For a movie about mutants, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS has led to a lot of interesting discussion. Set in the ’60s — a time of great social change and timeless fashions — filmmakers Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman had more on their mind than just fighting.
Ta-Nehisi Coates kicked off his NY Times column with a piece called You Left Out the Part About … — while he loved the film, the lack of coverage of the civil rights movement bothered him:
When we left the theater, my son and I knew we had experienced the most thrilling movie of the summer. “First Class” is narratively lean, beautifully acted and, at all the right moments, visually stunning. But I had experienced something else. My son is 10 and a romantic, as all 10-year-olds surely have the right to be. How then do I speak to him of this world’s masterminds who render you a supporting actor in your own story? How do I speak of the Sentinels whose eyes melt history, until the world forgets that in 1962, the quintessential mutants of America were black?
In his Atlantic column, he expanded a bit:
But in a broader sense, I wasn’t really interested in how X-Men comports with the liberal dream of America, so much as I was interested in the fact that the X-Men were conceived during the same year as the March on Washington, the same year Malcolm X gave his “Message To The Grassroots” speech, the same year Medgar Evers was shot, the same year white supremacists bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church.
Susana Polo looks at the gender politics at The Mary Sue.
But the movie does hint at the inequality of women in the era… and it does so offhandedly. Moira McTaggert, a woman who has already managed to defeat enough prejudice to become a CIA Agent, wears full on Emma Frost Playboy Bunny style lingerie while on a stakeout (it is possible that she planned it, knowing her targets would be inside a casino, but the movie does not imply this). The transgressions of male characters against the women around them are played mostly for laughs: Moira’s gender is routinely mocked by her superiors in front of her as if she was not present, Shaw snidely asks Emma Frost to freshen up his drink, and while we are certainly not invited to side with the jerks at the CIA or Sebastian Shaw, neither are we invited to see Moira and Emma’s struggle for equality as being in any way a parallel or similar struggle as that of the mutant race.
We’ve yet to catch XM:FC yet — oh schedule! — but perhaps it creeps closer to an actual great movie about superheroes.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.