Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Failure of the Day: The Suffering that Makes a Monster

So you know how I said that thing about not having to deconstruct X1 to the 17th layer to get the emotional content? I think it's worth mentioning that I myself am a great fan of deconstructing to the 17th layer to get the emotional content.

X2 is great. It's a weensy bit long, perhaps, and the queer subtext is charming, if obvious. The flashback scenes with Wolverine are wrenching and very powerful; right up my alley. But here's the thing. It's Magneto who really, really does it for me, after the concentration camp scene in the first movie. He's the only movie villain I can remember that you can't help but empathize with, and he's even more complex in X2.

And this is where my thoughts wandered off... I think a parallel can be drawn between Magneto and the state of Israel. Psychologically, an over-arching "victim" status can and does all too often lend itself to an assumed posture of moral superiority and to a sense of being Owed. Jews, European and otherwise, were, it can be argued, owed the state of Israel after the Holocaust (though the spot where the UN chose to prop it up it was perhaps not the best idea it ever had).

But victim mentality is hard to shut off. And it is possible that in some instances, there might not be a very big leap from being the Sufferer Who is Owed Something to the moral monster that perceives it's own righteousness in all things. In other words, it's easy, as a victim, to believe that your suffering makes you better than those who have not suffered, and superior enough to be oblivious to the suffering that you yourself cause.

I don't guess this is any sort of bombshell; Oprah and Dr. Phil have been saying for years that anger is a mask for pain, and the truth of that seems obvious enough by now. But I like how that idea works as well writ large as it does for the individual. And I really like how the Magneto character in the film has been developed in such a way as to embody both the victimized individual turned to rage, and an entity that seeks to end a history of oppression by becoming the oppressor.

My point is, I think it's pretty damn cool that the psychology of the villain is so interesting and complex in a big blow-up-y movie.


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