The X-Men Epic Morality Play

I finally got to see X-Men: The Last Stand (the third movie of the series) last night. I was never a big comic book fan but I’ve always loved a good epic story. The X-Men movies, and even the few episodes of the animated TV series that I’ve seen definitely fit the bill of an epic. Brett Miller wrote several posts on his 29Marbles blog about the movie last year and includes references to some other sites as well. He includes a good summary of the movies in one of the posts.

The general premise of the X-Men series is that many humans are born with a mutated gene that makes them “different” than the rest of the population. The difference generally includes a special ability or power. Themes addressing “being different” run through all the movies. It is this theme that has generated comparison with autism. The comparison between the X-Men and autism can’t be taken too literally but the beauty of the themes comes through in the details. The creators have done a wonderful job of letting these details shine in the ambiguity of the moral choices that run through the movies.

In the third movie, a cure is discovered to reverse the effects of the mutant gene. Some mutants want to destroy the cure while some want to take it. Some neurotypicals (I mean non-mutants!) want to force the cure on all the mutants, and others simply want to make it available. The parallels between the perspectives on a cure for autism are obvious.

There were two parts of the movie that I found extremely thought provoking (Spoilers ahead!) In one scene, we find one of the characters injured and her power is left in control of her subconscious, rather than her conscious mind. This leads to destruction and death as the subconscious mind lashes out with little control. One of the leaders tries to heal her by altering her mind by building walls between her conscious and unconscious mind. Another character intervenes as he perceives it to be an attempt to change her from who she is, even if she is injured. The scene speaks to me of the dilemma of using any type of neurological medication, and how the intention can be anywhere along the spectrum of curing, healing, helping, changing, or destroying part of a person.

The second theme that struck me was the one that impacted mutant characters who considered taking the cure. We saw characters make both choices and saw two of them struggle while coming to terms with a choice. It’s too simplistic to assume one choice was right and another wrong. Perhaps each choice could be made for the right or wrong reasons by anyone. At what point is it right to accept our abilities and limitations and at what point is it right to change them for other abilities and limitations. We can make these changes, to varying degrees, through medication, education, psychotherapy, diet, exercise, surgery, and a variety of other choices available to us. Are some choices good and others bad? What are the criteria for deciding?

If you haven’t seen the movies, and stories based on comic books do not sound like your type, consider watching them anyway. The theme of diversity runs through all movies from the opening scene in the first movie where one child watches another taken to a concentration camp because he is “different”. It’s an epic, it’s a morality play, and it’s way beyond what most people expect from a comic book.

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One Response to The X-Men Epic Morality Play

  1. babs m says:

    Interesting parallels. I’ve seen all these and not made this exact connection. I’d venture that all we can do is bring our kids along with as many tools to interact with the NT world as possible. Then when they get old enough, they can choose themselves from among the options available to them. Thanks for sharing.

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