Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Marvel's 'The Gifted' Aims to Take on Our Current Divisive Climate

The political statements made by Marvel’s X-Men have been longstanding. In fact, one of the comic’s greatest characters was a man whose whole life was directed by the path and hatred of bigotry set by political leaders.

As a victim of the Holocaust, Magneto knew firsthand what hate and power could do. His own hate often pushed him to become the very thing he loathed; the rage against those who misunderstood what he was drove him to seek their destruction and elimination.

Over the years, some have believed the original idea of the mutants was to act as a parallel to the world’s view of all the disenfranchised—the Jews, the LGBT, the blacks—any minority which has faced political and societal persecution, bigotry, and isolation. It has been seen as a way to address the issues through the provision of something people would be willing to consume.

In an interview with BuzzFeed Brews in 2014, Ian McKellen admitted it was this concept that sold him on joining the franchise as Magneto.

"I was sold it by Bryan [Singer], who said, 'Mutants are like gays. They’re cast out by society for no good reason,'" McKellen said. "As in all civil rights movements, they have to decide: are they going to take the Xavier line—which is somehow to assimilate and stand up for yourself and be proud of what you are, but get on with everybody—or are you going to take the alternative view—which is, if necessary, use violence to stand up for your own rights?"

Whether the original writer of X-Men had intended for this specific parallel or not may remain a mystery, but it has most definitely been a sort of "open secret" behind director Bryan Singer’s plans for the franchise.

"I helped write the movie," said Zach Stenz, one of the screenwriters from First Class, in a Facebook comment, "and can tell you the gay rights/post-Holocaust Jewish identity/Civil Rights allegory stuff was put there on purpose."

Stenz added Joss Whedon purposely meant the "cure" storyline in the comics as a gay allegory. Singer adopted that goal into the movies. The line in X2, "Have you ever tried NOT being a mutant?" was a way to weave his own feelings of outsiderdom as a gay man into his work.

With all of this in mind, it should come as no surprise Singer’s latest X-Men project, a TV series called The Gifted, will take a hard stance on bigotry and dissecting our real, current political state one episode at a time.

On July 21 at the San Diego Comic Con, a new trailer was released, introducing us to the main cast. At least one character will be a familiar face for avid fans of the film franchise: Blink will set the stage as one of the main mutants in the show.

Unfortunately, Bingbing Fan will not be reprising her role, though I imagine it has more to do with her age than anything.

The trailer opens up with a teenager being dragged by his classmates into the showers, screaming for help. A female voiceover says, "You never know you're a mutant, until it happens the first time." As the teen screams with rage, the metal showers bend and break, and the high school dance is interrupted by flickering lights and the roof crashing down. Another mutant with blonde hair puts up a force field to save herself.

"On this day, everything changes—forever." The blonde screams for her brother, and the trailer moves forward.


Meet Andy and Lauren Strucker, two young mutants coming into their own as their powers finally reveal themselves. Their father? One of the feds tasked with hunting mutants down. Now, everything changes as the hunter fights to save his family. The only people who can help them are the same ones he was hunting.

What we know so far:

  • No-one knows whether the X-Men or the Brotherhood still exist. Which means, as far as any mutants who have managed to evade capture know, they are on their own. They flee for their lives and use their powers to try and survive.
  • The feds are after the main group of mutants who have been hiding out together. They know who some of them are, like Blink, whose face is on a wanted poster.
  • They're in a world that is fully aware of mutants and, it appears, is creating a greater divide between humans and their evolved counterparts. 
  • The Strucker kids know who their dad is, what he does, and all about mutants.
  • Despite her husband’s job, Kate Strucker, Andy and Lauren's mother, doesn’t hate or fear mutants.
  • Eclipse (one of the mutants) is kinky?

Actress Emma Dumont, who portrays the mutant Polaris, told Den of Geek in an interview at the SDCC that the cast is proud of the challenge the show presents when it comes to the political discourse of today.

"Yeah, I’m going to say straight-up, you guys, our show's about bigotry," she said. "I'm sorry, but we see it in the first scene when Blink's running for her life and a cop could easily kill her dead with zero consequences, because of prejudice...."

In tackling bigotry and the political climate, the goal of the show isn't to cause division, but rather, to create empathy by helping us get to know the actual people on all sides of the issue.

Everyone from the mutants to the family on the run, as well as the government officials hunting them down, will have their perspectives portrayed throughout the story. According to Amy Acker, who plays Kate Strucker, the show was not designed to attack anyone's beliefs, but rather, to provide insight.

The aim is simply to open up empathetic conversation in order to close the gaps caused by our current divisive politics.

"I think it would be incredibly difficult to watch our show and not think about that in some respect," Stephen Moyer, a.k.a. Reed Strucker, told Polygon. "I bloody hope that people do watch our show and think about it."

Will you be watching when The Gifted launches in October?

Title image made using an overlay from IGN.


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