Previously, I discussed the dissimilar treatment between mutant and non-mutant super heroes, the role fear plays in oppression, and how the X-Men aren’t really representative of the mutant population.
The X-Men are simply those lucky few born with badass powers and afforded the opportunities and training to effectively use them. They may be the most powerful mutants around, but power is relative
The Relativity of Power
Are the X-Men “powerful?”
Sure, but so is the establishment.
This is sci-fi. We can’t use our own world as a litmus test. In the Marvel Universe, there are plenty of baseline humans with super-strength, invulnerability, and a host of other cool superpowers. This simple fact greatly limits the scope and relative impact of the mutants’ power.
When a government-sanctioned team like the Avengers shows up at the X-Men’s door in a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier (Avengers vs. X-Men) or actively hunts them down for freeing unlawfully imprisoned children (All-New X-Men), that is oppression. The fact that some the oppressed minority has superpowers doesn’t change that.
Of course, other superhumans only make up a small part of this oppression. The human government has the manpower and the technology to make oppression an everyday reality for most mutants (even those who can read minds or shoot lasers out of their eyes). Giant mutant-hunting robots, inhibitor collars, mech suits, laser guns, and other sci-fi gadgets go a long way in helping the humans keep even the most powerful of mutants down.
Just take a look at the Hadron-Class Kilgore Sentinel. As S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Monica Chang explains in Avengers A.I. #2, “it’s not built to hunt mutants, it’s designed to attack and destabilize mutant nations.”
Let that sink in for a moment.
This robot wasn’t designed to combat one of the many superpowered nations that actually pose a threat such as Laveria, Atlantia, or Sharzhad, but rather it was specifically built to attack currently non-existent mutant nations!
With the exception of the now defunct Utopia (a small island nation comprised of less than 200 mutants) there hasn’t been a “mutant” country since Genosha was reduced to a smoldering pile of rubble, but yet this genocidal monstrosity is kept around “just in case.” That, folks, is oppression. The ruling class is so terrified by the very notion of mutant autonomy that it’s willing to fund the construction and maintenance of a country-killing robot.
Hell, even backwoods racists and religious zealots have access to high tech death machines. Hate groups like the Purifiers, Friends of Humanity, The Church of Humanity, Humanity Now!, and Humanity’s Last Stand all routinely hold their own against the X-Men.
These are just a few of the many examples of the oppressing class using technology and even magic (see Project Purgatory) to keep the “powerful” mutants down.
All that power the X-Men wield is relative, and on Earth-616, it’s going to take a lot more than optic blasts to stand against the establishment.
Of course, this isn’t even broaching the more mundane methods of oppression such as police brutality, limited economic opportunities, and under-representation in government. I’ll save those for next week when I conclude In Defense of the Mutant Oppression Metaphor. See you then!