X-Men woke controversy explained and busted | Web Series - Hindustan Times

X-Men woke controversy explained and busted: Nonbinary character's introduction evokes sharp criticism

Feb 17, 2024 03:46 PM IST

Wolverine's dear friend Morph's introduction in the X-men animated series revival as a nonbinary character has received sharp criticism for being too ‘woke’.

Comic books have been shrouded in their action-packed approach to things for so long that their overarching subtle political messages have lost centre-stage attention. Now, a simple acceptance of gender politics in Beau DeMayo's highly anticipated creation and revival of the superhero saga with the upcoming X-Men '97 series billed under the Marvel Animation banner has been subjected to vehement criticism for overtly charting that route.

X-Men '97 poster.(X)
X-Men '97 poster.(X)

Just a day ago, the X-Men ‘97 trailer was released and revealed the first good look at the return of the X-Men: The Animated Series that ran from 1992 to 1997. Along with the sneak peek driving intrigue back to the mutants of the Marvel world, the creatives also shared exclusive introductions of the returning characters with Empire Magazine, one of which didn’t sit well with the fans of the superhero universe.

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Shapeshifter Morph, also recognized as one of Wolverine's best buds on the squad, will be presented as nonbinary. The intro also suggests that he “has an interesting buddy relationship with Wolverine”, which has heated a not-so-positive conversation among fans. While being woke was originally associated with being actively informed, educated and conscious about societal injustices, racial prejudice and discrimination, the term has come to be synonymously evoked as a slur in present-day scenarios. What was once accepted as a marker of empathy and social awareness has now been dismissed and mocked for its extreme ‘left-leaning bias’.

In 2017, Stan Lee even issued a message for Marvel fans about how this alternate fictional universe “has always been and always will be a reflection of the world right outside of our window… the stories of heroism… have room for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, religion or colour of their skin. The only things we don't have room for are hatred, intolerance and bigotry."

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The whole point of X-Men's proudly proclaimed motto, “Mutant and Proud”, bears that message of acceptance. In 2000, Lee spoke to the Guardian and even expressed his love of the idea that the X-Men movie “was a good metaphor for … the Civil Rights Movement”.

X-Men characters, in general, have been proud bearers of this socio-political allegory's continuation. Marvel Comics creator Fabian Nicieza even confirmed the ‘Marvel Jesus’ persona of the much-loved Deadpool as pansexual in a 2015 tweet: “he is NO sex and ALL sexes”.

Those pejoratively addressing Morph's identity switch for walking down the Disney route of ‘wokeness’ seem to be forgetting that Mystique, one of the leading characters of the X-Men stories, found their queerness to be allegorically represented through shape-shifting powers again. Regardless of how one treats the older live-action renditions, those movies were significantly imbued with subtle conversations around Mystique's gender fluidity, too.

Marrying his husband in a 2012 edition of Astonishing X-Men, Northstar was announced as the first openly gay character to come out in a Marvel Comics publication. Following this, Iceman also came out as gay in 2015. Further on that path, Marvel Comics welcomed the first X-Men transgender hero, Escapade, in 2022. While these names are just a few among several others to carry the badge of Queerness with pride, a particular fandom minority still hasn't come to accept this fluidity. These fans have been called out as bigots on social media.

X-Men woke controversy: fan reactions on social media

Some fans have vocally opposed the ‘Morph nonbinary’ narrative by dismissing gender politics in the 1990s altogether:

"Injecting “the message” into 90s politics.

They just cannot stop"

More blunt messages have taken a jab at Disney for this: “Disney takes over: Lets make it gay and lame”. On the same page, others have also expressed their concerns about the new series possibly pushing “a relationship between morph and Wolverine” for the sake of being woke".

On the other hand, X-Men Updates, a major fan source, has openly taken a stand against the bigoted responses. Recognising X-Men as “symbols for inclusion and diversity”, they claim that people can't be fans if they don't understand the “slightest thing” about them.

Others have chimed in on the offence tackle and reminded people that most of these stories are political or socially powered. “Bigots being X Men fans is both hilarious and pathetic”, came another response.

It's quite likely that other X-Men stories in the future, including the coveted live-action hits like Deadpool and Wolverine, will introduce more instances of identity politics in an attempt to portray representation better. Negasonic Teenage Warhead already emerged as one such character in Deadpool 2 when she announced her girlfriend Yukio to the gang.

X-Men characters have a long history of ‘coming out’ to “normal” humans about their mutant characteristics, which has, in turn, led to many violent showdowns of oppression. Yet somehow, angry fans have let this infused allegory pass by their attention.

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