June 7, 2011
Is ‘X-Men’ a metaphor for Jewish survival?
It may be stunningly self-involved to assume “X-Men” is about the Jews but Jewish Telegraphic Agency editor in chief Ami Eden makes a convincing argument.
In an amusing video, Eden suggests the plot for “X-Men” is an extended metaphor for divergent Jewish responses to the Holocaust. Combining voiceover narration, clips from the film and archival news footage, he compares the ideologies of “X-Men” overseers Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) to those of Rabbi Irving Greenberg and Rabbi Meir Kahane.
The film, Eden says, “echoes the real-life clash between two radical theological responses to the Holocaust” and focuses on a compelling moral question apropos of Jewish political power: “Does having superpowers [read: Israel] obligate the mutants [read: Jews] to seek peace with the rest of humanity? Or entitle them to wage war at the first sign of human hatred?”
Eden illustrates the two responses to the Jews-in-danger paradigm as follows: Professor X (read: Greenberg) advocates co-existence and peacemaking, while Magneto (read: Kahane) believes in pre-emptive combat that preserves safety and security. The film is explicit in conveying how the Holocaust shaped Magneto’s attitude towards humanity, but also in delivering Professor X’s message of the “self-destructive nature of anger and hate.”
The real world, Eden says, seems “stuck” between these disparate realities: Bin Laden is dead but the war on terror persists; the Arab Spring has occurred but the future is uncertain; Israelis and Palestinians still seek peace but no deal has been struck. And so on…
As for the video itself, the narration is a bit self-serious for my taste (Eden manages only one quip about Yitz Greenberg’s baldness) but the parallels are perceptive.
See for yourself: