While most movie-goers will simply see another action-packed, super-hero flick this weekend in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” there’s a deeper story to the “X-Men” in general and this tale in particular that hits on the Jewish gene theme in a mighty way.
Depending on your outlook, it may have been either laudably daring or catastrophically controversial to infuse the X-Men with a streak of Jewish lineage. But it’s there, infused in their storyline from the outset, and if you look closer, you shouldn’t need X-Ray vision to see it.
First, they are not a single hero or dynamic duo or even a fantastic foursome. The X-Men are a whole race of incredible beings that are treated as outcasts by ordinary humans who, on the most magnanimous level, view them with suspicion.
They are extraordinary due to an overabundance of the “X-gene” causing them to have amazing abilities and powers. And when do these mutants discover their powers? Well, right around adolescence (bar or bat mitzvah age.)
Moreover, this new movie is based on writer Chirs Claremont’s 1980 “Days of Future Past” in which mutants are rounded up and put in camps throughout the United States.
Similarly and as the title implies, in this latest yarn, the storyline taps into time-travel with the plot opening in a dystopian 2023, as mutants are being hounded and hunted down by giant robots called Sentinals and in one of the first scenes (parents be advised), a bulldozer drops dozens of human bodies into a mass grave.
A few of the key Xers (Professor X, Magneto, Storm and Wolverine) are in hiding somewhere in the Far East (many Jews fled to Shanghai to find refuge in the 1930s) and plot to go back in time to 1973 in order to halt a murder that had launched the humans’ anti-mutant crusade. Due to his ability at cell regeneration, Wolverine is selected.
While those who see the movie will be taken on a time traveling tour-de-force, it’s worth getting an understanding of the overall X-Men storyline to gain a deeper, broader perspective.
Historically, it was just over fifty-years ago, in 1963 when X-Men #1 was introduced by Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg) and Stan Lee (Stanley Martin Lieber) and we were provided the divide that came to exist between Professor Charles Francis Xavier, the telepathic, wheelchair-bound Professor X, who always aims to act in a non-violent manner and Magneto (Erik Lehnsherr) who is out to seek vengeance. For some, it’s with credible justification too.
In X-Men #4 (1964) Magneto recounts…
“Have you forgotten that day, not long ago, when I first came to your village in the heart of Europe? Have you forgotten how the superstitious villagers called you a witch because of your mutant powers? It was I who saved you, keeping the maddened crowd back by means of my magnetic power! You must never forget that! Never!”
And indeed, Magneto’s credo is never forget.
Claremont, who took over for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in 1966 and really developed the Jewish link said, “I was trying to figure out what was the most transfiguring event of our century that would tie in the super-concept of The X-Men as persecuted outcasts. It had to be the Holocaust.”
Fans may also recall, in the movie “X-Men: First Class” (2011) has the opening flashback scene show a young Erik crying while watching his parents cross into the gates of a Nazi concentration camp. Now that may have appeared to be too heavy a narrative to draw onto a flimsy comic book tale. But one has to remember it was less than 20-years after the end of WWII when X-Men was first created by Jews, who for the most part and like their super heroes with dual identities, had to keep their own true selves hidden. These stories were a way to give voice, overtly and covertly to Jewish ideas.
These days fortunately, for the most part, it’s a different story. Jewish identity and culture is not only widely accepted in America, but celebrated. Likewise comic book characters are projected and emblazoned everywhere. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the two occurrences have converged openly or as the popular comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said, “When men are growing up reading about Batman, Superman, Spiderman these aren’t fantasies. These are options.
Abe Novick is a writer and communications consultant and can be reached at abebuzz.com.