Uncanny Avengers Introduces ‘The M-Word’

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Even allowing for the fact that we’re not supposed to like any of the characters in Uncanny Avengers (only this week, Wolverine calls Japanese mutant Sunfire “a walking atomic bomb” and nobody bats an eyelid – not even Sunfire, whose mother died in Hiroshima!), the book is going to startling lengths with some of the characters. Particularly Havok, who gives a speech in the most recent issue which is incredibly alarming.

uncanny aven Uncanny Avengers Introduces The M Word

The message of this speech has absolutely horrible implications. Whilst it’s possible to see what the character is going for – which writer Rick Remender may or may not be intending to associate into the scene – the actual content of his speech is shameful. Hopefully the book is intending for readers to side against the character, but it’s remarkably hard to tell at this point.

The idea that ‘mutant’ is an ‘m-word’ is comprehensively wrong. The idea that equality is reached via erasing differences is wrong. And the message this scene puts across is that minorities – for, of course, mutancy in the Marvel Universe is used as a metaphor for the struggles of persecuted minorities round the world, be they of a different sexual orientation, gender, race, religion – should want to become invisible and fit into their surroundings. It’s a message that minorities should feel ashamed of who they are, and seek to become, quote “normalised”.

If the word ‘mutant’ is swapped out in this scene for “gay” or “African-American” or “Muslim”, the scene becomes downright offensive. Hopefully, this should all be leading towards some kind of twist of some kind – but at the moment, it’s astonishing how brave this book is in making the lead characters appear to be utterly awful people.

Comments

  1. You pretty much completely missed the entire point…

  2. I’d like to hear your thoughts, then?

  3. Pedro says:

    What part of “people aren’t solely defined by the minority/majority group they belong to” didn’t you understand?

    Americans always seem so eager to find stuff to get offend by…
    (see what I did there?)

  4. Thank you for pointing out the stupidity! You sum up my feelings on this pretty well.

    “What part of “people aren’t solely defined by the minority/majority group they belong to” didn’t you understand?”

    The part where Alex clearly said that ANY reference to that minority group as being unique in some way is a bad, bad thing, I would assume.

  5. Padraig O Mealoid says:

    I saw the headline, and thought ‘Marvelman??’

  6. Yes- this is a pretty freaky scene and I’m with you on this Steve. It has the tone of a strangely fascist speech though I’m not exactly sure what phrase strikes that note for me. Maybe it’s the odd triumphalism?
    This solidarity he’s going for comes at the cost of hiding difference to put non mutants at ease.
    Dislike.

  7. Leandro M. Duarte says:

    I think I can see what Remender was going for with this idea, but it seems he didn’t really think it through very well, which ended up ruining the intended effect of Havok’s speech and generating quite a few dark implications.

    The way the speech was written, it gives off the impression that “mutant” is a pejorative word, which is ridiculous in the context of the Marvel universe. The word has always been used as a means to refer to a particular group of people with a specific genetic configuration, and there’s nothing inherently pejorative in it. They are mutants, which of course doesn’t mean that they aren’t also humans.

    It would have been perfect if instead of “mutant”, Alex condemned the use of the word “mutie” or something like that, which is a pejorative way of making reference to mutants, much like “nigger” is an offensive, pejorative way of calling people with black skin and “faggot” is an offensive, pejorative way of calling homosexual people.

    Unless, of course, Remender aims to make Havok look like a fool. If so, I’d call this scene a resounding success.

    (By the way, I’m not a hater. I enjoy this series. But this scene was very bad indeed)

  8. Didn’t Peter David already cover this ground twenty years ago in X-FACTOR by having Guido/Strong Guy prefer the term “GeeCees” (Short for Genetically Challenged)?

  9. Glenn Simpson says:

    I think what he was going for was something like this:

    I’m left-handed. And in any conversation relating to handedness, obviously my left-handedness should be pertinent. But in pretty much any other conversation, it’s irrelevant. For mutants, their mutancy has been treated as if that is the whole of their person, as if being left-handed was something that was so important about me that it defined everything I did. So what Alex is saying is, don’t call me “Left-Hander” or suggest that all of us “left-handers” are some organized religion with common goals and traits (other than the one). “Left-hander” is perfectly fine to say when actually talking about handedness, but otherwise shouldn’t be referenced.

  10. I agree with Chad B. This is a very well thought out speech that says what I’ve felt for a long time. People become to attached to their heritage, traditions, orientations, family history, and so on, to the point where they fear stepping outside of it. Media inflates and perpetuates these ideas and sells them back to the masses, encouraging stereotypes. Large groups of people buy into these stereotypes to the point where they fear stepping outside them, because of pride or social scorn from “their own kind” or bigots, and as a result, never give themselves the opportunity to define themselves as an individual. This does not mean turning away from those incidental details of where you come form, what color your skin is, or whom you chose to love. It just means that they don’t factor into who you are as defined by your intent and your actions. I am dyslexic, ADHD, and have Aspergers. They are part of what I am. I’m not ashamed of that, but they are not who I am. If that was all anybody ever thought of me as, or if they tried to use it to say that what I had to say or do didn’t matter, because of it, I’d be pretty mad. They are not the choices I make. Do you think Oscar Wilde wanted to be known as Oscar Wilde the gay man or Oscar Wilde the great writer? Being gay was incidental. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and it unfortunately wasn’t socially or legally acceptable in his time, but it didn’t define him as a writer. Nor does it Clive Barker, who is very proud to be gay. Steven Spielberg is Jewish. Do you think 100 years from now when people looked him up, all people would find about him was that he was a Jewish man, or do you think he’d rather people read about his accomplishments as a great director, who happened to be of that particular religious view. I know Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t like the “N word” and wouldn’t want to be defined by it, but rather as the man who said this: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” In other words, “Call me Alex.” If that’s alarming to anybody, than I’m a little alarmed at them. But hey, maybe that’s just the Aspergers talking, right?

  11. Leandro M. Duarte says:

    @Glen Simpson:

    Great point. But I think the speech failed because it didn’t draw a line between, on the one hand, using the word “mutant” as an instrument to forcefully and unecessarily set appart people that are essentially the same and, on the other hand, simply using it to describe people with certain genetic/social/fenotypical characteristics.

    Applying what Havok’s speech to your example, he would have said that “left-handed person” is the “L-word” (“L-expression”, in this case”), which is weird to say the least

  12. Glenn Simpson says:

    @Leandro – I guess I just took that as a given. He’s not talking to scientists or geneticists, he’s talking to regular people. So in his philosophy, regular people have no reason to use the word mutant on a day-to-day basis.

    In some ways this ties to the whole business of why Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four are heroes but the X-Men are freaks, because for some irrational reason the general public in the Marvel U thinks gaining powers through some accident is OK but being born with them is freaky.

  13. @Christopher Moonlight – I think Spielberg would like to be remembered as a great director who was Jewish. I think Oscar Wilde would have be thrilled to see a world where the fact that he was gay was just as celebrated as his writing. Because I think you’re mistaken to say that neither of those facts define them as creators.

    It’s been well established in Wilde biographies that he didn’t start to really flourish as a writer until he embraced his homosexuality. Furthermore, The Picture of Dorian Gray was roundly denounced when it came out because of the homoerotic undertones. And the “living a double life” theme returns over and over again in his work, because that’s what he was doing in his life. And he was imprisoned because he dared to love another man publicly. You can’t say “it’s not important to who he was” when his life was DESTROYED by anti-gay bigotry, driving him to an early grave. Maybe you don’t think it was important to his WORK, but it was a driving force in his LIFE, behind who he WAS.

    Spielberg, meanwhile, has directed a number of films dealing with bigotry in its various stripes, not just anti-Semitism but also racism, and has set up a Holocaust remembrance project that records the testimony of survivors. Does he want his Jewishness ignored? I’m sure if you mentioned it to him, he’d smack you across the face. He grew up knowing that up until the year before he was born, people across the Atlantic were being slaughtered by the MILLIONS for a heritage they shared. Forget Schindler’s List, anti-Semitism still shaped who Spielberg IS.

    Speaking as a woman, I can tell you that I don’t want my femaleness ignored when it comes to anything I do. I don’t want to be successful on the grounds of people pretending I’m not a woman, or “in spite” of the fact that I’m a woman, I want to be successful because people get over their preconceptions and entrenched prejudices, and accept my gender as part of the whole package. MLK said he didn’t want his children judged by the color of their skin, but I doubt he wanted it to be ignored either. Because you know what that says to women or people of color? It says “You’re so great I forgot you were black/a woman!” As if either of those things are mutually exclusive to achievement.

    When the rights of your people are attacked, severely restricted, when your people have historically been imprisoned, killed, enslaved, raped, deprived of property and suffrage (and still are in certain parts of the world), or been told there are certain things they are constitutionally incapable of doing (e.g. reading, science, math, politics) because of WHO THEY ARE, it is a MASSIVE insult to suggest they aren’t profoundly shaped by that history. You even point out that “media inflates and perpetuates stereotypes”–as if the media starts out with clean hands, instead of being founded on the same prejudices as the rest of society. I don’t know a single woman, LGBT person, or person of color who doesn’t rail against the stereotypes the media perpetuates about them.

    So when it comes to mutants in the Marvel Universe, who have historically been attacked, legally and physically, by homo sapiens, it rings so, so false to have Havok disown that identity. And I note that the person who wrote this scene is a straight white man. In my experience, straight white men are very, very fond of telling everyone else to stop talking about how “We’re all one race– the human race! I’m not a feminist, I’m an equalist! Love who you want, but don’t shove it in my face!” Each and every one of those phrases is guaranteed to piss off the group they’re directed to. Because IF ONLY it were that easy for us.

  14. Ugh, in that last paragraph of mine, put “their differences” after “stop talking about”.

  15. Leandro M. Duarte says:

    @Glenn Simpson: I wholeheartedly agree with you. Also, @Christopher Moonlight above also sums up brilliantly the problem that apparently Remender was trying to tackle. It really is something that plagues our society, and even worse than that is the fact that so few people realize how stupid this custom of sticking labels to people really is (with mainstream media being the greatest perpetuators of this shameful practice).

    My problem with the speech is that – in my opinion – there was a gap between what Remender wanted to convey and what he actually had the character say.

  16. I’m going to go out on the limb and await for someone to inevitably cut the limb while I’m out there. I don’t see what the character Alex says as being offensive at all. He’s asking to be included. If you swapped out today’s difficult social norm identifiers, it would make complete sense. We want identity but also uniqueness. A trans-woman wants to be called “she” and “woman” not a “trans-woman.” How is what Alex saying any different? He’s saying “mutant” is a label based on something physical that he had no choice in making. He identifies as a man and wants to be called a man. And like story arcs historically show us, he will probably change his own view of himself at least twice the way other X-gened people have.

  17. Cerebro says:

    Given Marvel’s sliding time scale, I think it’s safe to assume that Hiroshima is, no longer, part of Sunfire’s origin. If his mother died, then, the character would be pushing 70.

  18. @Amber, a transwoman asks to be called “she” because she IDENTIFIES as a woman. But when lawmakers try to tell her she can’t get hormone therapy or change her gender on state documents or use women’s bathrooms, or when she’s beaten, raped, and/or killed for being trans (as far, far too many trans people are) saying “we’re all human, let’s get along” is a sick joke.

  19. What I took away from this was Alex Summers denouncing his brother’s hubris while asking the world to start referring to mutants as “Alexes”.

  20. Edd Morgan says:

    Doesn’t it all depend on the connotations attached to the word in question? Of course “the L-word sounds weird;
    Wog isn’t an acceptable word to describe African-Americans in the USA, but it is widely used in Australia with fewer negative connotations for a different ethnic group.
    Mutant-kind’s reputation has recently been tainted in the Marvel universe so Havok wishes to dissociate himself from the connotations the word carries at the moment. I say fair enough.

  21. marvelprince says:

    I don’t think you got the point that Remender was trying to deliver. Alex is not saying the word mutant is in itself a thing to be ashamed of, its just that continued use of the word will maintain the perception that somehow mutants are not people. Yes, mutants are different and have special abilities, but in the end they’re still people. At the MU, at this point in time mutant is a far uglier with lots of negative connotations. By taking that word out of conversations that deal with mutants Alex is hoping that people can coexist and just see one another as people, regardless of race, creed or x-gene.

  22. Kaotic says:

    Alex is an idiot. Lets not call him the b-word because he’s a blonde anymore, while we’re at, so that the negative stereotypes of blondes arent associated with him. He’s a government lackey and always will be. I love what Remender is doing here to make this team such a giant failure in the eyes of the X-faithful and to make Cap and Alex look like giant neo-fascist tools.

    Absolutely nothing has changed since Cyclops released his Press Release to humanity:

    “We have seen that mutant sovereignty, even if confined to a single island will never be respected. WE will never be respected. Those who claim to fight for a better world are those who would keep us on our knees. Their jackboot rises only so it can crash down harder.

    But know that even if we forgive it, we will not forget the day when our worst fears were proved true. That even those who claimed to be our friends thought us property.”

    The only difference now, is that Cap has mutant collaborators on the payroll now.

  23. MBunge says:

    Two thoughts.

    1. Wow…Cap’s movie helmet looks really bad on the comic page.

    2. So, are people in the Marvel Universe also supposed to jettison all the other terms used to refer to other population sub-groups? Latino? Jewish? Black? Yuppie? Tween?

    3. As already pointed out, mutant is not the equivalent of the N-word in Marvel. Mutie is. I wonder if the distinction would have been missed by an African-American writer.

    Mike

  24. Remender saying on twitter that, “Heads up– If Havok’s position in UA #5 really upset you, it’s time to drown yourself hobo piss. Seriously, do it. It’s the only solution.” is slightly worrying.

  25. Right on, Steve. No question this is a troubling speech. I’ll “head cannon” it as Alex trying to distance himself from his brother, but not considering the full impact of his words.

    @Laura Sneddon: That is troubling. I think Remender was coming at it from a different angle though: Twitter is calling him out on contradicting other statements Alex has made in books published 20 years ago. Still, the lack of empathy towards his readers (i.e., customers) should give him pause.

  26. “See me as Joe, a person who happens to be mutant/black/muslim/Chicago Bulls fan/Marvel Zombie. Don’t see me as a mutant/black/muslim/Chicago Bulls fan/Marvel Zombie who happens to be a person called Joe”.

    Is this so hard to understand? I know it’s easier to misunderstand it, but, really… How difficult is to understand a lesson that has been told countless times? That people usually learn in children’s book?

  27. I’m sorry @Alexa, but I just don’t agree with you at all. First off you assume a lot in your argument I feel, most if which is just not true (my word against yours of course as I can’t solidly prove anything either). But Oscar Wilde wouldn’t want to be remembered as ‘Oscar Wilde the gay man’, the fact that he thought for and flaunted the fact he was gay was to fight for his rights as a human being.
    And yes his writing improved once he accepted that he was gay, but that’s more down to being held back before that happened, not because it somehow enhanced his writing.
    I’m a gay man and would never want to be remembered for being gay, just for my actions and who I was as a person.
    The moment I’m divined as a gay person, everything I’ve achieved means nothing as it will forever be seen through the lens of being gay or what that meant to the gay ‘community’ as of that moment in time.
    No matter how you cut it, using any label, whether gay, skin colour, gender etc. as a signifier immediately says more about those that label it such then the person it’s about.
    It’s not about being thought off well ‘in spite’ of being gay, a woman or such it’s about that very fact not even being part of the argument. The fact that you are proud to be a woman or me being proud to be a gay man, is wonderful and should be celebrated and not hidden ever, but it should never be part of the argument when discussing either of us as human beings and our worth.
    Hope that makes sense. Just my opinion of course.

  28. Kaotic says:

    Thats pretty in line, though, with Remenders general sense of humor on his twitter feed. He regularly snarls at the folks who jump at a plot point before seeing how it resolves itself and abhors the internet “fury of the week” syndrome and calls it out pretty regularly. How about the lack of empathy from the fanbase here? this article did a great job of saying “here’s how i see it, but lets see where Rick goes” but the comments here and elsewhere on the web certainly havent. Fans are quick to assume they know what was in the writers mind, or what motives drive the plot points, when they have 0 idea. Alex should be drawing peoples ire here, not Rick. Unless of course you dont believe characters have voices of their own.

  29. @Quint, I don’t disagree exactly, but would you like it if someone suggested that calling yourself gay was the root of the issues you face as a gay man? That if you called yourself “the g-word”, the rest of society would roll with it and let you get married and make sure you couldn’t still get fired in some states for being gay. If I call myself “the w-word”, will I get more than 77 cents on a man’s dollar? Will it be safer for me to walk down the street at night?

  30. Danny H. says:

    In the Marvel Universe, people make a distinction between “mutants” and “humans”. The metaphor of mutants-as-persecuted-minorities usually works, except for that element. No minority group in the real world would go around telling everyone that they’re not humans. Alex is saying that that distinction is unnecessary, and harmful for everyone. He’s right.

    The “hubris” that he’s talking about is the arrogance of calling yourself “homo superior,” and telling everyone that you’re the next step in evolution. In “House of M,” we saw how poisonous that line of thinking can be. Mutants (and real-world minority groups) are interesting, and important to the world. But affirming their connection to the rest of the human race is not offensive.

  31. deadcowaroma says:

    I don’t see how “mutant” isn’t an offensive term in the Marvel universe. It’s not like it means something completely different in there.

  32. swampy says:

    Did Marvel stop using the term “Mutie” or “genejoke”?

  33. The content of the speech was that mutants and humans should live and work together, not divide themselves with arbitrary labels due to a few genes or how they live their lives, because hey mutants are humans too, just a different kind. Which was the entire point of the original X-Men. And the entire point of Nightcrawler. And the entire point of Kitty Pryde. And et cetera. And really the entire point of the X-Men as a whole when the book doesn’t get too far up its own ass trying to torture itself into social metaphors that don’t always stick.

    If “mutant” can and must and always stands for African American or Jew or Indigenous American or whatever then surely there are a number of people in those communities who might respond to a message like “Don’t see me as ‘one of the good mutants’ fighting against bigotry and hate crime and Captain America likes me so so should you.’ See us as GOOD PEOPLE, because dividing citizens into ‘us’ and ‘them’ is the first step of every bigot and demagogue.” That is the context of this speech, remember: thirty seconds earlier the news plays a hate-tape from Red Skull’s camp about how America needs to root out the Muslim menace, I mean the Jewish menace, I mean the NEGRO menace, I mean the mutant menace, and Summers goes on television and says “There is no mutant menace. There are people, and we’re all different, but don’t mistake different for bad because Good vs Bad is the only fight I’m trying to fight.”

    Judge me by my actions and the content of my character, not the color of my spandex and 43rd chromosome. That’s a familiar sentiment, and one that most of my customers (who are predominantly black, btw) can sympathize with a lot more than Cyclops’ recent actions.

    I mean if this is worth this much ire where does “Fuck America all us black people are gonna go live on an island and if you do anything we don’t like it’ll be war!” or “I killed a guy but didn’t FULLY mean to, but never mind that because since black folks are a minority and some a-holes hate us we should be able to do whatever we want regardless of the laws of any nation” fit in?

  34. Seems like a lot of you guys are missing the point. Spectacularly. Are you doing it for the sake of defending a stupid page (albeit a well intentioned one) from a comic you enjoy? Here’s a couple of pointers to help you out:

    1) Markers of personal/cultural identity, be it sexuality, race, nationality, religious affiliation or otherwise, should not be cause for shame in a sane or just society.

    2) The desire for ‘equal rights’ or ‘equality’ is not the same thing as desiring a homogeneous society where differences are either not present or not recognised. It’s about wanting an end to bigotry and discrimination based on those differences.

    With those pointers in mind, let’s consider these facts:

    A) Marvel’s Mutants are genetically different from other humans and faced discrimination in the MU.

    B) As a consequence of that discrimination, the Mutants, especially since the Morrison run, have developed a defined subculture of their own. They have always embraced and owned the word Mutant in the same way ‘black’ was with African Americans (“black is beautiful” etc).

    The only conclusion anyone can sensibly come to is that Havok’s sentiments are based on a misreading of MU history and that his argument that the difference between mutants and humans should be disregarded (instead of simply demanding equal rights and an end to prejudice) is hopelessly misguided at best.

    Imagine telling all the metalheads to stop listening to metal because they should want to be equal with the people who enjoy pop. It’s stupid. Stupid like Havok’s statement. Not malicious, just stupid.

    Of course, all this could be a deliberate setup to put Havok in the wrong… but even if that’s true it seems as though a lot of readers still need to have that pointed out to them.

  35. @Alexa no I wouldn’t, but I didn’t see Alex’s argument like that. How I read it is more that the word mutant holds all kinds of connotations, whether negative or positive and he so proposes to get rid of that label altogether and level the playing field as it were. Not that it would solve all the problem, but that it would make a start on working on those problems.
    Now of course that’s a bit too romanticised for the real world as like you said that won’t change the fact that in your daily life you’ll always be hampered by other people’s perceptions of what being a woman means. Or even worse not even realising what being a woman has automatically entails, with your example of walking home at night as the perfect example. The moment I got my head around that concept alone made me rethink and look at women’s plight quite differently.
    But again I don’t think that Alex was proposing all the problems would be solved by simply not using the word ‘mutant’, just that he wanted to see a change in people’s perception of one another.

  36. Adam Hurst says:

    I really think people want the fight between mutants and humans to go on forever. We are all humans. We all live on 1 planet. Why should we continue to label ourselves? Continue to perpetuate these differences that only exist in our minds. Skin color is only an evolutionary adaptation to the amount of UV sunlight one would enocounter where they live. Its an increase in melanin in the skin thats all. How many wars could have been prevented if we all saw each other as just fellow human beings? Why does culture have to define you? Define yourself without playing into what other people want you to be. There is only destruction to be had if we continue to point out differences instead of similarities.

  37. @Adam I completely agree with you, but I also understand that for some the relating to mutants in comics to how they are perceived in their daily life is a strong bond which if changed in the world of comics is lost as that change isn’t as yet happening in the real world and so they will no longer have that which they bonded over.
    So yeah I get that some are upset over this, but if comics and popular culture only perpetuate these stigmas then no one has anything to strive for in real life. It’s about making things better and looking forward not about celebrating the fact things are bad and that you can relate to one another over that fact.

  38. Synsidar says:

    When someone attacks someone else for being “different,” the defense of telling the attacker to ignore the difference doesn’t work.

    In the case of Marvel’s mutants, what makes the mutants different isn’t their genetic makeup, per se. It’s their powers. The powers, and the mutants’ use of them, cause problems for the mutants themselves and everyone else. If the mutants didn’t have powers, they’d be indistinguishable from normal humans and haters could focus on the somatic mutants: Spider-Man, et al.

    If someone is going to compose a lecture on not hating differences, it’s much easier to have a bigot provide the behavior to be deplored. The differences between Marvel’s mutants and the normals can’t be ignored, no matter how much one might wish otherwise, because the stories about them wouldn’t exist, then.

    SRS

  39. @christopher moonlight – well said, man. well said. i can also see alex’s point of not wanting to be called a “mutant” in the context of the marvel universe. considering the thousands upon thousands of people (known and unknown) in the MU with super powers, many of them non-mutants, shouldn’t these individuals be judged on who they are and how they use their powers rather than what they are? alex is trying to go beyond the label of what he is and define himself by his actions and who he is. being a mutant is what he is, not who he is and to go from being “havok – mutant hero” to “havok – “great hero”. how silly would it be if havok introduced himself like this, “hi, i’m alex, i’m a mutant” , or northstar introduced himself like this, “hi, i’m jean-paul, i’m gay”. really, who defines themselves by what they are, it’s a part of them for sure, it helps in shaping who they are, but it is not the sum total of the person they are. many factors go into defining who a person ends up being and defining that person by only the aspect of what they are is a disservice to the goal of finding out who that person is as a whole and i think that was the point of the speech havok made, “yes, i’m a mutant, but i am also alex, fellow human being and would like to be accepted as both”.

  40. I think that the issue with this speech is that being called mutant at all is a wrong thing to say. Don’t we already have things like “mutie” in this universe that are pejoratives?

    I get the point that mutants are also humans, but why would the word mutant ever be seen as a bad word. Only in context would it be bad, like if someone said “dirty mutant” or “stinking mutant”

    It feels like it’s going way too into “mutant-blindness.” The point should be that despite our differences, we are all human, not “let’s ignore that we’re superhuman altogether.”

    I don’t hate the speech, but it feels like it’s to great of a leap.

  41. Kaotic says:

    Exactly Vichus. Its not a dirty word just like female isnt a dirty word, or asian isnt a dirty word. We’re not going to start calling it the f-word are we? No we arent, and we never should because of the “I dont want to be seen solely based on my sex” sentiment. no crap, no one wants to be seen based on one facet of who they are, it doesnt mean those facets are dirty words and should be removed from our vocabulary.

  42. Quint says:

    @Vichus I don’t think the word mutant is necessarily seen as a pejorative word, just that it’s a very defining word and thus another label which ultimately hinders progress.
    Again I do agree it’s a bit of a leap of faith, but hey we are talking comic books here, not some literary work that will be remembered through the ages.

  43. Jason Enright says:

    Hi,

    I just wanetd to say that I am very impressed at how mature and friendly this debate has been. It is very rare to find a place on the internet where so many people can discuss factors such as race, sexual identity, and diversity without resorting to hate speech. This is an interestign debate and I am very happy it has stayed a debate and not a place for hate or anger.

    One thing I thought I would point out is that Alex is a pretty bad choice for this speakign out role. He is a mutant who is no way physicallt different from a human. When he says call me human it is easy, because he is an attractive white male with blue eyes and blonde hair. It would have been more interesting if a character like Nightcrawler or a morlock made this speech. Someone who truly has spent their whole life being treated differently, and being an outsider. The truth is that Alex could at any moment chosoe to erase his mutantness and live a totally normal “human” life.

    To me this read like telling a gay man to just shut up about it, go back in the closet and pretend to be “normal”. We should celebrate our differences and say hey I’m gay, black, white, straight, gay, blonde, autistic, etc. and I’m human, and I’m smart, funny, brave etc. Don’t hide it, flaunt it, celebrate it, embrace it! Diversity is what makes our world great, and what made the x-men great. They weren’t just mutants, they were mutants from all around the world who came together to make the world a better place.

  44. Kaotic says:

    @Jason Enright

    Thank you!!! well said.

    “We should celebrate our differences and say hey I’m gay, black, white, straight, gay, blonde, autistic, etc. and I’m human, and I’m smart, funny, brave etc. Don’t hide it, flaunt it, celebrate it, embrace it! ”

    Ambracing those “labels” as Quint calls them doesnt hinder us as a people, it only hinders the bigots who would rather pretend those people were just like them.

  45. Kaotic says:

    Embracing*

  46. Swampy says:

    I don’t keep up with the MU (except from news items like this), so seeing how Alex is brother to Cyclops….Is there a difference in their philosophies?
    One that might cause friction?

  47. The only people who don’t need labels are those who assume they are the cultural default- straight, white men.

    Nobody’s ever going to look at me and take me for a man, or hear my accent and take me for an American. Why should I give up my cultural or gender identity because it makes someone who doesn’t identify the same way uncomfortable?

    @Alexa. Great comment.

  48. Lorrie says:

    Alex’s little speech was basically espousing that minorities should assimilate to the majority, that ignoring our differences is the key to peace instead of celebrating and understanding them. It’s particularly troubling coming from a white, male, straight, blond, blue-eyed character who could “pass” as an ordinary human. I would love to believe that in a future issue some of the many mutants who could never “pass” criticize Havok for trying to make “mutant” a dirty word instead of something they can take pride in. I’d love to think that Remender understands the implications and they’ll be addressed in-story, but from his Twitter response, it seems unlikely.

  49. Johnny Memeonic says:

    I would love to believe that in a future issue some of the many mutants who could never “pass” criticize Havok for trying to make “mutant” a dirty word instead of something they can take pride in.

    I’m sure a 2nd/3rd tier writer out there is making plans in his spin-off book as we speak.

  50. maverickman874 says:

    I think Alex is that he is Alex first. I think it also points out how ludicrous it is that a certain group of heroes is singled out for unfair treatment when others get a pass despite everyone having powers.

  51. Rich Harvey says:

    Like Archie Bunker said: “Marinara ain’t nothin’ but lumpy juice.”

  52. I think that the divide between the two interpretation of Alex specch is how we see the use of the word “mutant”.
    Those who think Alex (and by proxy Remender) is wrong on his take on the word “mutant” because you can’t avoid to be who you are and you should be proud are clearly taking the word in his denotative use, his literal meaning. Alex being a mutant is a fact like he is blonde, tall and Cyclops’ brother.
    On the other end those who think that Alex is indeed talking about integration without erasing our differences are taking the word “mutant” in his connotative use, the one that carries emotional and cultural baggage.
    Alex don’t want to use the M-word because it carries an ulterior meaning that he is not confortable with.
    In my experience with the X-men the word “mutant” is always being used in the connotative use (ex. “mutant menace”) so what Alex wants to do is a shift in meaning. Take out the connotative meaning out of the equation by taking out the word.
    “Mutant is the word that “scientifically” describe what I am but because now, in the social discourse, carries too much ulterior meaning that I don’t agree with I don’t want to be call that. Just call me Alex.”

    p.s. pardon my english (not my first language)

  53. Quint says:

    @Jason yeah I agree, Alex is a poor choice for this speech, but Remender had to choose from the characters he was already using I guess. Although yeah white, blond and no external cues that he’s a mutant is a poor choice to talk about prosecution.

    @Lorrie I just don’t see that Alex is saying that at all, but that’s down to interpretation I guess (agree to disagree). But for the record though, if that is what he’s saying then I completely agree with you that it’s the worst possible thing to do.

    @JacobZ thank you that’s exactly what I meant. You put it into words much better then I did, so don’t discount your ability at English :)
    This is what I mean when I said labels can be harmful as each person sees that ‘label’ in a different light. One person hears mutant and thinks of a human with a genetic difference while another immediately thinks of a terrorist.

  54. I don’t think a lot of people are deliberately missing the point because they want to defend a comic they liked. That seems like a bad faith argument and certainly assumes a great deal. I don’t assume that everyone who’s up in arms is avoiding the content of the rest of the issue or the story which preceded it or Remender’s body of work in ascribing a viewpoint that none of his previous efforts or public comments support. But while I don’t discount that this breaks an already strained metaphor for a lot of people, or that some find it out of character, or interpret it as “minority shaming” language, I read this awkward speech as just that, awkward, like Havok’s command has been so far in the book (and, let’s face it, largely has been in the past) and largely focused on reminding a city that was just mind controlled into murdering their friends, neighbors, and acquaintances that when you’re killing mutants you aren’t killing some faceless enemy or Other or Them. You’re killing a person. Hi, I’m not a codename and a costume who wants to hide my identity in the closet: my name’s Alex. And considering Remender just got done with some similar territory over in Secret Avengers, that’s how I read the scene, and what I believe his intent to be. I may be putting words into his (or Havok’s) mouth with that but it’s not something that has stopped folks from assigning the worst in this situation.

  55. How dare him, wanting to be included!

    The responses to this are an example of liberalism sounding almost as insane as conservatism (in virtually every other aspect) generally does.

  56. Synsidar says:

    Marvel’s mutants aren’t good choices as characters if a writer wants to focus on simple discrimination, bigotry, or prejudice, because the themes of evolution and discrimination aren’t complementary. The whole point of evolving is to be different from older members of the species.

    And, since the problem with the mutants is their powers: who generally benefits from a mutant having a destructive power? Nobody. He’s a danger to himself and to the people around him. The occasions that call for constructive use of the power are rare and artificial–just a reminder that the Marvel Universe isn’t close to the real world. A villain doesn’t act until a writer has him do it.

    Remender’s intentions were good, presumably, but decrying the presence of paranormals whose mere presence could lead to your neighborhood or your entire city being destroyed, despite their best intentions, would be entirely rational. Superheroes aren’t suited for tackling real-world problems.

    SRS

  57. kwestluv says:

    I think you’re exaggerating the depth of this speech dear writer. I think the “m-word” thing is lame, but the intention noble. I like that he say’s the “x-factor gene” or whatever, doesn’t define him.

    We ARE all humans of one tribe, like it or not.

  58. I just wanted to echo Jason Enright’s comment: The fact that there are so many well-articulated positions here, without anyone resorting to name calling or complaining “it’s just comics!”, really speaks well of the Beat’s readership. You guys have restored my faith in the internet today. Thanks.

  59. Laura says:

    I am gay, female, disabled, and autistic. Every single one of those things is important to my identity and to the way I interact with the world. If someone told me no, I’m not a woman/lesbian/PWD/autistic, I’m a *person*, it would imply that those things by their very nature make me less than a person. This world has space for all kinds of different people, and we should not have to shed our identities or our communities to be considered people. And frankly, if that day ever came, I would be extremely upset. These communities offer safe spaces to discuss issues and experiences, and I have no patience for people who insist that labels are harmful.
    Labels aren’t harmful. Your insistence on erasing our labels because they make you uncomfortable *is*.
    And don’t tell me it’s just a comic book because I see this crap all the time, every day, from actual people who think they’re helping. I like my labels. They are part of me, as much as my name is part of me.

  60. John Warren says:

    There are some great, thoughtful comments in this thread.

    That said, I really think this speech exists for one purpose only–to set up the conflict that is coming between Cyclops’ group and the Avengers. The X-Men lost in Avengers vs. X-Men, but Cyclops’ group is being set up to win the next round.

    That’s the biggest issue I have with Marvel these days. There’s no consistent characterization. Characters undergo radical personality swings for the sake of driving whatever mega-plot the braintrust is trying to advance. Just look at how Wonder Man has been written over the past ten years.

  61. Apparently *Spoilers* people are upset by Alex (Havok) Summers speech in Uncanny Avengers # 5, where he denounces the word “Mutant” as a derogatory term. The argument seems to be that by doing this, Alex is eliminating a term that like “Muslim”, makes his people unique.

    Really?
    Get over yourselves.
    Seriously.

    Let’s not get into the real world implications just yet. Let’s talk about the Marvel universe for a bit. There are thousands of superhuman beings, aliens, god-like beings running around the Marvel landscape. Yet, the only ones who get segregated into a subset are mutants (Specifically the X-men). Which make up, if my numbers are correct, less than 1% of the Superhuman population.

    The only difference between Havok and Spider-man is how they tell their backstory. Spider-man got his powers as a teenager, if he didn’t run around telling people he was bitten by a radioactive spider people would treat him even more like an outcast. The same thing with Johnny Storm, The New Warriors (Nova and Speedbal, specifically. Most mutants look human. You would, if they didn’t tell you they were mutants, never assume they were any different from the Fantastic Four. Ben grimm looks more like one of the Morlocks, except that Reed Richards got on the PR bandwagon early to explain how they got their powers.

    So other than bad marketing, that’s the only thing that separates mutants from the rest of the superhuman community.

    Now I didn’t forget about the real world implication, because here’s my opinion.

    Who gives a damn?

    My first and last thoughts when I rise and go to bed aren’t “I’m black”. I don’t think about it. It’s obvious to any one who sees me, that I’m a fat black guy. I don’t think of myself as black. I think of myself as human first. black is usually somewhere around the 5th or 6th thing on the list I say about myself. the point of Alex’s speech is, he’s a human being and should be thought of as one, Just a human born with a superpower. The human’s use the word Mutant as a derogatory term. Just like some people use “Black” as a derogatory term (yes, they do, it’s not the word, it’s how it’s used.) against people who look like me.
    So if you’re upset by a comic book character not wanting to be called by the term mutant and try to use your own feelings about yourself as an example to show your outrage..
    Get over yourself and stop the martyr crap..it’s annoying.

  62. Jason G. Pallack says:

    As somebody born to Jewish parents, I agree with Alex’s stance entirely. If somebody said this in real life using “Jew” instead of “mutant”, I would stand up and profusely thank him. Since Alex Summers isn’t real, I’ll thank Rick Remender instead: thank you, Rick, for saying exactly what I feel about my own identity.

    Identity politics is a crime against humanity. I’m glad my grandparents assimilated. I’m glad I can be a normal American instead of some weirdo who doesn’t blend in. I’m glad my grandparents and my parents didn’t stay in a creepy ethnic enclave isolated from the rest of society.

    Furthermore, I’ve seen how antisemites work. If anyone happens to be of Jewish descent, antisemites will call their ideas “Jewish ideas” and ascribe everything they say and do to the fact that they happen to be of Jewish descent. I’ve seen antisemites call communism a Jewish philosophy because Karl Marx happened to be of Jewish descent and claim that current popular music is inherently Jewish because most record company executives happen to be of Jewish descent. I’m really, really sick of this. Anything I do, anything I come up with should be attributed to me, not to “Jewishness”, whatever that is. Steve’s post here really reminds more of what I’ve seen antisemites say.

    To be fair, it’s not just the antisemites: it’s the racists, too. If a white guy commits murder, racists say “well, he’s just an abberation”. If a black guy commits murder, racists say “see, this is what black people do”. This is a disgusting attitude, and it’s entirely the result of people thinking of other people not as “people” but as “white people” and “black people”. This kind of thinking is what Steve wants to perpetuate.

    I’m not a Jew. I’m not some outsider with weird customs. I’m just another guy, no different from my neighbors, my co-workers, and my friends. Call me Jason.

  63. Raul Merino says:

    Jason, you are blaming the victim. Instead of asking people to accept different people, you want people to simply stop being different.

  64. Jamal. “Mutant” is the generic. Like “black.” Imagine if someone said “I’m don’t like the B-word, that’s goes against everything I believe in.”

    I mean really? Just being black is against everything a man believes in? Nah.

  65. Well, it’s a good thing that the Grim Reaper came in when he did and put the kabosh on that meandering diatribe.

    Took long enough to see one punch thrown in that book.

    Make mine Marble (mouth).

    ~

    Coat

  66. Jason Kuroshima says:

    “If the word ‘mutant’ is swapped out in this scene for “gay” or “African-American” or “Muslim”, the scene becomes downright offensive.”

    Let’s try it

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeixtYS-P3s

    Not exactly the same but pretty much the same sentiment yes?

    Please go tell Morgan Freeman he’s being offensive to the African American community.

    Also isn’t the idea that gay or Muslim or African American is pretty much interchangeable also offensive by your logic? The history is different, the circumstances are different there are several commonalities but they are still different.

    As for the the whole M-word thing. I type Mutant into thesaurus.com to see what the synonyms are.

    Main Entry:
    mutant  [myoot-nt]
    Part of Speech: noun
    Definition: mutation
    Synonyms: abnormality, deformity, deviation, freak, freak of nature, monster

    Gee why would Alex have an issue with being called mutant?

  67. I see this as Alex saying “hey, since we’re the minority, we’ll stop rocking the boat and banging the drum for equality and just get in line behind Captain America(a character i’ve loved for a long time, and how he’s being written now is so wrong)and not work towards Xavier’s dream anymore.”

    The problem doesn’t lie with the mutants, it lies with the humans who refuse to accept them.

  68. Robert says:

    So…lets except Havok for what he is and what he has to say. If we are being correct and if we really care. I agree with what many have said a person should not be condensed into a word. If I ask any given mutant who they are I bet the first thing they would say would not be I’m a mutant. It would more than likely be something like I am an X-man or I am a brother, a mother or a father and many other things before they said oh and I am a mutant. I bet it gets old to be called a mutant all of the time and be reduced to a single dimension. So if Havok does not want to be shoe horned into that word we should give him the freedom to be what he wants. Much love to all of you.

  69. So you see no difference between Spider-man and Havok as superhumans, Mr Igle? One was born a mutant, and the other was a baseline human being who had an experience which made him superhuman.

  70. Robert says:

    Read some more comments and have more to say. I don’t think being born a mutant is something to be proud of, its not an achievement and as far as I know a person isn’t chosen by merit. While its not something to be proud of its damn sure not something to be ashamed of. I have a patchy beard and my wife doesn’t like it. I wear it around on principle. Its mine and its patchy, it looks kinda gross, like maybe a troll would have it and I love it. My grandpa, my uncle, his sons and grandsons have it. So I wear it too and when I look at it I feel a part of something greater, something old that stretches back into time. It’s kinda stupid but that’s how it is. I am very grateful that when I meet people they don’t address me as ugly beard. If they did I might feel less connected to the group and less a member of human history.

  71. @Jason G. Pallack
    You do know there at black people who don`t like white people.
    What do you call them?
    You do know there are homosexuals who hate heterosexuals.
    What do you call them?
    You do know there are women who hate men.
    What do you call them?
    You do know there are Iraqians who hate America for invading them.
    What do you call them?

    respectfully
    “the amazing stam”

  72. Robert, the same thing goes for ethnicity, culture, nationality, etc. The majority of us did not come to be who we are through effort, but just through a roll of die, of just being born.

    Still, we have pride marches and student culture groups, and organizations for all sorts of groups.

    As for the whole thing about the word mutant being negative, humans, in reality, are mutants. we have mutated from out great ancestors. Our genes have mutated since we were neanderthals. Mutations can either arise for better or worse.

    So a mutation is just nature. It’s a change. It’s diversity. Diversity is good, no?

    I’ll answer you, Stam
    “You do know there at black people who don’t like white people. What do you call them?”
    Racist, or maybe a bigot.

    ” You do know there are homosexuals who hate heterosexuals. What do you call them?”
    Heterophobic

    ” You do know there are women who hate men. What do you call them?”
    Misandrist.

    “You do know there are Iraqians who hate America for invading them. What do you call them?”

    I guess just very angry, I guess?

  73. Synnerman says:

    Yes, in one interview we see that Morgan Freeman speaks for ALL black Americans.

    Yeah, no.

    And Alex is full of crap. Let’s see him try that crap on someone who can’t pass as a regular human. The same issues play out with butch gay men hating on femme gay men. And minority groups giving favored treatment to members who can pass for white.

    Alex just wants his privilege and powers too.

  74. Synnerman says:

    Yes, in one interview we see that Morgan Freeman speaks for ALL black Americans.

    Yeah, no.

    And Alex is full of crap. Let’s see him try that crap on someone who can’t pass as a regular human. The same issues play out with butch gay men hating on femme gay men. And minority groups giving favored treatment to members who can pass for white.

    Alex just wants his privilege and powers too.

  75. Do minority groups favor those who can pass for white? Where do you get this information from?

  76. I don’t see how anyone can have a problem with this…except maybe bigots, who don’t want to have to look at people as individuals and want to only see the superficial and cosmetic and judge them on that alone. This is Alex (and Remender) combating prejudice and bigotry. A fight to shake of a label.

    In the past few years, in the Marvel Universe (616) the word “mutant” has definitely picked up some horrible connotation…the basic definition of the word itself is one seemingly based in negativity.

    Alex wants to be seen as an individual, as should everyone, no? Does anyone here want to be seen for a basic, inherent genetic quality or trait and THAT is it? THAT is all you are? A black guy is ONLY black and that’s it? Alex is saying, “Yeah, I am a mutant…but stop calling me that as though that and that alone defines me.
    Are there people posting here who only want to be defined by one trait? That’s what those attacking Alex’s speech (and Remender, who has a less than reasonable twitter response..but the unjustified outrage and accusations of him being a bigot surely affected his mood) are saying, that you are Gay and only Gay and that homosexuality defines you. You aren’t the sum of other parts…you’re only gay.
    I am many things, and defined by many things.
    “Don’t call me White” by NOFX anyone?
    This outrage is as ludicrous as suggesting a writer can’t imagine another person’s experience or suggesting that empathy is impossible.

  77. The definition of the word mutant isn’t based in negativity. It’s based in science.

  78. Havok doesn’t want to be labeled as a mutant…so he became part of a mutant’s only organization for most of his adult life. Wearing the symbol of mutant pride on his clothing.

  79. The word Mutant does have a negative connotation…ESPECIALLY within the context of the Marvel Universe/Earth 616 right now. Not sure why you’d attempt to argue otherwise VichusSmith, other than to just be contrary. Even ignoring that context, the word mutant (and mutation) definitely has a negative tone or connotation inherent not only in it’s definition, but in common usage of the word. The scientific definition is only one of many meaning applicable. Have to love the English language…

    He doesn’t want to be labelled as a MUTANT FIRST, above all other things, NOW. This is obviously a change for the character, no one is denying that or arguing that it isn’t. The character is progressing and changing, as characters should. I think it’s a perfect dichotomy between brothers, and I wish Alex was defined better and fleshed out this much long ago. Since when is the “X” a symbol of mutant pride in the Marvel Universe? As far as I am aware, it is, or has historically been, a symbol worn by students of Charles Xaivier.
    If I join a Jewish Community Center and become an active donor and participant to the group that runs and funds it, does that automatically mean that I am, and should be, forever labelled as a “Jew” and a Jew alone? OR is it just a portion of my identity?
    I honestly feel sad for anyone who identifies themselves by their ethnicity, and their ethnicity alone. Alex is a mutant, but that is only PART of who he is…and he now believes that part of his identity shouldn’t be all that defines him.
    Do the people raging against Remender really feel and recommend that we as a society, and individuals, should only define people by superficial genetic and ethnic traits? The whole concept of “race” is a human construct anyway and, scientifically speaking, not really an accurate description for the differences and variety that exists among human beings.

  80. ONE definition of mutant is negative. Not all definitions of the word mutant are negative.

    The public in the Marvel U know that when they see the X symbol, that is representing the mutant group known as the X-men. The X-men are not just students, but also public superheroes. That has been true from the start.

    Labels tend to reduce people to simple categories, but as humans, we always do this. I’m a black guy. You could say “We’re all the same. No labels!” If you wanted to describe me, though, you might say “He’s a black guy.”

  81. “Labels tend to reduce people to simple categories, but as humans, we always do this.”

    I agree, and I read this speech by Havok as identifying and addressing that exact problem…how it became twisted into becoming Remender insulting or being dismissive of minorities is beyond me and what I was trying to address.

  82. Synsidar says:

    People have been reacting to the mutant label in the wrong context. Instead of a mutant being a member of a social group, a mutant, in the Marvel Universe, is biologically different. If a Marvel mutant tells a human, “We are the future of humanity,” he’s making a provocative statement, but he’s not referring to social status. He’s talking about species differentiation and the eventual disappearance of homo sapiens.

    The only reason that the Remender sequence appeared is that Marvel Editorial refuses to have writers deal with the issue of evolution in the X-titles, only in settings such as WHAT IF? stories. If evolution is destiny, then dealing with the destiny makes the X-characters unusable. It’s much easier to deal with social discrimination and prejudice issues and to pretend that evolution isn’t occurring.

    SRS

  83. Seriously, I loved this line. When I came out to my family and friends I immediately became “the lesbian”. Everything was, “What’s it like being a lesbian? As a lesbian do you feel…….? Lesbians think……..don’t they?” We aren’t a homogenous group. I am not simply a lesbian. I am Tori, being a lesbian is a part of who I am but it’s not the only thing I am. I related with this scene so much and now everyone is telling me I’m not suppose to like it?

  84. Steven M says:

    The whole point of havocs speech was too be opposite of cyclops keep in mind ppl that his sprang was about his standpoint of the word mutant he was saying that just because you we’re born a certain way doesn’t make you anything it’s the choices that you make that make the person this whole controversy is ridiculous… Lets just step back here and put it back in context this is a comic book character not a tyrant behind a podium

  85. I really disagree! Respectfully of course but I wrote an article stating my point of view and what I believe Remender was saying. People seem to be drawing the completely wrong conclusions from the speech. http://www.bigbluebullfrog.com/2013/06/cbc-2/

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Alex Summers, you are the worst. (Context.) [...]

  2. [...] saw it on The Beat and I thought it was pretty funny. I disagree, but lots of comics characters say things I disagree [...]

  3. [...] they come from.  Some make very good, highly defensible positions.  Steve Morris, writing for Comics Beat, summed up his position like [...]

  4. [...] story over at Comics Beat gives one point of view (check the hyperlink for the full [...]

  5. [...] controversy seems driven by message boards and a particularly scathing article from The Beat. Writer Steve Morris states “The idea that equality is reached via erasing differences is [...]

  6. [...] Steve Morris, writer for Comics Beat, stated his opinion on the speech well: [...]

  7. [...] As Steve Morris points out, if the word “mutant” is replaced with the preferred term of a real world minority “the scene becomes downright offensive.” [...]

  8. [...] on the X-Jet, the team discusses Havok’s infamous “Don’t call me a mutant” speech from Uncanny Avengers, and Kitty Pryde shares a [...]

  9. [...] has been said about Havok’s M-Word speech in the pages of Uncanny Avengers, or Remender’s response. Either way, it seems that there [...]

  10. […] 2. Morris, Steve. 2013. Uncanny Avengers Introduces ‘The M-Word’. ComicsBeat, March 28. Accessed October 28, 2013. http://comicsbeat.com/uncanny-avengers-introduces-the-m-word/ […]

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