Saturday, May 28, 2011

Before he was Professor X... He was Doctoral Candidate X

Last night Allie and I went to see Priest. It's pretty much about a Catholic Jedi rescuing his niece from a trainload of vampires. It was just as cool and terrible as it sounds, which didn't surprise me.

What surprised me, though, was the US Army commercial beforehand. Nestled in-between the usual sugar water and car ads was the usual Army ad, because your average moviegoer, mallrat and high schooler have nothing better to do than join up with the military.

Those groups in Venn diagram.

I'm used to seeing these ads constructed with glamor shots of what you get to do in the Armed Forces: rappel, ride in helicopters, travel on a ship. You know, all the things you do on vacation in Australia. The audio will be some baritoned man telling you this is how you are going to make yourself a better American by going to interesting places and shooting interesting people.

The best ones are those cut with music videos. You could say 3 Doors Down is not the kind of band that would make you want to put your life on the line for your country, and I can understand that (I wouldn't want to die with "Kryptonite" stuck in my head). On the other hand, knowing Kid Rock got paid by the US government to tell you how awesome soldiering is makes me want to kill someone, and you can do that in the Army.

Be all you can be, kids.

But even compared to the absurdity of some rich hillbilly singing that I should sacrifice for his freedom, last night's military fetishism/thing kids like mash-up had to be the weirdest I've ever seen: between the derring-do of our people in uniform we saw clips from Matthew Vaughn's upcoming X-Men: First Class.

At first glance, this might make sense. The military has stealth jets, the X-Men have a stealth jet (although, in the movie, the Blackbird hasn't been painted and is a... white bird, I guess.) The X-Men have uniforms, the Army has uniforms. The X-Men and Army both get intelligence through sometimes questionably ethical channels.

Just like the Patriot Act

But then I considered the differences. In the trailer for First Class, you can see the heroic Prof. X (or maybe, since it's a prequel, Grad Student X) trying to talk Magneto into not killing humans. The Army seems pretty pro killing humans.

In fact, they're probably more so than Magneto. Magnus won't kill humans willy-nilly; I saw him divert missiles from what I think was the coast of Cuba. Or America. Either way, a country in which he wouldn't be free.

The Army, on the other hand, uses "Freedom isn't Free" as a carte blanche to kill all sorts of people different from us Americans.

These are only dissimilarities though, and metaphors are never perfect, otherwise there would only be tautology. That last point, though, presents the most egregious difference between the X-Men and the military: the military keeps the mutants down.

I know, I know, I'm comparing our actual military to a fictional, multiculti superhero team, but think about it like this: how many Americans were killed by communists in America during the Vietnam War?

And how many by soldiers?

The commercial use of a deeply (and heavily-handed) subtextual franchise asks us to call the mutants and soldiers "good," and that doesn't always work. I think we need to question if "X-Man" and "Soldier" are equal values, which will make us ask what kinds of violence we justify.

And what fashion sense

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