No, they don’t need to but, it isn’t all that simple. Not anymore.
Right off the top, let me make it known that I’m not advocating for any changes to these two iconic characters. However, if you didn’t think that this, or something similar was going to come up- then you’ve been in a very deep state of denial for a long time. The chances of the new woke MCU maintaining the status quo of a mostly white X-Men team, being led by a rich white man, have been hovering around zero since Spring of this year. It doesn’t help that the X-Men’s most infamous antagonist is also very white. There was bound to be a shake-up. Something told me that Magneto would be the prime target of producers. What I didn’t anticipate were rumors of both characters being race-bent.
The Issue of Magneto’s Origins In Modern Day
People seem to be hung up on one aspect of this debacle. The possibility of making both Magneto and Xavier black men. It’s not all seated in bias or paranoia, but due to the same rumor. Word was getting around that they wanted ‘people of color,’ but the internet set ablaze when a couple of names were attached to the project. Just rumors at this point, but those names were Will Smith and Academy Award Winner, Denzel Washington. While I’m a fan of both men, especially Denzel, I can’t honestly see either in either role. Though if either man would be given the job, the character(s) would have to be adjusted accordingly. Classic characterizations would most certainly have to go out of the window to make space for the style and swagger that these two men bring on set. (Related: Pete Buttigieg on X-Men Magneto and Professor X: “I Don’t Think There Is Anything About the Role That Makes it White”)
Here’s the thing though. People are getting hung up on the wokeness and not appreciating the real issues of the matters. Any survivor of the Holocaust that’s still alive today will be around 90 years of age or older. If Magneto would have to be that old, then Xavier would also have to be close to the same age. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think it makes much sense from a narrative or financial perspective to have leading men that old in an action franchise. Much less, the very beginning of one primed to earn billions of dollars.
Xavier’s background isn’t much of an issue. His origins can be adapted to any era, but if he’s to have a relationship similar to any version we’ve seen, his age will have to be linked to Magneto’s. It’s not something that’s set in stone, but the dynamics and dichotomy that exists between the two characters are essential to keeping them recognizable.
Now, does this mean that the men have to be black? No. Not necessarily. Though it does give the writers a clean route to use the Civil Rights movement to fuel Magneto instead of the horrors of the Holocaust, there are other options. I mean, not many tragedies that stack up to the ones of Magneto’s background, but the next worst incident in recent history, in my opinion, did take place in Africa – The Rwandan Genocide. If they go another direction, perhaps they could twist the stories of Waco, Texas, or have Eric morning a loss stemming from the 9/11 attacks? Maybe the Oklahoma bombings? Thankfully, pickings for this kind of character motivation are slim. There just aren’t that many tragedies impactful enough which can logically take the place of the Holocaust.
Options – The Good, the Bad, and the Inexcusable
While race-bending is the easiest and most effective means of increasing wokeness (patent-pending) across the board, it’s not the only option they have. There are other avenues the producers and writers can take with relative ease. All very sci-fi in nature, but not all equal in inventiveness.
Slowing Down Time
Does anyone remember the Fox TV show, Sliders? Well, if you’re not familiar with the series, it revolved around a group of explorers stumbling their way through the multi-verse in search of their home, Earth.
Each version of Earth they visited was different from their own. Some were extremely different, while others only had slight changes. One of the worlds they journeyed to was almost identical to the one they knew, except for one huge factor – time moved exceptionally slower. Instead of it being the 1990s, the universe had only reached the 1970s. Like many of the world’s they visited before, the Sliders existed there as well, albeit about 20-years younger than they currently were.
Something similar could be done with the X-Men. With Doctor Strange about to break through the walls of the Marvel Cinematic multiverse, the chances of this are better than ever. Not to mention, we’ve got no clue what’s in store for the MCU after the Disney Plus series, WandaVision. A combination of the two features could very easily (maybe ‘easily’ is the wrong word) create a way for the X-Men (and Magneto) to be brought into the MCU while maintaining their origins.
It’s funny that we’re talking about this before we even have a single mutant in the MCU. That alone will more than likely take some reality-bending if they don’t go the Ultimate Universe route (gene-therapy spread via viral infection). (Related: Kevin Feige Reveals Deleted Iron Man Post-Credit Scene That Confirms Mutants Exist in Marvel Cinematic Universe)
That’s a lot of ground to cover to explain away a plot hole. As keen as MCU audiences have become, I don’t believe they’d be interested in a plot that’s so convoluted, nor do I think Kevin Feige would subject us to it.
Another tried to true option is de-aging Magneto and Xavier. In the books, Xavier didn’t receive any help in that department, he’s just old. Nevertheless, Magneto was able to hold onto his six-pack and ripped triceps when he actually did cut 25 to 30 years off of his advancing age. It could be done quickly and would allow the story to progress, but it’d hardly be earned.
Mutants Age Slower
The last option is probably the worst and the downright laziest. It’s come up a couple of times over the last few months and once within the last week for me (thank you, Twitter). It’s simple. Say mutants, or just Magneto and Professor X, age slower than normal humans. That’s it. To be honest, it’s so simplistic, it’s downright insulting to even consider. I find it laughable that anyone would even entertain something so dull and unimaginative. But desperate times, I suppose…
In terms of diversity, the X-Men haven’t always been all that… well, diverse in terms of identity. At least not until 1975, more than 10-years after the franchise’s launch (though a good chunk of those years was spent in limbo). With only three non-Caucasian characters in the team’s history up until the early 90s, coupled with today’s tumultuous climate, there was going to be change.
However, with the catalog of X-Men characters, Feige has at his disposal, the last thing he needs to do is alter a character. His first X-Men team doesn’t have to be the Original 5, or any configuration we’ve seen thus far.
It’s important to understand that being opposed to the changing of these characters doesn’t make you a monster, but I urge fans to argue along the proper parameters. At the same time, those that are up in arms about the need for “representation” at all costs, will never be satisfied no matter what concessions are made.