The X-Men and the Meaning of Family
By Cody Fernandez
Of all the many, many super hero teams, created over Marvel’s, long, long history, The X-Men have been able to carve out a unique history and identity not ever truly emulated by any other group. Led by a bald Super-Psychic in a wheel chair, and containing more members than I could ever recall, they quickly stole the hearts of generations of story fans. How you may ask? I believe it was their genius adaptation of civil issues of their time and their continual ability to adapt new issues into their stories.
But, I believe, even more than the issues they dealt with, it was the skill they dealt with them. I discovered X-men the way many kids my age did. Their absolutely excellent Animated series. The art direction was so very distinct, the voice acting was so very on point, the music was always top-notch, and the stories they told were memorable and well crafted. They introduced acceptance in way almost no other show did. They did not pander or make light of the issue of “being different”. That has always been their strength.
The X-men, more than anything, is a tale of what it truly means to be part of a family. That no matter your circumstances, no matter how you are different, that somewhere there is someone who will accept and love you. To an only child like myself, in an, at the time, not so stable home life, it gave me the hope and the strength to maintain faith in humanity when things looked dark. It gave me hope that no matter how weird or different I may be, that somewhere there is someone else like me. It made me not feel alone. That is an incredible feat for a children’s cartoon show. Even more so, a cartoon built for action and starring a murderous short man with six foot long knives at the end of his fists.
Charles Xavier, provided a home and a family for people who were so very different. Radically different. They are people whose very vision destroyed buildings, and whose very touch could mean the death of their loved ones. He took care of those who could not take care of themselves, in a world that hates and fears them. Not only that, but he directed these extraordinary abilities, not to his benefit or even their own individual benefit, but for the benefit of anyone in need. To the benefit of all mankind.
The X-men teach understanding and communication, as much as they show action scene upon action scene. Somehow, it is not the action that has stuck with me decades later. Indeed it is the fact that communication and empathy go far further than any act of violence. That love and acceptance does not need to be bought or hid from. That family is not only whose blood runs through your veins, but that family is those who you love and care for and who love and care for you, regardless of any external factor.
Those facts are far more valuable to my person than the entirety of the entertainment contained within. I cannot imagine living without that knowledge. It does not have to come from X-men of course. In fact, it is all the better we actually experience and learn these facts ourselves through real people. That we continue to accept and love one another, not on the basis of skin color, height age, weight, gender, and any other pointless label. That we continue to look for the person within. If we do, I can promise we will continually find that people are extraordinary. That we all are deserving of care and understanding, and that no action is greater than that of kindness.
I thank Stan Lee for introducing or at least reinforcing, so many of the amazing values that I carry within myself to this day. His tales of misfits finding a home and a direction are so very much needed. We may be losing some of these values day by day as labels take hold on the minds of the masses, either out of guilt, envy or prejudice. We as comic fans and as a family in storytelling need to always remember what these values mean and conitinue to pass them along to the generations that follow.
That inclusion is inclusion only when there is not exclusion. This means not making space or removing space based on some arbitrary label, but solely on the person themselves. On their heart and on their personality and their actions. Not to let labels become the norm, but to let personal dialogue and friendly banter be the norm. Let us know one another based on who we are, not what some may call us. Let us move forward in understanding and not in division. Let us know the person not the “group”. The individual is always the key. That is where our truly special existence shines brightest.