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X-Men: The Last Stand and the “Cure”

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 3:40 am - June 12, 2006.
Filed under: Gay America,Literature & Ideas,Movies/Film & TV

Just returned from seeing X-Men: The Last Stand. While I enjoyed the flick, I found it the worst of the three X-Men movies. Unlike the other two, it introduced a fascinating issue, but never really explored its meaning.

And this issue is one which should concern gay people. In the flick, Warren Worthington (Michael Murphy) develops a serum which will cure mutants of their difference. Some mutants choose to take it. Others do not.

Those who take the cure do so because they’re tired of being different. They just want to fit in and lead normal lives. I know the feeling. When I first came out, I met no other gay people like myself. Not a single one who believed that romance was possible. Those living the type of life I imagined for myself were all heterosexual, in long-term relationships with someone of the opposite sex.

Perhaps, I thought, if I could just redirect my sexual/emotional longings toward women, I could find what they found and live a happy life. I wrote to Dr. Charles Socarides, “the psychiatrist famous for insisting that homosexuality was a treatable illness” who recommended a colleague in Washington, D.C. where I was then living. The irony is that while that therapist did not “cure” me (indeed, I was on my way to one of my last sessions with him when I read the words which sprung the closet door), he did help me deal with my parents’ divorce. (I had previously pretended it hadn’t affected me.)

Since reading Carl Jung’s words on that subway platform, I’ve learned that that “unusual powers” did indeed come to me when I learned to take things, including my own feelings, “as they are, and not as I wanted them to be.” Today, even if someone developed a “cure” for homosexuality, I doubt I would take it. (I even outlined a short story to this end.)

What I have since learned is that we best find happiness in this world not by fitting into the herd, but by being true to ourselves. It seems that I gained so many of the strengths I now have by coming to terms with this aspect of myself which differentiates me from the norm. I doubt I would be as good a writer as I am if I were not gay, doubt I would have conceived the ideas and stories that I have had I not seen the world from the perspective of this difference.

It’s too bad this latest X-Men film didn’t fully address the important issue that its very story raises. Indeed, this one didn’t go as deeply into the power (and difficulty) of the mutants’ difference as did the previous two films. Maybe that’s because, unlike those two films, this one didn’t have a gay director.

-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com

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25 Comments

  1. Dan, both you and Bruce continue to amaze me with your depth and honesty and wisdom. I’ve posted before under a different name, so just to recap — I’m an Orthodox Jew and have always been raised to believe that homosexuality is a sin. Though I’d be viewed as a heretic for saying so, I just can’t accept that something one cannot help should be considered a sin. I am still not comfortable accepting homosexuality as the sexual norm and probably never will, but I have tremendous respect for you both, and I learn so much from reading your blog.

    I think that many people associate homosexuality with the negative attributes they see being displayed by the typical Liberal gay activist. At some point in my life, I began to take note of the many gays around me who did not thrive on an “in your face” demeanor, but who led discreet, dignified and purposeful lives, and were seeking or had found that romantic, monogamous relationship that you speak about.

    There is such a long way to go, I know, but the people who will move society along toward greater acceptance are people like you and Bruce, and not the gays who like to prance in parades wearing a thong and carrying obscene signage!

    All the best to you! As for being true to yourself, Emerson said, “Be true to thyself; every heart vibrates to that iron string.”

    Comment by American Jewess — June 12, 2006 @ 6:49 am - June 12, 2006

  2. “Indeed, this one didn’t go as deeply into the power (and difficulty) of the mutants’ difference as did the previous two films.”

    Did you miss the dramatic scene where the same scientist’s son, at the last moment, refuses to take the cure that his father wants him to, and instead breaks through the window and flies away on his own gorgeous white wings? And then later this same young man flies his father safely away from the burning laboratory at the end.

    X-Men 3 wasn’t a film about gay people, but I think a lot of gay people could see themselves metaphorically in that conflict.

    The fact that the young Ben Foster is pin-up lovely without a shirt on kind of caught my attention too.

    Cordially,

    Miss Grundy
    Panting into her popcorn

    Comment by Miss Grundy — June 12, 2006 @ 9:38 am - June 12, 2006

  3. Interesting take, Dan. Thanks.

    After the movie, I kept thinking how the mutants this time seemed to be in the world but not “of the world” –the distance, the tension.

    It’d be interesting to hear some Rightwing Religious types use the same perception of the movie you have as a gay man only apply it to their view of the world/society (which is more hostile to religion, to God, to Christ).

    It isn’t a stretch… if the gays can see empathetic symbolism in X-Men3, so should the “Christianists”. I wonder….

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — June 12, 2006 @ 11:05 am - June 12, 2006

  4. Dan, movie review bingo!

    Someone has already done the “Christianist” as mutant in X-Men3 analysis.

    Right here:

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/movies/commentaries/xmenintheworld.html

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — June 12, 2006 @ 11:16 am - June 12, 2006

  5. Miss Grundy, I agree with you about the power of the scene where the young man (the fetching Ben Foster) saved his father. One of the best in the flick — as was the scene where he refused to take the “cure.” But, if you’ll note that fair young man barely had five minutes of screen time. They failed to do more with his character.

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — June 12, 2006 @ 11:34 am - June 12, 2006

  6. My pseudo-mantra came from the Serenity Prayer that I learned through my mom and her involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous:

    God,
    Grant me the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
    Courage to change the things we can,
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    Though the phrase didn’t change me directly, it was always running in the back of my mind, even when I was wanting / trying to force myself to be straight.

    I so wanted to be straight, but I just wasn’t good at it. I would, on occasion, be attracted to women, but I was much more attracted to the men they were dating. Jill Bradford was the first girl I had a crush on in Junior High. The problem was, I was more attracted to her because of her intelligence and musical skills (pianist, flautist) than to her physical attributes. And it didn’t help that I understood completely, both physically and emotionally, the reasons why she chose to date Paul Barth over me. He was Hot (Oh, and he was a varsity football player). This didn’t help my already low self esteem. This was a pattern that would repeat itself over and over through high school and college.

    I just wanted to be normal, like everyone else (as if anyone is really normal). I wanted to change my attractions from men to women, but I always suspected that that was something that couldn’t be changed. By the time I was 26 and a senior in college, I was already frequenting gay bars and dating / having trysts with men almost exclusively, even though I still wished I could swap my desires and feelings from men to women, I was beginning to realize that I was waisting precious time wanting to change myself, and missing out on a happier life by spending so much time trying to wish to be something I’m not. I had finally decided to live with who I was, the things I felt, the person I had grown into, gay feelings and all, and just getting on with it.

    I guess I had finally gained “the wisdom to know the difference”.

    Comment by sonicfrog — June 12, 2006 @ 1:35 pm - June 12, 2006

  7. Yo, Michigan-Matt;
    As somebody who is both gay and Christian, I read the movie as speaking to both sides of that experience, and the only irony I felt in it was sadness that these two groups so often stand at rhetorical knife-point with each other. In so many ways, the experiences, from self-understanding to persecution, mirror each other, and both have so much to learn from each other. Don’t attack them as “Christianists” stealing your message – use the story as a means to build a bridge. Less viscerally satisfying, perhaps, but better for the soul.

    Comment by Casey — June 12, 2006 @ 2:45 pm - June 12, 2006

  8. I had similar thoughts. The “cure” seemed a bit too simple and convenient for something that is very different for each person involved. I’ve always had a problem with THE mutant gene considering how mutations are each very different and ought to come from very different genes. Perhaps the analogy to homosexuality applies here too. Have we over simplified it into a black and white thing? Is it a bit silly to look for THE gay gene? Even just amongst gay men, our tastes in men are quite varied, right?

    Comment by Dale in L.A. — June 12, 2006 @ 4:06 pm - June 12, 2006

  9. Good points, Casey. Spot on. I was using “Christianist” as a tag the GayLeft religious bigots sometimes use here…

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — June 12, 2006 @ 4:10 pm - June 12, 2006

  10. Um…the “cure” was derived from the blood of another “mutant.” In effect, the non-mutants were using a mutant’s gene to neutralize other mutants’ “power;” like, for instance, gays of different political persuasions neutralizing each other at the subtle behest of national party leaders who then go blissfully on to ignore their ovine constituents.

    It didn’t work in the movie; real life is still a question.

    Agape. Please.

    Comment by Gene — June 12, 2006 @ 6:10 pm - June 12, 2006

  11. … It’s too bad this latest X-Men film didn’t fully address the important issue that its very story raises. …

    Unfortunatly Dan, Fox Studios was paying to make a big-budget action film 🙂

    Seriously, I think the movie did touch on the cure aspect in respectable quantities (if they were noticed). The best concerned Rouge, someone whose “mutation” seems only to hurt others, not help, thus preventing most of what she wanted out of life.

    Comment by Wendy — June 12, 2006 @ 7:23 pm - June 12, 2006

  12. Ah yes. Rouge, with the power to blush at will. I’m guessing you meant Rogue. Why does this word cause so many people temporary dislexia? Honestly, I’m not poking fun at Wendy. It’s no big deal. But for some reason, I see this spelling error ALL THE TIME.

    Comment by Dale in L.A. — June 12, 2006 @ 7:47 pm - June 12, 2006

  13. People tend to misspell Rogue because they spell it like it sounds. It’s one of many cases where Phonics falls flat!

    Comment by sonicfrog — June 12, 2006 @ 10:11 pm - June 12, 2006

  14. Homophones, anyone?

    — Miss G
    busy, busy, busy

    Comment by Miss Grundy — June 12, 2006 @ 11:07 pm - June 12, 2006

  15. Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it, Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it

    Vogue, vogue

    Sounds like Rogue, rogue

    Comment by John in IL — June 12, 2006 @ 11:26 pm - June 12, 2006

  16. Thanks for the example. Sounds like v-o-w-g, not v-o-g-u-e. And I’m not a Madonna fan. I’m the worst homosexual in the world!

    Comment by sonicfrog — June 13, 2006 @ 12:17 am - June 13, 2006

  17. It looks like I created a discussion point. While I was thinking it would be more on …

    Would Storm be as militant on thinking “there is nothing wrong with you [being a mutant]” towards Rogue if she didn’t easily “pass” as a non-mutant ?
    -or-
    Is Rogue not embracing her mutant identity by wanting to be able to touch someone without hurting them ?

    Instead, everyone is having fun based on a typo. So goes the world …

    Comment by Wendy — June 13, 2006 @ 1:40 am - June 13, 2006

  18. that’s why Rogue is such a great character. I haven’t seen the movie yet but way back in the comics that was part of why she was so great. She was incredibly powerful but she paid a high price.

    The loneliness and separation that Rogue lives with, even among friends, appeals to people. We can identify, most of us. A similar emotion was exploited with the TV series the Hulk when at the end he walks away from whatever human connections he made during the episode, and I think it’s why the Highlander TV series was so successful… or at least why Duncan was so heartbreakingly attractive, besides being a handsome fellow, he was doomed to lose anyone he loved.

    Comment by Synova — June 13, 2006 @ 3:13 am - June 13, 2006

  19. Rogue or Rogue or Vogue, or whatever. Perhaps she’s great in the comics — which I have not read, but Anna Paquin has no screen presence in the film; she’s like an empty space on screen that talks. A bad casting decision.

    Now, Halle Berry sizzles as do Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman, Kelsey Grammer and Rebecca Romjin-Whatever. And Patrick Stewart just lends his brilliant presence.

    Yet, this time, I didn’t feel the energy among these talented actors that I did in the first two X-Men flicks.

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — June 13, 2006 @ 5:28 am - June 13, 2006

  20. Just a point of clarification…It’s not a total cure, per se. In the film, they synthesize the blood of a mutant whose power is to suppress other mutants’ powers. According to the dialogue, people injected with the “cure” aren’t really cured; the mutant gene in them is permanently surpressed, but it is still there. The part of them that makes them unique compared to “normal” humans is still there.

    I loved the action sequences, but did also wish they’d have explored the cure a bit more (probably because I immediately saw a parallel between it and reparative therapy). Ben Foster’s character when he was younger, in the scene in which he tried to file away his wings…That was moving.

    And Dan, I actually tried to join a religious group to overcome being gay. It was through reading that I found there was more to being gay than just sex; through surfing different sites I found that when one least expects it, a guy can find that other special guy to spend his life with. It was at that point that I knew I would be okay.

    Comment by James — June 13, 2006 @ 9:20 am - June 13, 2006

  21. Nice comment, James in #20. :-). ;-). :-D.

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — June 13, 2006 @ 2:58 pm - June 13, 2006

  22. Thank you. 🙂

    Comment by James — June 14, 2006 @ 10:36 am - June 14, 2006

  23. THOUGHTS FROM A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL

    I am writing in as a bachelor’s level substance abuse counselor and student from Webster University in Orlando, FL. At this time, I am in the process of completing a masters degree in counseling to be a licensed mental health counselor. Oh yeah, and I am a 36 year old Gay man.

    This film (X-Men: The Last Stand) spoke to me as a human being on many levels. It could easily be read as a metaphor for sexual minorities. As a character, I would have enjoyed being a more male version of Storm. At any rate, my studies as a counselor continue to affirm that the so-called Ex-Gay Movement and conversion therapy are utterly ineffective, in the professional range of being highly unethical, and extremely damaging to one person’s capacity to love another person, as a whole person. Like the mutant gene, studies continue to reveal that sexual orientation (Gay, Straight, and all shades in-between) has a biological basis. In other words, it is a core part of our identity…and not in any “real” way subject to change. Every major counseling-oriented organization in the United States (atleast) sees absolutely no need to “cure” a person’s homosexuality. As a Gay man, I feel Magneto’s anger but that same anger is tempered by Professor Xavier’s spirit of building bridges, not walls. Ignorance, fear and hatred build walls. I am not a part of that construction crew. Those qualities never made the world a better place. Bridge builders use respect, patience, tolerance, curiosity, warmth, and appreciation for human diversity. Building bridges gives all of us a better view.

    As a person of Native American (Cherokee) descent, I was able to begin growing as a Gay man in my small, Southern community. Their traditional views about Gay people (Two-Spirited men and women), helped me rebuild a relationship to my Higher Power. The Lakota Sioux medicine man John (Fire) Lame Deer once said that “If Nature puts a burden on someone by making them different it also gives them a power.” He specifically made that statement in reference to Two-Spirited people. To me, the X-Men speak to that wisdom and are a colorful expression of this idea. Seeing someone with the heart is like all of our other senses…hearing, sight, taste, touch and smell. To many Natives, seeing with the heart is the most sacred vision of all. Each of these senses shape who we are and how we experience the world. To my point of view, they are a gift from my Higher Power. To talk about “curing” my ability to love another man would be an insult to the Maker of us all. It would be like someone asking me for a cure to destroy my physical sight or ability to walk.

    The world that God created was originally defined by the gentle wisdom of bridge builders. That wisdom speaks to diversity not the narrow intellect of conformity. The builders of walls reflect the failings of the human race not the grace of a Higher Power. Building bridges will get all of us a little closer to Heaven. Like Professor Xavier and his X-Men, we need to take our place with the angels.

    Comment by Wes Tattinger — October 5, 2006 @ 4:50 pm - October 5, 2006

  24. THOUGHTS FROM A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL
    Continued…

    From the book Coming Out Spirituality, I would like to add the thought that was pointed out near the beginning of this book: When you make a mistake about Creation you make a mistake about God. -Saint Thomas Aquinas

    From the thirteenth century, when Saint Thomas Aquinas originally made this comment it was not in any way being directed towards homosexuals or homosexuality. Still, its wisdom strongly resonates with the present debate about “curing” homosexuality. The mutant debate is our debate as homosexuals. Religious minded folks that take their faith seriously would do well to think about the divine sciences that form the building blocks of Creation.

    Comment by Wes Tattinger — October 5, 2006 @ 5:14 pm - October 5, 2006

  25. Nice site I found … Plan on coming back later.

    Comment by breast enhancement — October 8, 2006 @ 11:31 pm - October 8, 2006

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