The Deeper Meaning of the Mutant Registration Acts

Matthew Johnson has a fascinating hypothesis about the Mutant Registration Acts in Marvel Comics -- a series of US laws that require mutants to submit to government oversight and monitoring. These story arcs have been seen as representative of the way that racial and ethnic minorities are sometimes treated. But Johnson thinks that there's a more everyday parallel that fits the core audience. Mutants represent teenagers:

The X-Men series is often described as being a metaphor for the oppression of minorities, but when looked at it this way it becomes clear that the metaphor doesn’t stand up: if superhuman mutants really existed society would have a legitimate reason to fear or at least be wary of them, something that has never been true of any oppressed minority.

But if the metaphor that’s supposed to be at the heart of the series doesn’t work, why has the comic been so successful? Because the X-Men don’t represent oppressed minorities, they represent oppressed teenagers. (This may also explain why comic books about characters who are actually part of oppressed minorities generally fail to sell.) Nobody feels more persecuted than teenagers, especially the nerdy, white, middle-class teenagers who have traditionally been the main audience for comics. In the hyper-dramatic world of the teenager, breaking up with your girlfriend (or, more likely, being turned down for a date) has the same emotional impact as your fiancee being disintegrated on the Moon, and being hunted by giant robots is exactly equivalent to being told to buy something or get out.

Link via reddit | Image: deviantART user mechasoldier

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