In Defense of Havoc

Uncanny Avengers #5 has sparked a lot of debate because of a speech given by Havoc. The speech – and the writer, Rick Remember – have been accused of being insensitive, misinformed, or outright racist.

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While I can see why people got so angry about it, I didn’t. Why? Well, because I have never really agreed with the “mutants as minority” metaphor. And buying into that metaphor is pretty much necessary for the speech to be offensive.

The mutants as an oppressed minority idea is nothing new. It’s been used in comics for decades. Sometimes subtly and sometimes explicitly. Mutants – like real life minorities – are often the victims of prejudice, and like real life victims of prejudice experience bullying, harassment, violence and oppression. But the metaphor is not a perfect one, and there seems to be a desire to carry it much too far.

In the real world, prejudice is often based on ignorance and unjustified fears. However, there are plenty of justifiable reasons to be afraid of mutants.

Mutant powers manifest during the teenage years, a time when emotions and hormones are running high. Self-control is a skill that many teenagers still haven’t developed. The idea of a teenager spontaneously developing a lethal power is terrifying.

When Rogue’s powers first manifested, she put someone in a coma just by touching them. If Cyclops visor or glasses are knocked off, he could seriously injure or kill someone. Not on purpose. Not maliciously. But that’s very little comfort to the person who is put in the hospital or killed.

Does this justify hate crimes against them or treating them as subhuman? Absolutely not.

It does, however, justify caution. It makes fear understandable. And it’s why I have never agreed with the metaphor. At best, the comparison to real world minorities is superficial.

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While I don’t agree with everything in the speech, I wholeheartedly agree with Havoc asserting that “we are all human.” It’s something I wish would be said more in the X-Men comics. Because for a long time mutants have been saying they aren’t human. They are not mere Homo sapiens. They are Homo superior.

I read X-Men comics sporadically, so I have no clue when the term first popped up. But I have absolutely loathed the term since I first saw it. If writers are going to insist on using mutants as a metaphor for real life issues, they should quit using this term. Or at the very least, only have the bad guys use it.

Historically, there are plenty of instances where groups have labelled themselves “superior” or dismissed other groups as below them  or as subhuman. These people are known as bigots. In other words, some of the last people who you should be having your heroes emulate.

Havoc’s speech isn’t perfect. There are hints of possible self-loathing and deciding to reject part of a person’s identity can be damaging. But then again, to me it didn’t come across as Remember trying to say this is the way things are or this is the way things should be. It came across as saying “this is the way Alex sees it.”

I don’t think Alex’s viewpoint is the viewpoint that other mutants (or real people) should emulate. But the idea that everyone is human and should not be defined by their genetics is something I can get behind, both in the Marvel universe and in real life.

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