Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Friend In Need: In Which the Author Queries Her Readers

Today, Gentle Reader, I am offering you something I don't think Arrogant Self-Reliance, in either of its incarnations, has ever offered you:

Brevity.

But as I have a few reviews still in the works, and as I am really, truly writing—-and writing hard!-—on the dissertation, and as the New Orleans Saints lost their chance at the Superbowl, I feel this post should be a bit shorter than most.

I'm really not sure why the Saints' loss matters to this, but it does, all the same.

In exchanging a wealth of comments with Matthew E. of Legion Abstract fame, I remembered a conversation I once had with a friend of mine (let's call him John) that mainly revolved around the Marvel (of which John's a fan) and DC (of which I'm a fan) divide. Much debate ensued, but the conversation eventually boiled down to the following question:

"If you were a teenager," John said, "and you were in trouble, who would you feel more comfortable turning to for help: Bruce Wayne/Batman, or Charles Xavier/Professor X?"

At first, I said, rather sheepishly I might add, Professor X, but the more I thought about it (and I've thought about it for several months, off and on), I want to retract my statement. Why, you may ask?

Because Professor X scares the bejeesus out of me.

And maybe it's because I've never read the 1980s run of The X-Men. I've only read Astonishing X-Men, and occasionally, New X-Men or Ultimate X-Men. But in the more recent incarnations of Professor X, he's not the helpful father figure so many paint him as. Rather, there's something almost predatory about him. He stalks down potential X-Men and doesn't as much recruit as mindwipe—-I mean, *insist* that they come to his school. He manipulates, twists, turns, and honestly, is perhaps even more dangerous than Magneto. In fact, Professor X and Magneto have the same goals, but put on the veneer of different paths.

Or, to wit, have you any knowledge of the late 19th- and early 20th-century Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain? There were two major parties fighting for women's right to vote: the Women's Social and Political Union, also known as Suffragettes, and the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, also known as Suffragists.

Yes, Ms. Reads, that's all well and good, but why the X-Men comparisons?

Well, both camps were fighting for women's suffrage, but the WSPU believed in militant tactics, like smashing shop windows and prison hunger strikes, while the NUWSS believed in pacifist protest, like banner or sign holding and legislation. Both used to be one entity fighting against the common goal, but split when more militant action was desired. The WSPU believed the NUWSS was too patient, and the NUWSS believed that militant action hurt rather than helped the Suffrage Campaign.

But both, and I repeat, *both* were fighting for the exact same thing.

Now, we know that Batman Is Scary In His Own Right (and, well, meta-ist, too!), but so, I believe, is Professor X.

So I turn to you, Gentle Reader, to further this debate. Please, help me with the question: who is more accessible for a teenager with a problem (and I am, of course, talking about Problems of Registration or Joker proportions), Batman, or Professor X?

12 comments:

Matthew E said...

I think we have to clear the decks a bit first.

Because the answer depends on how well we know the two people. If we only know Batman by reputation, and not personally, then depending on which of his personas we're talking about, the question is either:

"If you were a teenager, and you were in trouble, who would you feel more comfortable turning to for help: Donald Trump, or this physically unthreatening school principal?"

or

"If you were a teenager, and you were in trouble, who would you feel more comfortable turning to for help: Dracula, or this physically unthreatening school principal?"

And the answer to those ones is obvious.

If you have a comic book reader's knowledge of them, and you are more familiar with Batman's humanity and sense of humour and all that stuff, and you're getting suspicious about just how similar Professor X and Niles Caulder are, then the answer shifts.

Loren said...

I was going to say that Professor X is the less threatening of the two, but now that I've read matthew e's answer, I'm kinda going to say "ditto."

100LittleDolls said...

That's a tough question; they're both pretty scary, though I love both as characters. However, I know for a fact that if you were to ask the teenager me, I would have said Prof. X, hands down.

Your Obedient Serpent said...

The most recent cartoon version of the X-Men, X-Men: Evolution, really made it seem like both Chuck and Mystique were just trying to recruit kids into their respective mutant street gangs.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Matthew,
I think we have to clear the decks a bit first.
Because the answer depends on how well we know the two people. If we only know Batman by reputation, and not personally, then depending on which of his personas we're talking about, the question is either:
"If you were a teenager, and you were in trouble, who would you feel more comfortable turning to for help: Donald Trump, or this physically unthreatening school principal?"
or
"If you were a teenager, and you were in trouble, who would you feel more comfortable turning to for help: Dracula, or this physically unthreatening school principal?"


Hrmph. Well, yes, when you put it that way. I think the original question, the one posed to me, was framed with a more "if you have some knowledge of both of them, then to whom would you turn?"
But of course you're right :)

And the answer to those ones is obvious.

Well, I knew some kids in high school who would have been Quite Pleased to turn to Dracula for help, but, there we are.

If you have a comic book reader's knowledge of them, and you are more familiar with Batman's humanity and sense of humour and all that stuff, and you're getting suspicious about just how similar Professor X and Niles Caulder are, then the answer shifts.

When Mr. Reads and I discussed this, we were really curious as to how accessible Batman really would be. And I would think yes, if you went to him for help, he would help you. How many times has he helped criminals, or bad guys, in the hope of reformation?

That's the only reason I stay upset with The Bat regarding the Wonder Woman/Max Lord crisis; he was way too hypocritical.
Ciao,
Amy

Amy Reads said...

Hi Loren,
I was going to say that Professor X is the less threatening of the two, but now that I've read matthew e's answer, I'm kinda going to say "ditto."

Yes, well, when Matthew gets all smart like that, I just acquiesce, out of self-protection :)
Ciao,
Amy

Amy Reads said...

Hi 100,
That's a tough question; they're both pretty scary, though I love both as characters. However, I know for a fact that if you were to ask the teenager me, I would have said Prof. X, hands down.

It's really true, although some part of me, that slightly rebellious part that wore A Great Deal of black clothing at some time or another, would choose the non-principal type character :)
Ciao,
Amy

Amy Reads said...

Hi Serpent,
The most recent cartoon version of the X-Men, X-Men: Evolution, really made it seem like both Chuck and Mystique were just trying to recruit kids into their respective mutant street gangs.

I've only seen a few episodes of the cartoon, but that was my general read of it, too.
Also? As a woman from the South, Rogue's accent makes me very angry.
Ciao,
Amy

Thomas L. Strickland said...

Given the choice, I'd go talk to Magneto.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Thomas,
Given the choice, I'd go talk to Magneto.

(!!!)

I don't know if I would, but then again, I fear the zealot, in all of its many forms.

Although at 16, I'm sure Magneto would have seemed Quite Cool to me :)
Ciao,
Amy

Thomas L. Strickland said...

Although at 16, I'm sure Magneto would have seemed Quite Cool to me

Actually, the Magneto I met for pretty much the first time was this one from X-Men #200. I was 13, not 16. :)

Powerful, misunderstood, repentant and suddenly in charge of a flock of teens that were his enemies only months/years before. Given that first impression, I had to be a fan.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Thomas,
Actually, the Magneto I met for pretty much the first time was this one from X-Men #200. I was 13, not 16. :)
Powerful, misunderstood, repentant and suddenly in charge of a flock of teens that were his enemies only months/years before. Given that first impression, I had to be a fan.


(and here's where my Marvel ignorance is revealed!)
Okay, you win. That's a fantastic path for Magneto. No wonder you were wowed :)
Ciao,
Amy