X-Men: First Class - When "What If?" Fails to Impress
This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.
I'm sorry, this is full of spoilers. Can't be helped.
X-Men: First Class felt like a big "what If"? What if, instead of the way they told it in the comics, the X-Men had been formed like this?
What if Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Raven (Mystique) had grown up together? What if Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) was hunting Nazis on a personal quest for vengeance? What if they had begun recruiting young mutants in cooperation with the CIA just as the Cuban missile crisis was about to erupt, fueled by evil mutant Sebastian Shaw?
What if Moira MacTaggert was an American CIA field agent instead of a Scottish Nobel prize winning geneticist? What if she had to seek out Xavier's expertise in genetics?
What if it were crucial to the plot that she take off her dress and walk around in lingerie within five minutes of her first appearance on screen?
What if, out of the first group of recruits, the only woman is a thin, conventionally pretty woman of color... who is working as a stripper? What if she's based on comic writer Grant Morrison's Angel, who was not thin, and certainly not of a disposition to flatter men for money? What if film Angel was the first one to defect to the forces of evil? What if she wore leather hot pants after she defected, and never got another line of dialogue (as best I can recall)?
What if the other recruit who was a person of color was a black man, and he died first? What if the only purpose his death seemed to serve was to motivate his teammates?
What if Havok practiced his aim on headless female mannequins, and Henry McCoy groped one of them for an audience laugh?
What if Emma Frost wore tacky underwear and had no personality? (Paging Greg Land...) What if Sebastian Shaw's other lackeys were a red Russian demon (with terrible clothes and terrible hair) and a guy who makes tornadoes, played by a Spanish actor who I'm pretty sure is supposed to look "exotic" and who never speaks?
What if Charles and Erik were basically in love, but Hollywood couldn't possibly allow them to kiss when they realize they're breaking up and will only meet as enemies hereafter?
What if the filmmakers made sure that by the end of the movie, the First Class of X-Men was a group of white American men (one who had turned blue and furry) and Magneto's "brotherhood" was composed of everyone foreign and female?
There were good things about this film. The aerial battle between Angel and Banshee, the arrogance of Charles, the evolution of Erik's goals. It was a solid film in terms of plot and pacing, much better than that third X-Men film or that horrible Wolverine Origins nonsense.
But at the end, I was just tired. Tired of race fail, tired of gender fail. I couldn't enjoy the movie as much as I wanted to because they kept poking me in the eye with a stick. If you're going to ask the question "what if?", it would be nice if your answer wasn't even less diverse and more objectifying than your source material.
(If you're going to comment and try to school me on "but in the comics," please know that the X-Men/Wolverine comics I have read in the past year must be measured in LINEAR FEET. I'm not joking. I will send you a photograph of my shelves. You may have read more than I have, but I'm a fairly well-read fangirl with a huge love for the X-Peeps.)
Also see: X-Men First Class Leaves No Breast Un-Ogled by Sarah Arboleda at Zelda Lily