Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Beautiful People

So I went to see X-Men First Class last night at our favorite cheap theater and enjoyed it even more the second time.  It's a fun movie, great action, great special effects, etc. but what struck me this time around was the very well done conflict around Xavier's biases and bigotry.


As especially shown through his relationship with Raven, Xavier was awesome about mutant rights, believing everyone to be special and worthy of safety and acceptance.  But he also had a major problem with mutants who looked different.  As Raven points out, Xavier's mutant abilities are invisible and easily hid, while hers mark her as very different unless she goes to great pains to hide it.  I loved when Erik points out that if she is spending any energy hiding herself, then that is energy that can not go to defending herself.  Raven leaves Xavier at the end to go to Erik, and I don't think Xavier can even blame her - he knows how he has failed her and that she would be better off with someone who truly accepts her.

Now I know this is just a movie, but the strength of the X-Men in movies and in comics has always been its easy connection and analogy of mutation with other minority groups.  Growing up as a big fan of the comic, this association was always very apparent and poignant to me and makes for good analogy and life lessons.  Xavier's is obviously biased towards mutants who look normal and can fit in.  He tells Moira at the end of the movie that anonymity will be their first line of defense.

Xavier has the idea that the beautiful people - the ones who can remain invisible so no one knows about their mutation are somehow better.  You get the impression from his treatment of Raven that he thinks those whose mutations are obvious should be spending their time trying to fit in, regardless of how it makes them feel.  I see this in other places too - especially the intersex world.

There are cliques and groups that seem based around the pretty people - the ones that fit in and give the impression of effortless in their acceptance and normality.  They look normal, so it is more tragic that they suffer the indignity of being different.  The public can get behind the pretty girl who looks 100% apple pie girl next door and even inside the community there is a not-very-subtle focus on these people to the exclusion of others.  Those who "look intersex" are marginalized, ignored, and simply not treated the same way.  They are more grudgingly accepted into the group, but are not considered role models or are looked up to, no matter what they actually do for the movement.

I think all minority groups probably suffer through this - I think no matter how low you find yourself on the food chain, there is a natural tendency to still want to throw someone else under the bus in order to elevate yourself.  There is a "hey, accept us - we are just like you!" vibe that goes through and those who don't look the part are more likely to be tossed out.  This is often subtle, but it happens all the time.  I see it in group dynamics where for example three people are interviewed and tell their story about being intersex, and the only one people talk about or remember is the pretty one - the others are forgotten even though they were just as brave as the pretty girl.

The GBLT movement will often sacrifice the T's in order to get what they want.  While a case can be made that it's all for the greater good, when you look at the lines these tend to break across, there is often the straight-acting, good-looking, you-wouldn't-know-if-they-hadn't-told-you contingent who gets what they want faster than everyone else.

Finally, there is the shame that everyone (myself included) wants to be one of the beautiful people.  And to bring it back, even in the movie, Raven spends most of her time in one acceptable form, quite beautiful and easy to fit in.  In the end, she discards this image for who she really is and accepts the hand of the person who truly accepted her all along.

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