Fear of The Other: Politics, Racism and Brutality in Marvel’s “The Gifted”

By Sara Karlovitch

If you’re looking for a superhero show filled with fancy costumes, elaborate fight scenes and unbelievable technology, “The Gifted,” which premiered on Fox Oct. 2, is not for you.

“The Gifted” takes place in Marvel’s, X- Men Universe, the continuum that movies like “Logan,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “X- Men: Apocalypse” take place. However, in “The Gifted,” The X-Men have been disbanded for years, and the evil Brotherhood of Mutants has long since disappeared. Familiar faces like the Wolverine and Professor X are no longer around. The United States government has been persecuting Mutants, forcing many underground and into hiding.

The show follows the Strucker family, your (seemingly) typical middle class family. The father, Reed Strucker (Stephen Moyer) works as a prosecutor who specializes in “dangerous mutants” and the mother, Kate Strucker (Amy Acker) works in medicine. There two children Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Andy (Percy Hynes White), seem normal enough, that is until their Mutant powers violently manifest themselves at a school dance. The family goes on the run, assisted by members of the Mutant Underground.

What makes “The Gifted” stand out from other superhero shows on cable television, and just as a show in general, is its clever and compelling use of contemporary politics and issues. The main theme, and very much the main plot, of “The Gifted” is government victimization of a minority, of the persecution of “The Other.”

Society’s fear of “The Other” is something that we all should be familiar with. We fear people who may look, worship or act differently from us. All too commonly, these groups face persecution and marginalization. They are used as scapegoats for society’s ills, for its fears. We intentionally make life harder for them, impossible for them, because it makes us feel powerful, it quells our fears. Victimizing others makes us feel safe.

In “The Gifted” the government has stripped away the rights of American citizens in the name of “safety.” For example, in one of the more politically poignant moments of the show, a government organization known as the “Sentinel Service”  conducts a raid on the Strucker home in the aim of apprehending the teens. In a very ICE- like raid, they burst into the house, trying to take the kids away from their family in the name of “safety.”

Another politically charged moment is when the mutant Polaris (who is the daughter of Magneto in the comics), played by Emma Dumont, is apprehended by the police. We see her struggle with, and ultimately fail, against a justice system that was purposefully stacked against her, like the hundreds of thousands of incarcerated minorities struggle against a system built to persecute them. Polaris is a member of “The Other,” she is treated like a criminal despite being the victim of a system set up to fail her.

The X-Men Universe has never strayed away from politics. In fact, many people (this geek included) believe the series is a metaphor for the gay rights movement. To many, the word “Mutant” is just a code word for “gay.” Ian McKellen, even stated in a BuzzFeed interview that he took the part of Charles Xavier in “X- Men: Days of Future Past” exactly for its parallels to the gay rights movement.

The similarities are everywhere. In the X-Men continuum, parents have to learn to come to terms with their children’s differences. In a now famous moment from “X2,” a mother even asks her child if he has, “ever tried not being a Mutant,” which is a question that hits close to home for many LGBTQ+ individuals.

Society persecutes Mutants for the way they were born, for something outside of their control, much like how society is still persecuting LGBTQ+ individuals with “bathroom bills” and so-called “religious freedom” laws.

Why? Because LGBTQ+ people are “The Other.” They are a group that falls outside the accepted norms of society, thus posing a risk to the social order. Like any minority, they are different, and different is dangerous.

“The Gifted” seem to be widening the metaphor for who exactly the Mutants represent. In “The Gifted” the mutants represent the collective idea of “The Other”– of the people society loves to fear. They represent any group who has been victimized by the majority.

“X-Men” has been trying to show us our own brutality since the first issue came out in 1963. In the age of walls, of Muslim bans and bathroom bills, in the age of such violent division and absolute hatred without cause, maybe it’s about time we listen.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Gifted’s Facebook page.

Sara Karlovitch is a sophomore journalism and government and politics major and can be reached at skarlovi@terpmail.umd.edu.  






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