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).
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
Account name:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
HTML doesn't work in the subject.


Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.


sistermagpie: Classic magpie (Default)

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags