The X-Men movie series, based on the comic books of the same name, is well-known for its unusual cast of gifted mutants and for its extraordinary special effects. What is not as widely known about the X-Men is the fact that the movies, along with the comic books, draw many clear parallels between the mutants and the gay and lesbian community. It is an open secret that the most recent movie in the series, “X-Men First Class,” which serves as the prequel for the other films, is especially overt in presenting these parallels.
Zach Stenz, one of the First Class screenwriters, explained on a Facebook comment posted in June: “I helped write the movie, and can tell you the gay rights / post-holocaust Jewish-identity / civil rights allegory stuff was put in there on purpose. Joss Wheldon designed the whole ‘Cure’s storyline in the comic books specifically as a gay allegory, and Bryan Singer wove his own feelings of outsiderdom as a gay man into the movie series. The whole ‘Have you ever tried NOT being a mutant’ coming out scene in X2 [released in 2003] is even particularly subtle, while it is effective.”
Who exactly is Bryan Singer? He is the openly gay producer, director, and/or writer of X-Men, X2, and X-Men First Class, and a reviewer on the Fridae website (“Empowering Gay Asia”) noted that Singer stated in an interview on BBC “that ‘mutant’ was a stand-in for ‘gay.’” Those are the words of Singer, not my own.
The reviewer, named Helmi, explained , “X-Men is supposed to be the superhero series that secretly took gay issues into massive mainstream territory. Since the comic appeared in the 60s, pop-culture critics have drawn parallels between the mutants’ struggle to gain wider acceptance for being genetically ‘different,’ and the gay community's struggle for acceptance and recognition.”
Singer cast some famously gay actors in key roles, most notably Sir Ian McKellen, who said at the Cannes Film Festival shortly before the release of X-Men 3: “As a gay man, some people think that it ought to be cured and made normal again, and I find it as offensive as someone saying that they have a cure for the color of their skin. This particular story was close to my heart; it has an important message to young people who may for one reason or another be disaffected with society because society points at their differences and says that they're inferior to the rest of us.”
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.