Sorry, more X-Men thoughts. People keep having cool things to say about the movie, I can't help it! This is partly related to an exchange in my last entry about how we get more of a sense in the movie why people go with Magneto than we do why people stay with Charles, and also related to some comments I've read where people just don't get why anybody would want to stay with Charles at all! It got me thinking about what the two characters seem to grow up to be, which is (as usual) not opposites but two very different things that are both valuable.

I don't know the comics that well so I'm totally open to corrections of anything I say based on the movie. But I think this movie actually was very interested in showing how both men were inspiring in very different ways that fitted them for their future roles. Erik would become a leader of a terrorist group. Charles a visionary and schoolteacher. Those are two very different roles that require different personalities and create different relationships with followers, and I think we saw hints of those ways throughout.

Erik is further along in his development than Charles, obviously. He's been through many fires already, he's gotten a lot of practice in the way he relates to others. The key to the kind of figure he becomes, imo, seems to lie a lot in personal charisma. (I totally almost said personal magnetism!) I think a follower of Magneto would feel an intense personal feeling toward him even if they didn't have that much time together. Of course that's not true yet in the group that he's got in the movie--Shaw's men barely know him. But he's charismatic enough to lead people into battle and have them willing to follow.

After an opening scene where he's a child and has no control (literally), we see Erik constantly controlling his environment and the people in it. Only two people, Charles and Shaw, are not under his control and you can tell how keenly Erik is aware of it. With both of them, in very different ways, you see a hint of the boy in the beginning. With everyone else, though, it's all about him being in control. In the scene in the bank and in Argentina Erik doesn't just walk in and make demands. He plays with his prey, first letting them think he's something he isn't, then revealing his true intentions. By the time they think they're in for a fight it turns out they're actually in a trap and it's too late to get out. He knows exactly how to play those scenes to make the impression he wants to make--the flair for drama he shows in that "My parents didn't have names..." moment shows his ability to be larger than life.

His scenes with Raven are also pretty masterful in showing this. I read a fic where the author had put in an aside during the scene where Raven is in Erik's bed, where Erik thought that getting Raven on his side would be good strategy in getting to Charles. A commenter praised the fic for reminding us that he's a manipulative guy. Erik certainly does have strong beliefs about Mutants showing their true form, but it's hard to believe that he's really so struck by Raven herself in disguise that he just has to try to help her. After all, I don't recall him taking a similar interest in Hank who's trying to create a serum to make himself look human. (I could believe he's far more interested in Hank when he sees him in Beast form because he looks stronger.)

It seems like Raven gets his attention for some reason beyond her insecurity about her looks. Whether it's because he thinks her powers are more useful than Hank's seem when they meet or because she's Charles' sister or something else, Erik really does seem to target Raven for influence. In the scene where she's lifting weights he gets to her with just a few lines before sauntering away, and when she comes to his bed not only is he not flustered by her sexuality (like Charles in the kitchen) he completely takes control of the situation to make it about what he wants her to do. Iow, he sees she wants validation from him through sex, so he makes it be on his conditions. Masterful! You can see this guy running roughshod over people with weak personalities, and see how strong personalities would be drawn to him for that strength. He's made Raven, a strong person, feel stronger by pushing her to live up to his challenge and she wants/needs more of that.

A teacher is very different from a leader, though. Favorite teachers become favorites not by inspiring students to follow their orders but by opening up their ideas of how interesting the world is and of what they can do. Visionaries, similarly, open up peoples' ideas to the way things can be.

. It's hard to really describe but...I think there's always a bit of distance (for lack of a better word) between the visionary and his followers. A leader can be worshipped and followed as a person, you can die for him. With a visionary it's supposed to be about the ideas, even if of course people often focus on the person there too. (I feel like I need to say something about Jesus here--just that Jesus isn't a visionary, he's God incarnate. That's why he's worshipped.)

Charles is neither a teacher nor a visionary when the movie starts, but it still takes pains to show us the kind of talent he has for it. Where Erik takes little interest in Hank and focuses on Raven, Erik takes Raven for granted and focuses on Hank. And the two men basically do the same things as mentors. Erik pushes Raven to claim her full power by daring her to have courage and feel ashamed to do otherwise. Charles encourages Hank to claim his full power by making it sound exciting, natural and easy. He does a similar thing with Alex by standing next to the dummy looking calm and encouraging. In Raven’s case it’s Erik giving personal approval for real Raven. In Charles’ case it's Hank and Alex elated at what they've done themselves and being grateful to Charles for encouraging them.

Of course, Erik and Charles both work their mojo on each other as well. Where Charles is usually able to feel comfortably smarter than everyone else, Erik challenges his axioms (that people who are treated with kindness and trust will respond in kind eventually) and forces him to face things he wants to deny (the ways in which he'll always be powerless over others). He forces him to face the things that are hard for him, especially emotionally, and that makes him stronger. One could even say he's doing that by accident when he disables him. He forces Charles to do things the hard way, to deal with reality instead of theory and confront people his own size. Charles, most obviously in the satellite dish scene, opens up Erik's mind to things he's forgotten, to things he could be and could have. He challenges his axioms (that people are incapable of accepting people who are different from themselves ever), forces him to face things he wants to deny (the ways in which people will always have power over him). He forces Erik to consider another way.

Like I said, I don't know the comics, but it seems like the whole conflict between these two has always been so fascinating because of all the ways they're so different without actually being opposites. Batman and the Joker are two opposing forces (control and chaos) that fight forever without either ever being able to win. Charles and Erik are two competing philosophies that can exist side by side even when they contradict each other. Sometimes direct opposition is a side product of their different ideas, but it's not central to them.

Hmmm. That makes me think of a book I recently really enjoyed that was recommended on the Colbert Report called God is Not One. It was looking at the 8 most popular religions and showing how they all centered on completely different approaches to the Problem of Life and the solution for it. But I'll refrain from spinning off into thinking which of those 8 religions Charles and Erik's philosophies would most closely resemble. (Okay, I'll throw one out there: Erik is exile/return--Judaism!which is not linking Judaism to terrorism or violence, btw, in case it seems that way).
jazzypom: (Default)

From: [personal profile] jazzypom

Intriguing


The movie got the Erik and Charles dynamic right in a lot of ways. Especially in the ways you've touched on; how their backgrounds and personalities shape their beliefs.

Both Charles and Erik are manipulators though, but Erik is more honest about it. He looks at their little rag tag army and sees them as soldiers, Charles looks at their little rag tag army and sees them as students.

I can see why people would go with Magneto though - in that he not only has power, but the stomach to make the hard decisions and to force a conclusion. In contrast to Charles Xavier and the softly softly approach, where he can't necessarily promise gains, whether immediate or in the long term. He hopes that humans will accept mutants, not taking into account say, when it comes to change and 'the other' most humans tend to resist it. Like, the fact that in the South they had to forcibly desegregate schools, or that sort of thing. Erik and Charles' approach towards humans come down to the carrot or the whip approach.

For instance, in Ultimate X-men (people hate the comic, but heh), Charles and Erik go forth and build a society of mutants, and Erik wants to push the society to the point of say, challenging world governments within the next decade, and then replacing the world's language with their own and evolved mutant language. Whereas Charles is all, "No, let's philosophise!" Cue grand falling out, and sides being chosen.

All in all, it comes down to the side that you, as an individual chose and you decide if Charles or Erik's philosophy is good for you. Which is why I'm really glad that Charles and Erik didn't stay together, because like I've said before, the fact that they have opposing sides, gives mutants space to think and quarrel.

In the comics (616 the classic line), Charles and Erik's arguments have grown more nuanced over the years. Erik actually built a home for his mutants on an asteroid, taking that whole 'separate but equal' axiom to the limit. He entertained Piotr Rasputin (one of Professor X's most devoted foot soldiers to his cause) as an acolyte, and for all of Magneto's short comings, when it comes to mutants needing and wanting succour, he won't turn them away. In XFC, you get that aspect of Magneto shining through the movie. He opens his hand to all the mutants on the beach, asking them to chose him.

Yes, XFC has a lot of feelings. Very good feelings. It's great that a comic book movie is making people think and speak (even the grand sin of the racial optics fail), which is why Green Lantern is so disappointing. XFC shows what comic book movies can be. GL- not so much.

apagon: (Default)

From: [personal profile] apagon


really enjoyed your analysis... especially liked how you distinguish between teacher and leader, and also erik's issues with control... thanks for sharing your thoughts! (found your journal via delicious, hope this isn't too strange, dropping a line!)
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