Wednesday, June 8, 2016

"I'm Not Alone": X-Men Apocalypse & Modern Feminism

The ultimate purpose of the film is to remind us--because we all all ready know it--that anything can be used for good, anything can be used for evil. The film opens with Scott realizing his eyes send out laser beams, and how terrible is that? But because of his power, and his increasing ability to control it, he's going to be able to take something that is bad, and turn it to good. Each character in the film, in their turn, realizes this for themselves so we, the audience, can realize for ourselves, too.
Whenever a film talks directly about another film, there is a reason for it. In the case of X-Men: Apocalypse, a group of young mutants go to the mall to see a film and, upon exiting, compare it to the other films in that franchise, one of them saying it wasn't as good as the first one, while another reminding them that they all exist together and you can't have one without another. We can deduce that this is some directed commentary by director Bryan Singer regarding what he all ready knew people would be saying about X-Men because it's what people always say. So, for the record, I would like to say that there is only one word to describe his latest film: epic. A film is only as good as its villain, so who is that villain? Moira MacTaggert.
This hairstyle is interesting because--as a child of the 1980s myself--I know women didn't wear two-toned hair color the way that is trendy now, so this is symbolic, specifically, that Moira has two ways of thinking: mutants are good, mutants can cause a lot of damage. Her hair also doesn't move: when she moves her head, all her hair moves in one mass with her hair, and that WAS typically of the 1980s (if you don't know what Aquanet is, you did not live in the time period). This signifies that Moira's opinions are fixed, she doesn't change and she's "solid" in her stance on what she believes (she isn't flippant or easily swayed on matters). Now, there is a line of conversation that takes place that might easily be mis-interpreted. When she's explaining Apocalypse and the Four Horseman, Havoc mentions, "Yea, he got that one from the Bible," and Moira counters, "Or the Bible got it from him." Far from being in anyway disrespectful (and because we see an image of Christ with His Cross in the historical timeline that flashes across the screen) this validates the Bible's rooted context in history, that what has happened in temporal time (the time span in which you and I live and interact) is part of the Bible and it has accurately reflected the traumas of history.
Can we really say that the love interest of Professor Xavier is a villain? Yes, because she is the one directly responsible for releasing Apocalypse, the secondary villain everyone is so determined to stop because of the apocalypse he's bringing to the world. Now, please remember as we proceed, that a film about saving the world isn't about saving the world, it's about you saving your world, and using the gifts, skills and talents which make you uniquely you, to make proper decisions so you can save your world from annihilation and not end up being a villain, but a hero in real life. So, how is Moira the villain, and how are we to avoid becoming a Moira ourselves?
Mystique is definitely the hero of the film, even if it's Jean Grey who brings down Apocalypse, Mystique is converted, and she re-joins the mutant family instead of just going off on her own (as she has done before, like at the start of Days Of Future Past) and hiding behind an identity rather than being who she was born to be. Mystique's own conversion lays the groundwork for Magneto's conversion, because, without that, the victory probably would have gone to Apocalypse. 
After Apocalypse has been buried because of the actions of a few wise, far-seeing and brave ancient Egyptian patriots, we see the modern day and a woman dressed in the full Muslim burqa (nothing but her eyes showing) and even though we don't know who this woman is, we can tell by her actions that she's up to no good. When it's revealed that it's CIA agent MacTaggert, she's following some Apocalypse worshipers to the "shrine." The Muslim worshipers of Apocalypse makes perfect sense because so many (as in, the entire country of Iran) believe that the coming of their messiah will only be achieved with total destruction of the world, which is why they are so desperate for a nuclear warhead, to bring about the destruction of the world. BUT, Singer is telling us, this group isn't the one unleashing the violent forces we see in the film, so what is it that Moira does?
She made a decision.
Why does Magneto's family die? Because Magneto has "killed" a part of himself in not being who he was meant to be. At the end of Days Of Future Past, Erik Lehnsherr goes on his own way and buries his real identity because everyone saw him ready to kill the president and destroy humanity. Instead of destroying humanity, Lehnsherr destroys a part of himself, in other words, he hasn't learned how to live in harmony with his true self, or his true self with humanity.  We can validate this thesis with what it is in the narrative that "converts" Magneto from Apocalypse's side to the X-Men's: Mystique. When Mystique tells Magneto that he has more family then he realized, it's because she herself has realized it, too. She has found her purpose in life and she's finally become comfortable with who, and what, she is. This is Magneto's goal which he is far from achieving. The damage and destruction which Magneto inflicts upon others is a sign of the damage and conflict within himself: by causing harm to others and in the world, he releases the anger and frustration within himself to lessen that feeling of helplessness and loss of control he has experienced since his days in the concentration camp. Now, on a different note, why is Magneto punished for saving the man's life when the metal container was going to fall upon him? That's not what he's being punished for. He's not being pursued by the police because he's a mutant or he saved that guy's life, rather, because of what happened in Washington in Days Of Future Past and him wanting to destroy humanity and take over the world. When he saves that man, he has let his identity slip and they realize that he's Magneto and potentially very dangerous to all of them, to the world. Magneto feeds this when he shows up at the plant in the image of above and wants to kill all those men. When Apocalypse shows up and Magneto says, "Don't stop me from killing these men," he says it because that is exactly what he wants to happen: someone to show up and stop him because unleashing his powers like this, makes him realize he is a slave to them, he doesn't control them the way Charlies Xavier has always tried to coach mutants to do.
If you remember the events of X-Men: First Class, you know that MacTaggert and Xavier were quite close, but Xavier erased her memories of everything that had happened, including that the two of them had met. MacTaggert goes on to get married to someone else and has a son; then, in favor of her career, she divorces, the "choice we all have to make." The truth is, she had all ready made a decision: to get married. She choose marriage and family, then went back on her decision when she choose her career over her husband. THIS is what unleashes Apocalypse, feminists who choose their careers over their families and marginalize the men who are supposed to be the husbands and fathers. Just as Apocalypse isn't a man, he's man-like, so, too, are men today only "man-like" because women have taken away their ability to be truly masculine in their decisions to raise children alone and not be married. So, what feminists have claimed men have done unto them for centuries, feminists are now trying to do to men. REMEMBER: it's not the war-like worshipers of Apocalypse who release him, it's Moira. Which leads us to why Xavier was wrong to erase Moira's memories.
Why do we like Quicksilver so much? Because Quicksilver likes his gift. He's comfortable with himself and what he can do. So why then does he NOT tell Magneto that they are father and son? Because Magneto isn't comfortable with who Magneto is, and he's likely to not like someone who is like him. It was smart of Quicksilver not to tell Magneto the truth just yet, because Magneto couldn't handle it, he can't handle anything. It would be nice for Quicksilver and Magneto to have bonding time together (given that their first introduction was Quicksilver breaking his dad out of jail). But Quicksilver hasn't really been around anyone either, and even though he likes himself, he still has some self-esteem problems (like referring to himself as a "loser" on the plane). Quicksilver has to overcome his own problems and being around a dysfunctional father like Magneto could be counter-productive. 
None of us wants someone we love to suffer; and none of us really want to endure suffering ourselves. When Charles Xavier decides to wipe from Moira's memory their relationship, it's so she won't suffer because of him (being shot in the spinal cord and wheelchair bound) and in making that decision for her, he does two things: first, he takes away her free will and individuation. When we make decisions, we make decisions about who we are, which is why every time you get upset with someone, or choose to sin rather than make an act of virtue, you are choosing who you are. Xavier doesn't give Moira that opportunity. Second, he removes from her the opportunity to suffer with him. Yes, I know, how many of us look at suffering as "opportunity," but this blog is for Christians first and foremost, and we know that the way of the Cross (which we explicitly see at the start of the film as we flash through a world history timeline) is the way of suffering and victory. This leads us to the most important line in the film.
I've never really liked the character of Jean Grey, or Scott/Cyclops: I don't know why. After Apocalypse, I understand them. Why? Because I have seen these characters and their suffering so now they are human to me. As much as we shy away from suffering, and don't (always) want others to know about our suffering, it's what not only makes us human, but makes us likable, because then we are relate-able. It's important to the film that what a woman released (Moira releasing Apocalypse), another woman (Jean Gray) has to destroy. 
When Xavier and Apocalypse are battling inside Xavier's head, Apocalypse has completely battered Charles, and tells him how he is going to "die alone," and Charles responds, "I'm not alone," and that is the greatest line in the film for three reasons. First, this is basically why Magneto joins Apocalypse, because Magneto feels that he is alone. Xavier refuses to believe that, and finally, Mystique realizes she is not alone either, which is why she is able to rejoin the X-Men and take a place of leadership with them; Magneto stills believes this, even at the end of the film, which is why he leaves, again. The second reason this is the most important line in the film is because of us. Anyone in reality who "feels they are alone" are likely to join with someone like Apocalypse and want to bring destruction to everything everyone else has because of what they feel they have lost in life, real or imagined. The third reason is because of The Hobbit.
Why is Nightcrawler so likable? Of all the X-men who could have been brought into this film, Nightcrawler was one who made it; why? He suffers intensely. He looks radically different than humans, so there is no hiding of his being a mutant for him and that causes him suffering. For all his suffering, he is the sign of hope in the film, because he prays and he trusts in God. The battle between him and Angel in the arena is a telling one, because Kurt is referred to as "the devil" while the evil mutant, Angel, is considered good. Just as most of us see suffering as a bad thing (like Kurt), it's actually good for us (Kurt being called the devil but being a good guy). As we know, the color blue symbolizes both sadness and wisdom: sadness is the price we must pay for the great treasure of wisdom, there is no other way to become wise. Kurt is wise, we can see this in his actions and his kindness to others. Mystique is blue, and she has suffered, but it hasn't been until this last film that she finally cashed in all her suffering for some wisdom. Beast is blue, because the only mistake he seems to have ever made was not wanting to be who he is (so he developed the serum from Mystique's DNA to keep him normal and it backfired on him). At one point, one of the mutants ask, "Are we all going to turn blue?" because so many mutants are blue (Apocalypse is discussed below) and the answer is,... kind of. All of the mutants will experience sadness and rejection, but not all of them will attain wisdom. 
In The Hobbit: The Battle Of the Five Armies, this echoes the line spoken by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) when she finds Gandalf unconscious at Dol Guldur and the Nazgul taunt her with how alone she is and she, too, replies, "I'm not alone," and Elrond and Saruman appear and help her defeat the dark wizards. Jean Grey is like both Elrond and Saruman: she is good and wants to do good like Elrond, but there is a part of her, the "Phoenix" that can/will (?) will bad like Saruman (who joins up with Sauron, the evil eye) as we saw Jean Grey in X-Men: The Last Stand. Again, we all have choices to make, there is good and bad in each of us and we have to decide which of those powers we are going to strengthen with our free will.
We finally know how/why Xavier looses his hair! We also know that hair or anything worn atop the head symbolizes our thoughts, so how does this interpretation work on Xavier? At the start of the film, he's unbelieving that humans and mutants can't live together peacefully, and we see his long(ish) hair then. Now, however, he has experienced the traumas of war and he's become a man of action (no hair) he won't be sitting on the sidelines being philosophical about things, rather, he's going to be more active in monitoring mutants--like Magneto and Apocalypse--because one bad mutant gives them all a bad name. Blue is often the color associated with Xavier because he is the wisest of the mutants, he has the vision to see an ideal and the heart and resources to put that into effect. Above all, Xavier is above all. The "X" which is the symbol of the X-Men and students (and that Magneto plants in front of Xavier to protect him from Apocalypse) is the sign of two, two things that have been joined into something that means something greater. In other words, Xavier has taken his humanity and his mutant powers and joined the two different identities into one, and teaching others how to do that is his purpose.
This post doesn't even begin to exhaust all of the film, however, this hopefully provides you with some groundwork from which to launch your own interpretations and understandings. Everything about the film has been done superbly, and seeing a young Storm, and how she starts off at Apocalypse's side, and then converts to Xavier's side, and knowing the good, strong person she will become and all the good she can do, is quite inspiring. There is another scene at the very, very end of the credits, which is likely going to tie in with the next Wolverine film, the last for Hugh Jackman, so be sure to watch that!
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What about Apocalypse? Even though actor Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis, Star Wars the Force Awakens) portrays Apocalypse, the mutant doesn't look anything like Oscar Isaac, looking instead (at least in my opinion) like the monster from Young Frankenstein (bottom image). As we discuss above, we know blue is both the color of wisdom and suffering, and we can say that Apocalypse doesn't really suffer, but he brings suffering to others. He's a lot like a machine, and that's why he doesn't understand suffering: suffering is uniquely human (yes, animals can suffer, but animals don't intellectually choose virtue over sin, they are trained or they learn it for survival, people, on the other hand, make a commitment to virtue in hopes of becoming a better person). Why does Apocalypse keep saying, "Only the strong will survive?" Because that's what socialism says. Socialism doesn't allow for people with differences, for people with disabilities, for people who have problems or a weakness, but only for the perfect and strong; this was the point of the concentration camps (which we see in the film) to exterminate all those who aren't to the standards of the government.