dandy "mutant detectors" -- the only way to tell is a detailed genetic analysis -- so "muytant" often means merely, "I don't know why I have powers.")

 

Dean Shomshak

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Quote

I still think it falls down because, based on the characters presented, most mutants have powers that would make them extremely dangerous if they chose to be: more so than even the most suicidally determined, non-super human being.

 

Yeah, like I stated earlier, there's a huge jump between "i dislike you because you look different/talk different etc" and "I dislike you because you are powerful enough to melt my brain"

 

Mutants aren't just odd looking or unusual.  They are actually, materially dangerous.  And they are going to supplant and replace non mutants according to Marvel Evolutionary Theory.  That's a huge difference from "I don't like you because you're from Nebraska".  That's an actual threat to my peoples' existence.

 

There's good reason and logical basis for fear of mutants in the Marvel universe, its not just mindless, content less, irrational hate.  Especially when you factor in all the thousands of times mutants actually have threatened huge bodies of people, if not the entire planet.

 

And at the same time, because almost no mutants look any different than anyone else, there's no reason why people should hate them and embrace other superheroes as happens constantly in the Marvel Universe.  In this context, there's no difference between Captain America and Dazzler: both have done great things and protected people, both are attractive and noble, both are consistently heroic (with a few mind control bad moments).  Cap is beloved and honored, Dazzler is hated.  For no other reason than "we want to push the anti mutant thing for plot reasons."

 

See, what I'm saying here is that no matter how much propaganda you put out, or what cool slogans you whipped up, people would not differentiate between mutant and non-mutant.  They'd fear and hate every superhero.

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On top of "It's not irrational to fear the super-powered, or species replacement," and "How do people know?" I have a final objection to using mutants as allegory for other bigotries: Namely, the raw fact that it's allegory. I don't like allegory, no matter how noble the intent. It tends to be ham-handed at best. If you want to tell a story about the evil of racism, homophobia, antisemitism or whatever, just do that. Don't insult me with the implication that I need to be conned into accepting your point.

 

(Same objection to the Narnia books -- and C. S. Lewis was a better writer than Chris Claremont or other X-scribes could ever hope to be.)

 

Dean Shomshak

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3 hours ago, DShomshak said:

 

I still think it falls down because, based on the characters presented, most mutants have powers that would make them extremely dangerous if they chose to be: more so than even the most suicidally determined, non-super human being.

So, yes, OT1H, all the reasoning around mutant hysteria does fall down upon examination, but then as a metaphor for racism, that works, because the rationalizations an constructs of racism, and race itself, also don't hold up to dispassionate scrutiny.

 

OTOH, the consistent presentation of a group as dangerous is just part of prejudice against that group.  Maybe Marvel should have introduced a lot more non-/trivially- powered but obvious mutants as 'extras' in background scenes and as victims of mutant hysteria, to make that point more clearly?

 

3 hours ago, DShomshak said:

So perhaps it isn't the bigotry that rings false to me, as the apparent magical power that people have to tell that a mutant character is a mutant and not some other sort of superhuman

Personally, that still feels on-point for me as a metaphor of the crazy ways race can work.  In past times and places, there were racists who were absolutely certain they could tell a Jew or an Irishman or whatever at a glance, while today, we don't see it, like, at all.  

 

Certainly, tho, a story or two of a mutant spreading around a mutate or mystic origin story as a way of "Passing" might've been a nice idea.

 

1 hour ago, DShomshak said:

I don't like allegory, no matter how noble the intent. It tends to be ham-handed at best.

OK, well, I can agree to disagree on that point.  I quite like allegory as a literary technique.  It allows the reader to look at the logical structure and moral/ethical implications of a real-world phenomenon without all the unexamined emotional attachment they may have to it.  Sure, some of us can be super-dispassionate without any such crutch, but even if all of us could, it can still be an aesthetically pleasing literary device.

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I think the problem with the portrayal in Marvel isn't the existence of anti-mutant bigotry, but its almost universal status.  It would have worked a lot better if most people shrugged at it, but a mean, nasty group hated mutants for being mutants.  That would not only fit bigotry better (no group has ever been universally bigoted or been discriminated against) and would carry more impact.

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Opal pretty covers my opinion on the subject and much more eloquently than I could ever put it.

 

As for Marvel, two now well used technologies - mutant detection and mutant power nullification - didn't exist prior to the introduction of Rom the Spaceknight. Rom had the ability to detect with his Analyzer in proximity to, his enemies the shapeshifting Dire Wraths and reveal their true form. He let SHEILD scan it so they too could detect the Dire Wraths hidden amongst humanity. Meanwhile Rom's Neutralizer banished them to limbo. Sometime during the interaction between Rom and the X-Men, Forge built a similar gadget for the US government to banish swaths of Dire Wraths with. Both gadgets ultimately get adapted to scan for and nullify mutant powers. 

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4 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

I think the problem with the portrayal in Marvel isn't the existence of anti-mutant bigotry, but its almost universal status.  It would have worked a lot better if most people shrugged at it, but a mean, nasty group hated mutants for being mutants.  That would not only fit bigotry better (no group has ever been universally bigoted or been discriminated against) and would carry more impact.

 

If you substitute the word racism for bigotry in your statement; which your definition of "a mean, nasty group hated..." does, then perhaps it is more accurate.

 

I would challenge that bigotry, or bias IS more universal.

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15 hours ago, Greywind said:

And they get banished to Limbo. From which Magik sends them back.

 

IIRC, Rom's Limbo and Magik's Limbo are two separate dimensions. Dire Wraiths aren't typically dumped into the demonic realm by Rom's gear.

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Actually they addressed this quite a bit later, and yes, it's the same limbo. The Dire Wraiths were presented as suffering greatly in limbo, living in squalor and misery, more or less powerless.

 

They also have had their Queen pulled out sometime during the New Warriors runs (I want to say late original run, but it might have been one of the later ones) and there was some Dire Wraith action, I *think* in modern Guardians of the Galaxy that went nowhere.

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2 hours ago, Sketchpad said:

 

IIRC, Rom's Limbo and Magik's Limbo are two separate dimensions. Dire Wraiths aren't typically dumped into the demonic realm by Rom's gear.

 

I was meaning the depowered and banished mutants :D

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