The X Factor
I recently sat in on a seminar session featuring gay rights activist and campaigner, Sir Ian McKellen. Of course, he’s also quite well-known for his acting…..
The title of the seminar was ‘why are all heroes hetero?’ – but the burning question I didn’t have the opportunity to ask was ‘why are most villains disabled or disfigured?’.
Both these questions raise important points about stereotyping and how this contributes to people’s attitudes, perceptions and basic understanding of heroism and inclusion. For many years, the worlds of literature, television and film have fanned the flames of ignorance – and continue to do so.
One notable populist exception is Marvel’s X-Men and I was interested to hear Sir Ian talk about it. As most will know, in the current film franchise he plays the powerful mutant, Magneto.
What Marvel creator, Stan Lee, has devised is a fascinating projection of our struggles to reconcile diversity with inclusion.
We have mutants – people who are different – who don’t fit the stereotypical mould of society and feel the need to hide away or cover themselves up. Some find refuge with the wheelchair using Professor X (a hero with visible disability); who fights to serve a greater good by promoting peaceful coexistence and equality between humans and mutants in a world where bigotry is widespread.
However, other mutants are more drawn to Magneto; who promotes a much more violent and aggressive approach to achieving civil rights and strives for segregation and superiority.
If we choose to look beyond the Hollywood special effects; we are actually looking into a mirror which reflects us all and the world in which we live. Except in real life, there are no super heroes to save us from ourselves….