So, I’ve been re-watching X-Men Evolution on Netflix, and it’s a pretty good show, opposed as I usually am to the “youthening” of characters. But there’s one thing that has been bugging me while watching it, and I just put my finger on it. While they’ve got a relatively good mix of ethnicities in the X-men (Storm, Spike,Sunspot, Magma), all of the X-men and New Mutants are middle class or above in their backgrounds, while the Brotherhood of Mutants are, with the exception of Pietro, foster kids, runaways, poor. Rogue starts out with the Brotherhood, her foster mother had raised her in a nice home, and had to all appearances loved her.
Of the parents of Avalanche, Toad and Blob, there is not a mention. Avalanche apparently comes from the same town Kitty was from, but had been one of the “bad kids” there. And Mystique manages to shift him to Bayville without so much as a word to anyone. Blob they find traveling with a carnival/Monster truck show, with no parents in evidence. And Toad’s just always there. They always wear grubby clothes, with holes in the knees and elbows, much of the “humor” after the disappearance of Mystique relates directly to their lack of funds, food and cleanliness.
Avalanche does try to be an X-man for Kitty at one point, but after putting up with a bunch of grief from Cyclops and the others, and being blamed for several things the New Mutants do, like joyriding in the X-van and X-jet, decides he can’t take it. And there is another cross-over, Boom-Boom, whose Dad is a petty criminal. She starts out as one of the New Mutants, but shortly thereafter decides they have too many rules, and leaves to hook up with the Brotherhood, at least until Mystique returns with Wanda. While she’s living with the Brotherhood, she takes place in the “Bayville Angels” episode, where the X-girls get tired of the boys coming to the rescue and turn to vigilante-ism. But by and large, the core X-team and the New Mutants come from two parent homes that are of at least middle class.
The exceptions are, of course, Cyclops, who is orphaned, but has been raised apparently by the Professor and, red sunglasses aside, fits into high school society, at least until the mutants are outed. Kurt, who fits in fine with his image inducer, and is from a bucolic little village in Bavaria. Rogue was adopted by Mystique when Irene saw that she would be important to them.
But the majority of the X-men do come from comfortable, intact middle class homes.
I find it vaguely troubling that the bad kids all come from the wrong side of the tracks. The kids with absent or uninvolved parents come from the lower classes, and are easily turned to the “dark side,” as it were. I don’t much like what it says about the writers of that show and, let’s be honest, Stan Lee who created the X-men.* Their origin stories do largely stay true to canon, so he bears some of the responsibility. Jean, Kitty, Amara, Sam, Roberto, Jubilee all do come from stable, middle to upper class families, while many of their foes don’t have that advantage. And, let’s also face it, the X-men are all pretty, handsome, mostly human looking. The really weird looking mutants wind up either villains, or Morlocks.
I do understand the message implicit in the Morlocks, that society is cruel to those who can’t pass. But does everyone on the X-men have to be so darn pretty and wholesome looking? Granted, both Avalanche and Quicksilver are pretty cute, but for a lot of the Brotherhood the writers are definitely following the pretty is good, ugly is bad trope laid down far too in much pop culture. The two or three episodes with the Morlocks does not erase the rest of the 50+ episode series.
All in all, while I find that the writers of X-men Evolution did a pretty good job with ethnic diversity** in the show, their take on class and foster kids really sucks.
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*Note, I do know that Stan Lee didn’t create many of the later mutants and X-men, like Amara or Sam.
**That said, the ensemble is still pretty darn white.
2 thoughts on “Geek Girls Rule! #184 – Class in X-men Evolution”
A friend of mine once described the casting and stories of X-Men Evolution as Dawson Creek done with the X-Men. While I still loved the show for being more about the characters and really developing Cyclops, one of the more under-appreciated X-Men in fandom, after reading your review, I can’t help but see how much more apt my friend’s observation was.
Everyone is pretty in that show, even Kurt in his normal mode, and in shape and skinny and not really worrying about money.
I did like how they made Storm one of the older X-Men and a teacher. It’s a role that I really like her in.
Perhaps what the show could have explored was the exploitation of lower-class youth by the militant Magneto, or the fact that people coming from poverty or abuse have an even harder time trying to rise above it, and society works to keep them in their place. I suppose these were presented to an extent, but never fully developed. Instead, we get Scott mooning over Jean for the entirety of the show in a “Nice Guys finish last” storyline. Yawn. And Rogue always losing control of her powers.
I was rather annoyed that even the unconventional-looking X-Men (Beast, Nightcrawler) were far more pleasant in appearance than the Brotherhood members with more obvious mutations.