WHY IS DARK PHOENIX IMPORTANT!
The X-Men allegory in addressing social issues past and present.
When it comes to Superhero/Comic Book movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is king. The last 10 years have pretty much proved that with the Avengers. 20th Century Fox (X-Men Franchise, and all things mutants), and DC Films have just never quite hit the mark for me. I mean X-Men has had its flashes with obviously the first film, Days of Future Past, and Logan; but that’s about it (in my humble opinion). However, growing up as a kid, X-Men was undoubtedly my favorite comic book series. Ironically, the first comic book I ever owned was West Coast Avengers #1. My grandfather bought it for me on one of our many summer road trips down south to North Carolina. Though that comic book sparked my interest, it was X-Factor #1 that hooked me in. Later, I became everything with an ‘X’ gene.
For me, the X-Men series had more compelling stories. Here you have characters (called mutants) that were born different. They possessed a gene that gave them certain abilities. They were not celebrated for having these gifts, on the contrary, they were forced to be in hiding for fear of persecution, or being enslaved, and definitely discrimination.
Their stories deliberately paralleled the oppression of mutants and that of other marginalized groups. Their stories dealt with many ills that minority groups of people have dealt with in our history: Slave Island and Genosha are Islands within the X-Men Universe where mutants were taken and forced into slavery (Sounds familiar). The Sentinals are mutant hunting machines that were designed by the government in a covert operation to seek out Mutants (hmm, now where has this sort of thing happened before in history). Even Professor Xavier and Magneto lends to a slight resemblance of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X; where both are seeking for the justice and equality for mutant kind (in the case of the X-men Universe), but are separated by the method in which to achieve this equality. Professor X by peace, and Magneto by any means necessary. This type of story-telling exists throughout X-Men story lines, but the movies only showed a glimpse of the social injustice that this race of people were enduring. In fact, with the exception of Wolverine, the X-Men movies really didn’t show much of the injustice these characters experienced for being “different” or what they endured emotionally, or physically; That is until now! The Dark Phoenix (released June 6, 2019) tackles another issue that has long existed in The X-Men Universe, Mental Health. How timely! Mental Health has been a hot issue as of late, especially the debate of Gun Control vs. Mental Health. “About 60
percent of mass shooters have a history of serious mental disorders and two-thirds had never been seen by a mental health professional,” said Grant Duwe, director of research and evaluation for the Minnesota Department of Corrections. I know what you are thinking, “What does this have to do with Dark Phoenix?” Well Everything. Jean Grey is a level 5 mutant. She is more powerful than Professor X himself. When she imbues the cosmic force of ‘The Phoenix’, she begins to recall some details of her pass. Things that Professor X had hidden from her subconscious. Could it be these things that cause symptoms of Schizophrenia? We definitely know that as the Dark Phoenix, Jean is destructive and able to commit an act of mass murder. It also leaves me to wonder if Professor X rather than help Jean deal with her pain, decided to give her “drug therapy” and just subdue it.
Sophie Taylor who plays Jean Grey/The Phoenix has said in many interviews leading up to the release of the movie that she did extensive research into Mental Illness in particular Schizophrenia. She told The New Paper, “I had this video on my phone, it was about how it feels to have auditory hallucinations as a schizophrenic. I would put it in my ears, put my headphones on and walk around and just try and do mundane, everyday things. I would try and go shopping and buy things while I was hearing people talking in my head.”
Much will be revealed during this last episodic movie of the X-Men franchise by 20th Century Fox. By the looks of it, this may be one of the best movies X-Men franchise before moving into the MCU. One thing is clear, this movie reminds me of why I fell in love with the X-Men Universe as a kid. A superhero/Comic book movie that had some really cool powers and battle scenes but more importantly related to real life, real emotion, and real struggles that many have faced and continue to face today. One thing for sure, the debate on the importance of Mental Health will continue to rage on, and The X-Men movie may just help be a catalyst for why this debate and that of gun control must continue to be discussed.