Contradictory Causes (X-Men)

X-Men (dir. Singer, 2000) features a supposedly heroic character, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), leader of the X-Men, who commits the exact same crime he claims to be fighting against.

The film’s opening sequence features a Jewish child, Erik Lehnsherr (Brett Morris), being separated from his parents as they are imprisoned in Auschwitz by the Nazis. During this incident, Erik realises his mutant ability to manipulate metal, almost pulling apart the cast iron gates of Auschwitz as they shut behind his parents.

In later life, Eric, now known as Magneto (Ian McKellen), comes to believe he and all mutants are superior to other humans and sets about trying to exterminate them. Magneto is presented as the villain of the film, and with comparisons being drawn between his actions and those of the Nazis, he is clearly being criticised for becoming the thing he hates most. The film’s major failing is the fact that its hero, Charles Xavier, is guilty of the exact same crime and this is never acknowledged, with Xavier being constantly portrayed as an honourable character.

One of the main plot points of the film is the X-Men’s attempt to prevent Congress passing a ‘mutant registration act’, which would mean every mutant would be forced to reveal their identity. Xavier is against mutant registration, believing mutants have a right to anonymity, yet he uses a machine he has built called Cerebro to locate and identify mutants without their permission. His ultimate goal is to locate mutants in distress, but none of these mutants asked for his assistance, and during his search, he identifies many more mutants who are not in need of help. Despite his belief that what he is doing is for the greater good, he’s still invading people’s privacy.

In fact, Xavier goes even further, by using his powers to violate people’s thoughts and control their actions; taking away their free will. Plus, he reads Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) mind without his permission to gain information that he uses to manipulate him into joining his cause. None of these actions is ever criticised, and it seems the film’s makers are completely unaware of the glaring moral contradiction within their film. The message the film inadvertently gives is that it is perfectly acceptable to use immoral means to triumph – as long as you’re the good guys.

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