One of the most popular X-Men characters of all time has been Rogue (aka Anna Marie), a young runaway girl from Mississippi who was born as a mutant. She considers her powers of absorbing energy through skin contact, which includes the skills, abilities, powers, memories, and psyche of others, a curse, as they make physical intimacy impossible for her.
Throughout the course of her adventures, she passes from exploring her dark, shadow side as a malevolent terrorist while in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to claiming her light, good side as a benevolent mutant working on the X-Men team. After absorbing other identities, she holds these various subpersonalities within her (until eventually they are released). The personality that had the major, turning point influence on her and convinced her to leave the Brotherhood was Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers). After completely absorbing her Kree (alien) powers, she realized the evil of the Brotherhood and sought help from Professor Xavier to control her various personalities.
Rogue represents several parts of us—our desire for connection and intimacy, our struggle between light and dark/good and evil, and our efforts to integrate all parts of our personality for wholeness and happiness.
For the second in the X-Men identity series, we look at another factor of identity—alignment. Anyone who’s ever played roleplaying games is aware of alignment: lawful vs. neutral vs. chaotic, and good vs. neutral vs. evil. In most all fiction, alignment (good guy vs. bad guy) plays a major part in the drama and climax of story. But, even more so in X-Men.
The leader of the X-Men, Professor Charles Xavier, is training a group of young people with the mutual gene to do good in the world and use their powers for the benefit of society. On the other side, Magneto also leads a group of mutants to reclaim their power in the world—not for the benefit of society, but for their own benefit. Not exactly anti-society (which would be “evil” and seek to destroy society), but anti-establishment, seeking to change society and promote themselves. For these reasons, I see Xavier as lawful good (doing good for society), and Magneto as chaotic neutral (doing whatever it takes to promote themselves). These alignments define their purpose.
The alignment issues for Xavier and Magneto are a combination of their background (Charles: privileged, Magneto: tragic) and personality (Charles: assimilating, Magneto: rebellious). Nurture and nature combining in the choices they make that determine their character.
I’m a big fan of the fantasy genre and it’s role in helping us understand ourselves, face challenges, and become better people. And one of my favorite fantasy worlds is X-Men.
For the first of my X-Men posts, I’m looking at my favorite X-person, Mystique — a blue, shapeshifting villain — who I like not just because of her name and X power, but also for the struggle she has for acceptance. The latest X-Men movie, X-Men First Class, shows her internal struggle for acceptance based on her appearance, and her efforts to mask this and be who she needs to be and look how she needs to look to fit in. When she realizes she doesn’t have to exert so much energy to transform/hide her appearance to be accepted by Magneto, a fellow mutant, she is drawn to him. Magneto’s reaction contrasts with Charles Xavier, a mutant friend and future leader of the X-Men, who wants her to conform to the look of mainstream society, and Beast, another fellow mutant, who tries to help her (and himself, with adverse results) change her look and destroy her mutant genes permanently. In the end, she joins Magneto and his group of outcast but proud mutants. Her desire for pride beat the desire to do what’s right and good (and socially acceptable). She transformed her shame into pride—but at what cost?
X-Men, and perhaps particularly Mystique, symbolize the quest of everyone to feel comfortable with who they are. It shows how easy it is to make the wrong choices of who to associate with based on who accepts you as you are and appreciates the real, true you. And also that looks can be deceiving.