X-Men ‘97 Proves Media Literacy Is Dead

By Zack Zagranis | Published

x-men 97 reviews

With the recent hubbub over people misunderstanding the point of Starship Troopers (1997) 2024 was starting to look like the year media literacy finally died. Now we have X-Men ’97, and with it, the final nail in the coffin of critical analysis. Social media is full of spicey hot takes on the new Disney+ animated series that really miss the point of the X-Men.

X-Men Stories Are Political

x-men animated series

The concept of mutants as a minority hunted and feared by those who don’t understand them is inherently political. Whether the X-Men started out that way is irrelevant. For the majority of their existence, Charles Xavier’s team of misfits has been a cipher for various marginalized communities—a tradition that X-Men ’97 continues.

Episode 2 Is A Jab At The January 6 Capitol Attack

No one is saying that you can’t watch X-Men ’97 for the cool action scenes and ignore the rest of it, but pretending that the other stuff doesn’t exist is disingenuous, especially since the new series isn’t exactly subtle about its intentions. There’s literally a scene where a mutant tries to avoid enslavement by exclaiming that they’re “one of the good ones,” but yeah, fans are obviously projecting their own ideals onto the show. Cue that Simpsons meme where Principle Skinner declares, “No, it’s the children who are wrong!”

Take, for instance, the second episode of the new series “Mutant Liberation Begins,” which is loosely based on Uncanny X-Men #200, “The Trial of Magneto.” The episode is, for all intents and purposes, a jab at the MAGA crowd and a nod to the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. In the episode, a mob of angry humans calling themselves the “Friends of Humanity” storm the UN during Magneto’s trial, wearing FOH hats and calling for the death of everyone involved.

Media Literacy Is Dead

It didn’t take long for some fans to start posting online about the similarities between the X-Men ’97 episode and the real-life January 6, resulting in an immediate backlash of others loudly exclaiming, “Nu-uh!” “It’s the UN building not the White House!” some argued, while others used the excuse that the issue the episode was based on came out 40 years ago, so how could it be based on current events? Sadly, in these responses lies the facedown, bloated corpse of media literacy.

How could the UN building be a stand-in for the White House? They’re two different buildings? In fiction, we have metaphor, symbolism, and a whole bunch of other words for “this thing means this other thing.” Sure, as Freud once said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but other times, the long, vaguely phallic cylinder is, well, something else.

X-Men ’97 Reflects The Current Political Climate

Then, of course, there’s the argument that something new based on something old can’t be symbolic of current events. Arthur Miller’s famous play The Crucible is set in 1692 during the Salem Witch Trial, but as anyone who was forced to read it in high school can tell you, it’s actually about McCarthyism and the Red Scare, a real-life communist witch hunt. It’s almost like Miller was using a historical, literal witch hunt to symbolize what was going on in the country at the time he was writing it.

Kind of like how the creators of X-Men ’97 used fanatics breaking through barriers to storm Magneto’s trial as a way to symbolize the political climate of the last few years. It’s almost like the show went out of its way to show that the mob wanted to kill the judges for following the rules and giving Magneto a trial as a parallel to the insurrectionists who wanted to kill the vice president for following the rules and accepting the results of the last election.

The episode even used the phrase “insurrection.” Did we mention that the show wasn’t subtle in its intent?

The Gambit Issue Makes No Sense

Then you have the people complaining that Disney put Gambit in a crop top to make him appear more gay. This is in spite of the fact that in the ’90s, when the show was set, men wore half-shirts like that all the time. Will Smith on The Fresh Prince, Bill in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure—Y chromosomes and exposed midriffs used to go together like chocolate and peanut butter.

I’m calling it. Media literacy has officially flatlined. Rest in peace.

robert downey jr

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