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).

From: [identity profile] dungeonwriter.livejournal.com


Erik is shown as someone who did practice Judaism, at least as a child. His happiest memory was Hannukah, and he quotes Jewish scripture "And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (Yad Vashem) that shall not be cut off" from Isaiah when he talks about their names being taken away.

And the imagery of the Nuremberg defense "Following orders,' the quoting of "Never Again," to me, the Judaism was very apparent.
ext_6866: (WWSMD?)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com


Oh yes, I know--I wasn't clear. I know that Erik actually is Jewish and that he was practicing at least during his childhood because of the flashback. But I meant that the way he approached the Mutant problem also seemed to relate to the way Judaism approached the problem of life in the book. The problem is exile, the solution is return to God. The way Erik approaches the Mutant problem seems to most fit that same conflict. He's been exiled from the safety of home and family (first quite literally by Nazis) and he wants to make a safe home that the Mutants deserve.

So it does match his actual religious background, but I didn't know it was going to before I thought about, if that makes sense. Like with Erik I suspect he would match up with one or a few of the Eastern religions (a lot of his lines have a Buddhist sound to them, though I don't think his philosphy matches up to Buddhism as Erik's does to Judaism), but I'm sure Erik's religious upbringing was probably Anglican.

From: [identity profile] glitterdemon.livejournal.com


I think in your last paragraph you're meaning to say Charles where you're saying Erik, re: Buddhism/Anglican?
ext_6866: (WWSMD?)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com


D'oh! Yes, you're absolutely right. I meant Charles. I am constantly writing the wrong name with those two for some reason. Thanks!

From: [identity profile] horridporrid.livejournal.com


I like how you break it down: Erik as Leader; Charles as Teacher/Visionary.

I wonder though - couldn't you say Erik is a visionary too? That he's leading his group towards his own vision of the way things should be? (Mutants in total control of the world and therefore safe.)

I think a difference, that may fall along the Leader-Teacher line, is that Charles has a vision of how things should be despite the prevailing human wisdom of the time that humans will always fear and repress the 'other'. (Not that this isn't also a current idea, but in the early '60's with Hitler so recently defeated and the Cold War burning towards hot, it's especially highlighted.) Whereas Erik has a vision based on how things are.

So Erik is a Leader because he's accepted that things are the way they are. His group is looking to carve out their life in the 'real world'. And Charles is a Teacher because he's believes the current world-view can be changed. He'll show his people how to get there, but keep them safely hidden away from the 'real-world' in the meantime. Erik is Leader because he's fighting a war - he needs soldiers not students. Charles is Teacher because he's establishing a philosophy - he needs to nurture and shape young minds.

So I've wrapped back around to your original breakdown. :) Charles has a hopeful vision; Erik is pragmatic realist. (Per how they each see themselves, anyway.)

I'm not sure how Raven fits into this, mainly because of that last interchange where Charles seems to understand why Raven is leaving him for Erik. In a way, I'm not sure the movie showed a total schism between Charles and Erik. So I'm not sure that there was a sense that a black and white choice was being made. No dramatic, "you are no longer my sister!" or the like. It did seem like the adults, or the mutants most comfortable with themselves and their abilities, went with Erik. Leaving the ones still actually interested in learning with Charles.

I suppose the complication comes from the fact that a Leader isn't necessarily evil and a Teacher isn't necessarily good. And really, someone should experience both types of mentors in their lives, shouldn't they? How confusing then to have a dark/light philosophy layered on top of the leadership styles!

Wow, I've rambled! I stop. :)
ext_6866: (Hadn't thought of that)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com


Yes, and I totally meant to write that and I forgot it--grrr! Yes, there is definitely crossover. Erik does have a vision that he is selling to his followers the same way Charles is, and Charles leads as well. I mean, how could Erik lead anyone with no goal, especially one that wasn't inspiring and bigger than all of them?

But in my head I guess I was picturing different types represented by the two words and I forgot to put that in! I think you hit the difference in types I had in my head with the idea of how radical the change in the word is. Erik's is more realistic: we have more power, we can take control. Charles is about having to change peoples' minds to want them to make things different.

I totally agree there's no black and white break. Definitely not! I mean, Charles seemed to be apologizing to Raven at the end there, I think. He hadn't given her what she needed and Erik did and he wanted her to be with the guy she wanted to be with that spoke to her. There wasn't any implied betrayal in that part of it. I don't think either guy can really imagine they're ever going to be against each other completely.

From: [identity profile] horridporrid.livejournal.com


It's interesting because, while I do think the beginnings of a line has been drawn, there's not that same... Well, like with Shaw, you know he was never going to be a part of Charles' ideal. (Nor Erik's, despite some similar views or visions - he broke faith with Erik about as hard as you could.) But I feel like, with Charles letting Raven go with Erik, that there's still a sense or a feeling that someday they'll rejoin. Like Erik has to go out with his group and do his thing and then... something will happen, and then he'll come back to Charles. (I can see Charles drawing up a list: "1) Erik gets his excess energy out, 2)???? 3)Family again!" *g*)

At least, I feel like that's how Charles and Raven were seeing it. (Erik I'm not as sure of. Mainly because I think he sees Charles as a hopeless dreamer. It's Charles who's interested in doing the saving in that relationship, I think.)

So I feel like something greater has to happen before Charles can think, okay we're never going to join up, Erik has gone too far in the other direction and now we're enemies. Which makes me excited for the next movie! (And also sad, because I think the two of them together were pretty awesome.)

Erik's is more realistic: we have more power, we can take control. Charles is about having to change peoples' minds to want them to make things different.

That breaks down so perfectly with their different powers! Of course Charles would look to persuasion and Erik would look to force. :) So the final break (if it ever comes) would have to be a point where Charles feels Erik is beyond persuading. I'm not sure he's there now. I hate to imagine what it would take to get him there.

From: [identity profile] fanaddict.livejournal.com


Have you ever watched Star Trek DS9? My shiny new thought about X-Men is that Magneto is Section 31 to the X-Men's Federation.

I think Charles started to see the point of pragmatism when the humans sent missiles at them, but he still is a visionary because he hopes for a better future. So he teaches the X-Men his ideals for the future, while trying to protect them by hiding them. Meanwhile, Erik doesn't see a better future per se, because he rarely moves out of survival mode. He makes future plans, etc but they're all about making sure mutants survive and become stronger. He doesn't think about positives futures beyond survival. These 2 viewpoints don't have to be opposites but could work together. For example, if
Prof X knew something needed to be done but it would hurt the ideals of his X-men to do it, Magneto would be willing to take that step. Meanwhile, Magneto battles on knowing that should he ever win the war to secure mutants safety, they would then require Prof X's vision to give them a future. In this scenario, Charles provides Erik's hope for the future, while Erik acts as a sword&shield to get them there. They complement each other. Or could, depending on how things fall out primarily in Charles' mind - I think Erik knew Charles for who he was and could readily come together with him again. For all his telepathy, I don't think Charles believed Erik would kill humans so willingly (he even used the just following orders excuse, how better to illustrate how little he understands what he knows of Erik). So, it depends on what Charles took away from the beach as to whether he now understands Erik's fears more. Taking Moira's memory protected her, but also the mutants, so he must have learned discretion at least...

By the way, I don't know too much of the current XMen comics canon, but my impression of Prof X from my childhood is of someone who believed wholeheartedly in his ideals, while at the same time being a bit havey cavey/not letting everyone in on his secret plans at times. I could see him doing some questionable things pretty easily, but hiding it from people whose ideals might be hurt if they knew sometimes those ideals have to bend to survive.
ext_6866: (Good point.)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com


I haven't seen DS9 in so long--unfortunately I totally don't remember what that is! But I totallly agree with everything you're saying here--I think that's definitely the way it seems to work. It's not that the two are always battling each other to a stalemate and that's how they balance each other, it's more like they do both think they're mostly working towards similar goals and feel the need for each other even if they don't always put it in those terms.

I don't know XMen comics that well but from what I've read that sounds exactly like what CX is like. That there's definitely times where he'll keep secrets or do wildly questionable things in secret.

From: [identity profile] fanaddict.livejournal.com


I loved DS9 for its moral ambiguity and long story arcs. Anyway, the idea for Section 31 was that the Federation is an idealistic government system (that's mostly an oxymoron in RL, sadly) and thus the people in charge would never dream of doing anything shady - right makes might in their mind, and everyone will see their way eventually. Section 31 is the blackest of black ops, more covert than any other program - if you know about it you're either in it or about to die/get mindwiped. The idea is that some Statfleet/military types believe in the Federation's ideals, but not in everyone else's willingness to play by the rules to gradually let those ideals become the norm among Federation enemies. So Section 31 was unofficially created to do the dirty work that kept the Federation and the Federation's ideals when the enemy played dirty.

It's not that the two are always battling each other to a stalemate and that's how they balance each other, it's more like they do both think they're mostly working towards similar goals and feel the need for each other even if they don't always put it in those terms.

Exactly! Even after 50 years, Prof X and Magneto refer to each other as friend, and will drop everything if the other is in danger. If they were truly on opposite sides, I don't think they could justify that level of emotional investment.

Prof X plays people like chess pieces at times. If you want a straightforward hero type, that's Scott Summers/Cyclops. I've... always preferred less straightforward heroes.

By the way, hope it's ok that I friended you.
ext_6866: (Two for joy of talking)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com


Oh wow, that's really perfect. I have no problem at all imagining Xavier liking having a group like that. I just read a recap of the movie that pointed out how their philosophies aren't really *that* different, since Xavier will be ruthless when it comes to protecting mutants. It's more like he'd rather do it without bloodshed. Definitely a good analogy, and they totally do seem to value each other almost above everyone else. They wouldn't be able to do that if they really saw each other as against them.

And no problem with the friending--welcome!
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