The Pop Flux Report

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techgnotic's avatar
X-Men by HaphazardMachine

What’s next for our superhero role models?

Is Time Travel the next sci–fi bellwether?

Time once was that the “Hero” business was so much simpler

Whether you were Beowulf, Ulysses or Flash Gordon, you simply accepted that by birth or circumstances beyond your control, you were a special and exemplary specimen of humankind elevated above normal commoners.

You simply accepted your role as protector, champion and role model and sucked it up to fight another day against the evildoers at the gate. Perhaps moments of doubt and questions of self–identity and irreversible fate arose in quiet moments as they do in all humanish beings from time to time, but of this there is little record.

Pop reflection of times

In the early 60s, molten societal forces boiling just beneath the surface, about to burst forth, were reflected, as usual, in the comic books we read.

In 1963, Marvel Comics launched “X–Men,” which was a little ahead of its time and while initially successful ran out of creative steam when its core creator, Jack Kirby, concentrated on other titles. Finding a creator who could understand the concept of superheroes with powers stemming from a mutant X–gene was a half–step too far to go for most writers. Superman had preternatural physical strengths and could fly, but he was definitely not a “mutant.” Too much “otherness” in “one of ours” for the average comic book writer of the time. But the times they were a changing. And the idea of a “disability” becoming a source of empowerment was entering the youth conversation.

X–men, Genetics, Identity

In the X–Men comics and movies, as in popular culture in general, “genetics” has become the final word or fact about “who you are.”

Since evolutionists Mendel and Darwin discovered the process of genes being responsible for the passing on of eye color, etc., we have been taught that you “are” your genetic make–up. Everything from general temperament to sexual preference is attributed to genes. A “gay gene” would mean removing the idea of a “choice” in sexual desire. “Genes” make it all so easy. Or do they?

Turns out our DNA is being constantly modified, like thousands upon thousands of little light switches turning off and on, in response to what we are doing, seeing and feeling. This process is orchestrated by where and how we live, our stresses and what we consume—all of which can be changed to some degree, which means that we can change genetically. This according to the research of the eminent expert in the field, Sharon Moelem, MD, PhD. (Awarded 19 biotechnology patents and co–founded 2 biotech companies.) So DNA is not the final stop on the personal identity journey. Even what’s “in our genes” can be altered by our thoughts and actions. Life would be simpler with an immutable “mutant” or genius or gay gene to explain everything.

The reality of philosophy

You say you hate my thoughts and actions, calling them sins. Yet you say you love “me.”  Who is this “me” you love?”

I love the you that is the essence of God inside you—I love your eternal soul.”

But I am an existentialist, believing in no gods or souls, believing only in my human body producing the ‘me’ which is the sum of all my life’s thoughts and actions. So by your profession of your essentialist faith, you hate the only ‘me’ I know myself to be.”

So where do we go from here?

The time travel loophole

In “X-Men: Days of the Future Past,” in order to save the last few X-Men from the Sentinels (killer robots), time travel is employed to reverse a killing with unknown consequences at the time.

Just as X–Men are able to make their bodies instantly mutate–sprouting wings, mimicking others, flowing like water—physically mirroring our frazzled peripatetic mental states, so, too, are they now capable of time travel and becoming superhero outliers of a relatively new identity meme: If we are existing on one of perhaps eleven parallel dimensions, are there eleven separate “me’s,” or eleven variations of the single me, or… the mind reels. And what’s to stop Mystique from killing Bolivar Trask again and again and again? If we’re all trapped in an endless loop from “Looper,” what then is actual reality, let alone being and identity? How many of each individual one of us exists on separate time coils? And does this ultimately devalue each of us as if each of us were one puppy indistinguishable from the dozen others in a litter? “Existential Man” just keeps becoming more and more alone.

Doctor Who the Time Lord

X–Men isn’t the only pop narrative phenomenon elevated just enough beyond standard superhero fare to raise these questions about society, identity, time itself and the nature of existence.

It may be of some as yet unknown significance that there has been a resurgence in the popularity of the British “Doctor Who” television series, which has been in almost constant production since 1963. Being a supra–human alien “Time Lord,” it’s no problem how many times or how drastically different things become each time a new “Doctor” takes over the story. (Sometimes the one coming in runs into the one leaving.)

Time travel is a recurring central element of the show, allowing for narrow escapes from the villain Daleks, or simply for a change of series scenery. It is interesting that whereas most sci–fi shows pride themselves in designing the sleekest, coolest space vehicles for their protagonists, it has been Doctor Who all these years who has traveled about the Universe, through space and time, in a “spaceship” that is, at least on the outside, a British blue police call box called the “TARDIS.” How did “Doctor Who” foresee that the speed of the Internet information highway would become more important to sci–fi heroes than hot spaceships? “Doctor Who” is one indication that time travel might be supplanting the now exhausted theme (and stalemated debate) of “self–identity” in the superhero genre.

“Outlander” is a new cable series with a time travel theme

In 1945, married World War II nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall gets transported back to Scotland in 1743, right into the middle of a civil war, where she meets a dashing Highlands warrior, Jamie Fraser. Based on a popular fiction series, the emphasis is on romance rather than sci–fi themes, but it’s another example of the growing ubiquity of time travel in pop narratives.

Your Thoughts

  1. Do you find debates about “assimilation” vs. “lifestylism” and the possible ramifications of time travel being a reality fun, mind–engaging, bothersome, upsetting or unwanted in your sci–fi?

  2. Do movies like X–Men: Days of Future Past make you ponder the type of questions about life examined above, or do you just watch movies for entertainment and diversion?

  3. Does the possibility of time travel open up exciting possibilities or does it “devalue” our present “now”?

  4. Do you consider your being to be mostly determined by a guiding inner soul or spirit, or by your lifetime’s consequences resulting from your thoughts and actions?

  5. Are you ever resentful when you become aware of a filmmaker sending semi–hidden “messages” about personal beliefs in his or her film? Is there a difference between a mega–box office film being “political” and a protest poster created by a starving artist?

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PascaldeJong's avatar
Thanks for the feature!
YamaOrce's avatar
thanks for the feature!! it's an honor!!!
jully830's avatar
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Barkindji's avatar

  1. Don't know the term "Lifestylism". 

  2. Movies like this do make me think about the concepts behind i (as any movie does), but I think I've already exhausted all my thinking on the topic in my own time so the film fails to spark any additional lines of thought in that sense.

  3. It would totally devalue the individual experience. The only reason value is placed on something is if it's absolute. If you had infinite versions of a situation to pick from, and you'd probably pick the most favourable for some reason unless you were on a path to self-destruction (then, arguably still favourable) then where is the value in the original occurrence of that event? 

  4. I try not to consider things I cannot ever know. Hence; atheist. But... I suppose the simple fact that I can choose how to respond to events and how to remember them after they happen means I have a force separate from mere chemical reactions that's able to organise and analyse that data. I don't really believe in spirit or anything else supernatural. I just call this consciousness, and I have no insight at all on how chemical reactions in a brain can allow it to occur.

  5. Can't say I've ever considered it. But now that I have: It doesn't bother me in the slightest. Anyone has every right to express anything through any medium that still allows people the choice to view it or not. 

matthew-lane's avatar
1. I think the better question would be why would people think the X-Men are superheroes at all? I mean they are clearly a terrorist cell.

2. Um, I didn't watch X–Men: Days of Future Past. I lost interest in the x-men properties in the 90's when there were like ten billion characters in it & it just became a grudge match between separate groups of terrorists unwilling to live under any kind of law, fighting over who could control the world

3. What possibility of time travel? If you mean as a story element in fiction its neither good nor bad, just like any other narrative tool.

4. Neither, there is no such thing as a soul, human beings are nothing more then the current end result of a cornucopia of past decisions, in the current context of that persons environment.

5. Yes it shits me off when people misuse fiction to push a social narrative, especially when its completely obvious that that is what they are doing.... Especially when it has to Strawman the opposition just to get the message to work in the narrative. And to answer your question of "is there a difference between a mega–box office film being 'political' and a protest poster created by a starving artist" I would answer yes: For starters I didn't just pay 18 bucks for a ticket to see a protest poster, I didn't spend 30 minutes travelling to see a protest poster & I didn't spend what feels like a small fortune on candy to enjoy while looking at a protest poster. If I go to see a movie, I expect to see a movie.
14th-division's avatar
thank you for the feature!
ArtML30's avatar
Thanks you! 
Mars636's avatar
1. Like any element of a story. If it's written well, acted well, directed well, produced well, you know, done well in whatever form it is presented, then, it will probably be acceptable and enjoyable. If it's done poorly, then, the chances are it will leave you feeling flat and bored.
2. I guess my first answer is kinda relevant here, but, I personally generally just watch sci-fi for entertainment and to escape for a while.
3. In the general human population ( I'm obviously an alien so I don't count ), the 'now' is pretty much devalued to sporadic moments anyhow, like for example during sex or playing sport! So the answer is, I don't believe it will make much of a difference.
4. Neither.
5. LOL. What's the difference between me posting suggestions of my beliefs in my answers, compared to filmmakers or artists or writers? Though yes, I think I have felt annoyed at some dodgy underlying messages, especially in films. I often wonder about films with that little **** Tom Cruise in, with his connection to a major cult.

Good article and great questions! Hopefully I understood them?!?! They're deeeeep! :yoda:
luke-crowe's avatar
This piece appears to be stolen X-Men by renatofraccari
ZigorC's avatar
That's because it is stolen. X-men volume 2 issue 200 art by David Finch.
luke-crowe's avatar
I know that! I am a friggin comic nerd!!! haha. I have reported various wallpaper 'art' and Deviantart does nothing about it, as I am not the original copyright owner.
ZigorC's avatar
I figured, I just wanted to lay the facts out there.  :)

I see he took it out of the article with no mention of having made a mistake.  

It only really bothers me when people's entire galleries are stolen.  I tried, once, to notify Deviantart.  I gave them links to the original art and they said the same thing, but added "you could contact the original copyright owner".  ...Personally I think that if they care about the standards on this website they themselves should contact the original artists... not leave it to the users of their website.  But what do I know?  :D 
camisado1337's avatar
Honestly, I doubt that deviantart is really interesting in protecting ownership and punishing theft. Considering how much this site benefits from the traffic of fan art scroungers and people straight up copping other people's work, I'm sure it's more beneficial to the site to just avoid controversy.

When it blows up, there is going to be one hell of witch hunt, and pieces are going to get pulled left and right. Frankly, that hurts DA. 
X-fan1's avatar
CarnalConcepts's avatar
What a great collection of X-Men art
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