Search This Blog

Friday, June 6, 2014

What's So Funny about Secret Hate, Love, and Understanding, X-Men (review / discussion)

Friend and fellow writer, Susan Linville, I believe, was the first to break down the magazines by gender.  I remember us discussing it with Karen Joy Fowler.  My pulled-from-the-butt theory was that boys liked to read about a boy's adventure.  

When I was poetry editor at Abyss & Apex, however, I consistently surprised myself by sometimes selecting more poems from women than men.  I never thought about it consciously but would look at the contents in retrospect.  My theory became that maybe I was biased in favor of women.  I do enjoy--favor?--discussions with females.

Overall, though, the contents were about 50-50 while I was editor.  It wasn't something I'd planned.  I never counted up the slush-pile contributors, though I suspect they were equal numbers. When I tried to edit an experimental anthology, the slush-pile contents were overwhelmingly male and the female contributions weren't very interesting.  Maybe it sounded like a boy's game, so the girls decided not to play.

In John ONeill's "An Open Letter to Dave Truesdale", he lists why he thinks he and Truesdale were sexist.  I don't buy Truesdale's assertion that “science-fiction hasn’t a racist or sexist bone in its body… Not once have I personally seen a smidgeon of racism or sexism.”  The statement has no flexibility for human error for one thing.  Also, SF has often favored one creature over another.  Some people prefer women in charge, some men.  The world is full of bias. True, though, is that SF has always been at the forefront against such racism and sexism, including positive portrayals of the other. Maybe that is what Truesdale meant to say.

My problem is mind-reading other people and saying that so-and-so's racist or sexist, without evidence or with secret evidence that may or may not be valid evidence.  Feel free to speak of your experience, not other people.

Often, when people do deconstruction, they don't do it properly.  It requires an understanding of the work before analysis, and then using that analysis to inform the deconstruction.  But most people have good intentions, trying to end hate.

X-Men Spoilers:

Charles Coleman Finlay analyzes X-Men but performs deconstruction before analyzing the movie, which boils down to not necessarily killing all of your enemies (which seems pertinent to this discussion in more ways than one).  Finlay writes, "[T]he whole premise of the movie is that Mystique is so awesome and effective at identifying her targets and following through on her plans that she literally changes the course of human history. Of course, it's a terrible future. Because she created it and she's a woman."

I watched a different movie it would seem.  First, we have three central characters in the past--Charles, Magneto, and Mystique.  All three are problematic, but Mystique may be the least problematic, the least psychologically damaged.  Not only is one of the writers (at least appears to be) a woman, Jane Goldman, but also Mystique is rather more powerfully portrayed than in any of the other movies.  With the other leaders incapacitated, she alone is saving mutants from experimentation.  Her DNA holds the technological key to destroying all mutants.  Living in the past, she does not know this--just as none of us know the future.  She holds the key to saving everyone in the end.  She is flawed, but that only serves to make her human.  Wolverine, really, is little more than a messenger--albeit a necessary one.

In fact, one might make a case that to go against this movie where a female is so pivotal to the story is to be sexist.  After all, she's the most interesting, least flat character in the movie.  But this, again, is problematic mind-reading.  Finlay means well.

I'll just address Finlay's further comments (his in quotes):

"And hey, Mystique talks to him the next day and forgives him, so why can't we?"

Does she?  Does shooting him in the neck and putting him in the hands of Charles so she can do what she wants represent forgiveness?

"when his chance comes he goes inside her head and physically controls her, at least long enough to make a speech about how important it is for her to make up her own mind."

But of course he controls other people as well.  Don't forget she's been moved by what's happened to the mutants.  It would take anyone a lot of convincing... plus revenge stories are tiresome.  I'd rather we didn't champion the destruction of others, even if we disagree with them. (We could also couch this in terms of handicapped vs. non-handicapped and have a very different sort of discussion.)

"So the world is a better place because Mystique grows and changes as a person. And when we snap back to the future, we'll get to see a glimpse of her and how she's changed. Hahaha! Sorry. Just like Mystique only functions earlier in the story as a foil for Charles' man-pain vs. Magneto's man-pain, she's completely absent from the denouement. Because her growth as a character is irrelevant to the rewards that the men-folks get for a job well done."

Again, we have to follow story logic.  Mystique isn't a part of Xavier Academy, which is where Wolverine ends up.  This is the team we've been following, not Magneto and Mystique.  Besides the denouement isn't about any one person but about how the Academy is back and history has changed somehow.  The end.  And again, no one is more interesting than Mystique--the supposed bad guy, helping others.  Her pain is far more fascinating than Charles' or Magneto's.  Besides, look where she stands in the poster:  ahead of all guys except our POV.  Although she is not fully informed about the future, who is?  

Three cheers for Finlay sticking up for underdogs.  Three cheers for X-Men--a fine movie in terms of speculation and large ensemble cast, which is always difficult to tackle and not make all characters look flat.  Three cheers for Truesdale and O'Neill.  Even if we don't agree, who says we have to?  Share a beer, clink your mugs.  As Elvis Costello told us, "What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?" (BTW, isn't Elvis better looking now than as a lad?)  

No comments:

Post a Comment