Note: This post contains spoilers for X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Also note: I grew up reading the X-Men and for most of my life, they’ve been my favorite superhero team. I’m invested in this.
X-Men: First Class made me incredibly angry and sad, and I hoped that X-Men: Days of Future Past would not show such obvious disdain for woman and people of color. And it doesn’t! But mostly by not including women or people of color at all.
The movie has a frame story that takes place in the future. That team — and they do, indeed, act like a team, has some great characters: Storm, Kitty Pryde, Sunspot, Colossus, Blink, Warpath, Iceman, Wolverine, Charles Xavier, and Magneto. If the entire movie had been about them, I would have cheered.
However, it isn’t. The frame story is mostly doomed fight scenes wherein all of these characters die. Without saying anything. Repeatedly. The ones that do get actual dialogue (aside from basic one-liners) are Charles, Magneto, Kitty, Iceman, and Wolverine — except for Colossus (who’s Russian, so I guess he doesn’t rate), that’s all the white characters.
Together, they decide to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time. It should have been Kitty Pryde’s. But instead of getting to star in this movie, Kitty (Ellen Page) gets to sit there and enable Wolverine’s quest, with a power she doesn’t even possess in the comics.
–> See “Why is Wolverine Doing All the Stuff I Already Did?” in Slate
In the seventies, where the bulk of the movie actually takes place, we have this team of X-Men: Wolverine, Beast (who is inexplicably in “human” form for most of this, exhibiting a power I do not remember from the comics and in direct contradiction to the themes of X-Men: First Class), Charles Xavier, and Magneto. All white. Except they recruit new member Quicksilver for a jail breakout. Quicksilver is also white.
This team is hunting Mystique who is occasionally blue, but is mostly a white guy, since she’s a shapeshifter. (She’s a black woman if she needs to get dragged somewhere and a Vietnamese man if she needs to be a villain. Huzzah?) For all the sexist bullshit revolving around Mystique in this movie (and there was plenty of it already in the first movie), see C.C. Finlay’s excellent post, “New X-Men Movie, Same Old Sexism.”
So, despite the X-Men being a diverse team of mutants, despite the very theme of the comics being about marginalized people, every active character in this movie is white. Every single one. The only heroes of color exist in the frame story, where they die repeatedly and say almost nothing.
Women fair almost as badly. The lone active woman in the movie is Mystique, and she’s barely on screen being portrayed by the actress Jennifer Lawrence. (She’s often shapeshifted and being portrayed by other actors.) Despite the fact that the movie is literally about her decision to kill a man or not, the entire story is built around Charles Xavier anyway and framed as his decision to let her decide.
Once again, this entire screenplay is written as a love fest for Charles and Erik, with all other characters’ roles reduced to “how do they make Charles feel?” or “how will their actions or words affect Charles?” The X-Men is a team, and they deserve so much better than this lazy, myopic writing.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is the story of a white dude who goes back in time to enlist the help of three other white dudes to stop a competent, driven woman who is going to ruin them all because she dared to try and save her people and the world. Meanwhile, all other women and people of color either don’t exist or exist to die.
This is not my X-Men.