‘The Gifted’ and Why the X-Men Will Always Be Relevant
By: Erian Mathis
As always: SPOILERS TO FOLLOW, PROCEED WITH CAUTION
There’s an alternate world where people are hunted down, taken from their families, and systematically oppressed by their own government because of their natural abilities. A nation that proudly claims “with liberty, and justice for all” has no qualms about discriminating against its own citizens, and in that universe– there’s a family that’s forced to go on the run as the youngest son, Andy Strucker, develops his powers while being bullied at a school dance. From there, they meet an underground group of people with similar abilities (labeled mutants) whose main prerogative is to protect persecuted mutants from the government. Even though the father of the family works for the government to persecute these people, his privilege isn’t enough to stop the government from creeping in ever closer and tearing the family apart. It’s a good thing we don’t allow such things to happen in the real world.
“The Gifted” paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to live as a marginalized citizen in this country in the most digestible manner, to appeal to a broad audience, and it’s sadly the reason why the X-Men and Brotherhood characters will always be socially relevant. These characters were created during the 60’s, where the Civil Rights Movement was finally gaining national attention, and from that period forward there haven’t been many other fictional characters that appropriately serve as representatives of the oppressed and downtrodden. However, the most unfortunate, realistic, and tragic aspect of the X-Men mythos is tied directly to the fact that their struggle is never-ending; in fact, it continuously and very pointedly asks the question of why the struggle is never-ending.
There’s an alternate world where people crave power, and use fear as a tactic to band together and hunt down those who are deemed “dangerous” or “unfit” to live in their society, because to them society is theirs, and nobody else’s. When killing isn’t as viable an option, they’re left with enacting laws that systematically remove these citizens from the public eye, all in the name of “safety”. In this world, those who have power will use the same tactics on the same people to repeat the same atrocities, and those who are too uninformed, too afraid, or too selfish will always fall prey, and those who suffer the most will deserve it the least. Regardless of their push for equality, and their unbroken will, mutantkind is always on the unfavorable side of the narrative. It’s a good thing stuff like this only happens in comicbooks, TV shows, and movies.
For many of us who are a part of these marginalized communities, our pleas for justice end up as nothing more than echoes into the void; as our cries for help ring out through the chasm of history, they’re met with the same responses each time, ignored, and forgotten. Typically, the X-Men will serve as the average white audience’s first exposure to the struggles of the oppressed, and the subtext will always go unnoticed like clockwork.
In our world, the X-Men, and the message they bring to us will always be relevant. The warnings of totalitarian government control, systematic oppression, and the abuse of power will never fall out of fashion because those who need to hear it the most are always the ones who are never truly listening.