A few months ago I wrote a response to an issue of Uncanny Avengers that tackled what the m-word, ‘mutant’, meant for the X-men. It featured one character seemingly rejecting this title and identity on live television. An issue of All New X-men brought me back to the conversation this week, when a different team watched his speech and expressed their opinions. The issue, as written by Brian Michael Bendis, really showed that he didn’t agree with what his colleague Rick Remender had to say about mutants as allegory.
The conversation starts in All New X-men with Beast asking if the word ‘mutant’ is derogatory, with him not seeing it this way. He is a mutant and he’s not ashamed to be one. His friend Iceman argues that any word can be derogatory if said in a derogatory manner, using the example that if you use ‘pepperoni’ as an insult it becomes one. He is right of course; take the word ‘faggot’. Many years ago a faggot was simply a bundle of twigs, now it’s one of the most offensive words you can throw at a gay person. They seem to be arguing for the same thing I did in my original piece, that offensive words are only offensive if we believe them to be so.
Then Kitty Pryde, one of my favourite X-men, puts her opinion out there. At first she outlines who she is, a Jewish woman and a mutant, yet she doesn’t necessarily look or sound like one. She’s not your stereotypical Jew, nor does she stand out as a mutant, she just looks like a normal girl, just like Alex Summers. She can walk around without people recognising her as different, but she is different. Kitty recounts the story of her first love, a boy she fell for in school when she was just 13. She loved a boy wholeheartedly until he made a massively anti-semitic comment in front of her, at which point she realised he wasn’t even aware she was Jewish. From that point on she decided she wouldn’t hide who she was, telling everyone she’s Jewish and a mutant, because if they have a problem with her she’d like to know.
I think Kitty’s speech perfectly sums up the issues people had with Alex’s speech a few months ago, it truly felt like Rick Remender had no clue what he was talking about. Brian Michael Bendis, who is himself Jewish, has clearly used Kitty as a mouthpiece to express his opinions on the X-men as allegory, believing that it is wrong for people to reject who they are. It’s great to see this issue reopened and handled in the manner it deserves, as opposed to simply being left with mutants seemingly just accepting Alex’s point of view as the way it should be. It increases my belief in Bendis as a writer, in that he so perfectly crafts his characters that this discussion doesn’t come across as preachy or unjustified – seeming like a normal response to an abnormal broadcast.