by Sean Kosofsky
As a young boy I loved comic books and my favorite characters were the Incredible Hulk and the X-Men. I have always had a fascination with secret power and hidden strength.
I think that GLBT people are instinctively drawn to people whose power is never fully realized. There is an understandable fascination with power, influence, fantasy worlds and good overcoming evil. I know I am not alone in this or my intrigue in the Hulk. Here is a man that when pressed to his limit, unleashes this superhuman power that can be used for good or for evil.
How many of us have been picked on, oppressed or suffered injustice, and felt that kind of rage stewing inside us? The fact that the Hulk’s unique abilities are mostly stealth, gave me a glimmer of hope as a young gay boy that there was something I had in common with the Hulk.
Growing up, I remember feeling like I was superhuman. I really felt I was one of the “chosen” few in this world that could not be destroyed. I felt I had a gift inside me that would allow me to survive any plague, any natural disaster or accident. I really felt gifted. I couldn’t place it, but I am certain it was my emerging sexuality that gave me that feeling. I was really the Hulk inside, bursting with untapped talent, intelligence and strength.
The X-Men film trilogy has me captivated. Once again, I feel drawn to the story of people who have been singled out for being different. Some of them were cast out of their homes by their family and rejected by society as freaks – when it was really their talent and power that made them special. The mutants were so misunderstood and yet so ahead of their time, both socially and genetically. The X-Men is a film anthem for the GLBT community. Each movie has included clear parallels to people living as “invisible minorities.” For anyone watching the X-Men films, especially those who are Jewish, gay or living with HIV, we see ourselves in that story.
In the first X-Men, we see a right-wing member of Congress holding up a list of supposed “mutants” that have infiltrated the federal government. The imagery of McCarthyism is rich even to the point of the Congressman’s transformation and eventual death. We see advocates for mutants trying to explain that they are “just like everybody else” even though they clearly are different in some key ways that make them special and very useful. In the second film, a handsome young mutant “comes out” to his parents about being different, only to have his mother ask, “Have you tried not being a mutant?” The house they are in them comes under siege by an unforgiving public.
In “X-Men: The Final Stand” we meet a pharmaceutical company executive that unveils to the world, a “cure” for mutants that he promises is only voluntary. He unveils the potion from Alcatraz, the laboratory and former prison in San Francisco. We learn that his motivation may be his own shame in having a mutant son. The son, who happens to be beautiful, also has gorgeous white wings that enable him to fly – allowing him to soar and be who he wants to be, after escaping Alcatraz. This image of Icarus and his Greek origins is deliberate.
We also learn that the most powerful mutant is not a man, but a woman with an androgynous name: Jean. The character with the greatest cross to bear – Wolverine – is the hero and must endure constant physical and emotional pain, but is the most resilient because he can heal his own wounds. One young woman, who struggles with the fact that anyone she touches will die, decides to take the “cure” so she can finally be close to her boyfriend.
The story and the struggles of the X-Men, as told on the big screen, are the stories of our lives and is a must see for all GLBT people and their families.