Why is she still writing about it?

So I had an awesome weekend in Vail at Sirens, which was even better than I expected. I came back all excited about women in fantasy and with a long reading list that should keep me happily busy for weeks or months. (Just finished The Thief.) So don't ask me why I suddenly have something more to say about X-Men: First Class, which I saw months ago. If there's anyone up for meta about it, though, apparently I'm your lj! Though to link it to Sirens, it does touch on that general fantasy topic of a person's powers and personality working together.

What happened was I happened to come across an exchange about the scene on the beach that raised the possibility of Charles actually pushing Raven mentally to leave him, and that then led to

As to whether Charles might have mentally pushed Raven to leave, it's not that I couldn't believe Charles would do that. It's against his principles, certainly, but he's known to abandon those in extreme situations and he's just been paralyzed, and he possibly already read her mind to ascertain that she wanted to go with Erik, which is also breaking a rule. My main reason for not going for it is I don't think it fits with Raven. That is, even knowing that this movie is in its own timeline that can't be said to literally be the past of the characters in the other movies, the Brotherhood is always an important part of Mystique's identity and I can't believe the decision to first join it came down to being pushed. Even if you make a distinction by saying that she would not have left Charles at that moment, I still wind up thinking that if she really felt that way she should return to Charles. If she's angry at him because she believes he pushed her, it just feels like having her cake and eating it too--she gets to leave, but doesn't own the initial decision.

Plus her whole arc in the movie is about making her choice for herself, so it really undermines that if she's then turned into a robot for the biggest crossroads of her life. This made me think about her arc in general, and how the three main characters differ from each other, and how the movie shows their backgrounds shaping them to be that way.

There's two angles there, the backstory and the superpowers. I'll start with the superpowers to explain another reason why I don't think Charles would be using his powers on Raven there at the end. He's pushing her all right, but I think he's doing it the old-fashioned way, based on my personal view of Charles. Erik had an idyllic (perhaps romanticized in his memory) childhood where he was loved by his parents who were then cruelly taken away. Raven was apparently rejected by her parents early-on due to her looks. Charles's parents kept him but even in the movie they're only described in ways that make them distant and uncaring. So Charles had the parents like Erik did, but not the love.

[personal profile] seperis did a great recap/review of the movie where she pointed out that while Charles is naive about his plans for human/mutant relations, he doesn't actually trust humans. He's often ruthless in dealing with them when mutants are at stake. In fact, she notes, his entire policy of appearing non-threatening speaks to a constant wariness about human reaction. That rings true to me, and I feel like it also bleeds over into his interactions with everyone. On the beach Charles knows his injuries are serious before anyone else does, even if he can't know how serious. He clearly, imo, keeps that a secret until Erik leaves--until, imo, he's amongst people who have declared themselves his allies--before he reveals his vulnerability. So I tend to read his dealing with Raven the same way. He doesn't just want Raven to be happy, he doesn't just realize that he's failed her and want her to know he realizes it, though I think that's part of it. I think there's also a bit of a test there. He "pushes" her by telling her it's okay to leave. He possibly reads her mind to find out what she really wants and then offers it to her.

But that doesn't mean Raven has to take the offer. She could admit that yes, Erik's way seems right to her, but she's not leaving Charles without knowing he's all right. Plenty of people would do that. Even if Raven doesn't know how seriously Charles is hurt she also doesn't know...how seriously Charles is hurt. Iow, she doesn't stay to find out. I just can't help but feel that Charles, who seems used to the idea of not being cared for, could be seeing his own crossroads here as well as Raven's. When she leaves with Erik she perhaps unwittingly shows herself as another benignly neglectful connection who can't be trusted with something as scary as a request for help. I can't help but assume that he knows that if he admitted he can't feel his legs she would stay, but he doesn't want her staying out of quite that much guilt. In my mind he needs her to make her decision with a little more freedom to see how he really feels.

As I said, I know that this Raven isn't really the Raven of X-2 who iirc fiddles with Cerebro and puts Charles into a coma. But she is going down a more cold-hearted path, so I'm okay with a hint of cold-heartedness in her decision to step onto it.

Raven chooses what's right for herself, and that's basically what her arc is more about in the movie. Which is not a way of saying she's shallow or selfish. It's more about her personal experiences. While Erik and Charles argue about the future of mutants and the world, Raven struggles with who she is--and both those things are necessary for every mutant. Every mutant has to choose both what they think is right for mutantkind and what's right for themselves. This is where I got into the different powers of the 3 leads and how it reflected that struggle.

Erik's power is the most external. It doesn't tie into his personality the same way. Every human can manipulate metal, Erik just does it more efficiently. There's a moral choice involved in whether you shape metal to make a gun or a belt buckle, but when Erik uses his power he's acting on the outside world. He’s also fully in control of when he uses it, for the most part. Erik knows what it's like to feel helpless--he felt that way as a child. His power makes him feel not helpless. He can act on the world and shape it, protect himself, protect others, hurt people who would hurt them first. It's very Erik.

Charles' power is more bound up with who he is. Another thing [personal profile] seperis pointed out in her review was that Charles' telepathy is portrayed more as a sense than a power much of the time. He uses it as a power when he makes illusions or reads deep thoughts of people, but in general reading people is like seeing them, unless he's making a conscious effort to not listen in, as he does with both Erik and Raven upon request, for instance. That's a lot of power. In any room he walks into Charles is used to being at a serious advantage. He could make anyone do pretty much whatever he wanted. At some point he seems to have realized that using his power that way was dissatisfying (he could have forced his mother to pay attention to him, for instance, and just made himself feel more rejected that way).

His personality, when you think about it, is very much about counteracting that idea. He's committed to giving people free will, wanting them to make their own choices, to being passive. That doesn't mean he's a completely passive person--he can be arrogant and impatient and give orders. But compared to what he *could* do, the guy's a total wet noodle. When Charles talks about not frightening humans, he's talking about a reasonable fear. Even mutants are afraid of telepaths with mind control. He knows people have reason to fear him, knows that he's scary powerful. He knows how easy it would be for him to dominate everyone, to assert his own will, almost by accident, on everyone else. So holding back (relatively), setting limits on becoming a monster, has become central to everything he does.

Raven's powers are also tied to her personality--but in the exact opposite way. Early on she mentions to Charles that she sometimes can't control her changing, which implies a sort of chameleon type thing going on. When Charles' power takes over it gives him advantages over others. When Raven changes spontaneously she's turning herself into someone else. It affects Raven, not the people around her. Her blue self becomes symbolic for good reason--it's *her* in ways all other faces are not. Her power is in some ways about erasing herself to look like others. So it makes sense that she's the one having the crisis of self that Charles can't begin to understand. Charles in some ways thinks of Raven's true/blue self the way he thinks of his own true (terrifying, uncharted) self, but Raven's blue form isn't threatening, it's just different. Him not telling people what he can do is absolutely nothing like her hiding herself under blonde hair. Just as it's important for him to hold back, it's important for her to assert herself as she really is. In the Brotherhood Raven is more often to use her power aggressively against others and put them at a disadvantage than she is to hide herself under it.

It's interesting, then, that these are the two the movie has growing up together. When we meet them Charles doesn't really have any idea how much he's dominated Raven. Raven is very internal when we meet her, beginning to question things Charles doesn't, but at best her challenges are passive-aggressive. Erik encourages her thinking in part because it lines up with his own agenda, but Raven doesn't fall under his will so much as see for herself why she needs to be around that influence. That's another interesting thing about the movie to me, I think, that even when characters agree about certain things, they rarely have exactly the same position. Hank and Raven bond early on about not looking "normal" but they're actually dealing with totally different things. Hank’s the worst person for her to be talking to, really, since he longs to do what she does.

In fact, that just leads me to another thought. People have pointed out that the X-Men wind up all being white guys while the Brotherhood are not. But there's also some differences in terms of powers. The guys left on the X-Men team are *too* powerful for their own comfort. Hank's compared to Jekyll and Hyde afraid his beast self could overwhelm him, Havok is terrified of hurting anyone, Banshee is equally devastating if he just cuts loose and Charles is Charles. By contrast, Erik moves metals when he wants to move them, Angel flies and spits fireballs when she wants to fly and spit fireballs. (I'm not counting Shaw's team here, obviously.) And Raven desperately wants more personal power, not less.
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