A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that Agents of SHIELD was using the Inhumans as their stand in for mutants. Well, this week, we got some actual mutants, but we weren’t allowed to call them that. They were labelled “gifteds,” and most gained their powers through freak scientific accidents. Led by Calvin Zabo, they went on a roadtrip of mayhem and misery. Which, as you know, is always fun.
But there’s a problem. And it’s the same problem that writers run into every time the Brotherhood of Mutants come back around. Where do we draw the oppressed/oppressor line? And what do we use as the deciding factor?
Here’s the thing about mutants: we can all agree they’re pretty much hated by everyone that isn’t a mutant. So the fact that they have to band together has always been a metaphor for solidarity among the outcasts. We can look to the mutants and find ourselves. They’re not bad people. They’re not monsters. They’re just different. Right?
Well, this is where we run into the Brotherhood, and where we have to start asking questions. The Brotherhood has always supposed to represent the extreme. Overthrow the oppressors by any means necessary. And we’re not supposed to align ourselves with the Brotherhood, right? I mean, they’re the bad guys.
We have to take a moment to look at the time of creation for the X-Men, of course. We have to remember the politics of the 1960s, and why there is one moderate group of good guys and one extreme group of bad guys. And we also have to think about what’s become more acceptable in politics now. Why the Brotherhood might have an attitude that especially appeals to younger generations.
Because the thing is, when you get kicked down enough times, that Brotherhood of Mutants can start looking mighty appealing. Even Scott Summers, professional animal cracker, has sometimes seen the motive behind Magneto’s methods. It’s exhausting, having to be the good guy in a world that doesn’t want you. Why do mutants have to be the bigger ones, here? I mean, they’re the ones with the kickass powers. Does that make them inherently evil, somehow? Are they constantly fighting against their darker urges? Magneto isn’t even blanket evil. Most mutants aren’t. So I’ll ask again: where’s the line?
Let’s talk about our rogue gallery on SHIELD, this week. We’ve got a woman that grafted razors into her fingers to fight her abusive ex-boyfriend. “I’d feel bad for her,” Coulson says. “If he was her only victim.” We’ve discussed, in detail, how I feel about Coulson and abuse survivors. How he seems to think that you just stick a bow on it and pretend it doesn’t exist. That’s not how that works, and we all know it. But let’s continue.
The thing about Cal is that he’s no Magneto. He’s not pulled together. He doesn’t really have an idea of the greater good. He’s only pulled this band of gifteds together to send a message to Coulson and get Skye back. He’s not trying to prove to everyone that gifteds have been shafted by SHIELD. He says he is, but the way he acts shows that he really only cares about his daughter. If he actually cared about gifted individuals, he wouldn’t have been so disgusting to Raina.
And you know what? That’s a shame. Because in the world of SHIELD, gifted individuals need someone who is actually willing to fight for them. Are some of them dangerous? Yes. But so are plenty of the X-Men. And we need to think about what Coulson said about the Gifted Index. “It’s more like a watch list than an index.” That’s not the Hydra take on it. That’s the SHIELD take. That’s how this organization has been treating anyone with a ‘dangerous’ gift since day one. And you know what? That fosters hatred. That fosters anger. And I’m certainly not saying Cal’s band of rogues had any right to hold a cheer squad hostage. But I think that this is one of those things that SHIELD refused to treat with any empathy, and so now they’re getting none in return.
If Agents of SHIELD wants to continue their mutant menace- I’m sorry, Inhuman menace, then I think we’re going to have to see a character like Skye (or the new guy, Gordon) step up to the plate in the headmaster Xavier role. Because right now, all we’re getting is half-assed Magnetos, and that’s hurting everyone in the long run. Inhumans, gifteds, whatevers; they need someone they can look up to. Someone to guide them. Judging from flashbacks, I think that person used to be Skye’s mom. And I’m really, really hoping the show realizes how important those shoes are to fill.