Wait, There’s Seriously an “M-Word” Controversy?

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Last week I read “Uncanny Avengers #5.”  It was a good issue. Being the first after the book’s inaugural story arc, it was a largely quiet issue, dedicated to establishing the status quo. In between the addition of three new cast members, we get a bunch of nice little character moments. Scarlet Witch has a problem with the chain-of-command. Sunfire actually seems interesting for once. Havok gives his obligatory “I lead the Avengers now” speech. Stuff goes down at the press conference. The issue ends. That was enjoyable, I thought to myself. Time to move on to my next book.

A few days ago, Josh asks what I think about all of this controversy that “Uncanny Avengers #5” was causing.

…What?

Because I rather ironically avoid comic book news sites (they tend to love spoilers), I missed that there was apparently this massive backlash to Havok’s aforementioned speech. See, Havok is leading what will be called the Unity Team, a team that’s supposed to symbolize cooperative coexistence with mutants. In his speech, he says he finds the word mutant divisive, hates it, and would like to work towards eliminating it. Here’s the page:

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The controversy seems driven by message boards and a particularly scathing article from The Beat. Writer Steve Morris states “The idea that equality is reached via erasing differences is wrong. And the message this scene puts across is that minorities … should want to become invisible and fit into their surroundings.” He’s right, too. As I reread it, I realized how stupid Alex’s vision for the world was. Not only did it create a message that different is wrong, eliminating categorization encourages homogenization in a culture. I found myself thinking it was a bad speech, and Havok was making a complete ass of himself in his first press conference. I got angry at him. What a pretentious prick! The speech even reads like he’s saying “you’re so racist and you didn’t even know it.” On top of all of that, there was one more thought I couldn’t get out of my head.

I was reading a fucking story.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly fair to get pissed at stories. I know Atlas Shrugged is just a story, but I still delete any Facebook friend who lists it in their favorite books. This is different. This wasn’t the beginning of some campaign to end the use of the word mutant, because that obviously isn’t going to happen. That is obvious, right? Because when Morris calls the scene “shameful” and “downright offensive” you’d think that this was a real press conference Marvel themselves put on.

The speech wasn’t even the point of the story, it was the action of one character. I know an Alex Summers. We all know an Alex Summers. We all know that guy who, when forced into a public speaking position, says something he thinks is poignant and ends up looking like a moron. Hell, one of those guys just ran for president. As a long time fan of Havok, one of my favorite aspects of the character is how he’s an extraordinary leader held back by his own self-doubt. This type of blunder wasn’t at all surprising to me. In fact, people doubting Havok’s capacity to lead has been a plot point in the series already, so why was anyone surprised by his speech?

Uncanny Avengers author Rick Remender even emphasized that this was a character choice in his recent defense of the issue and points out that these are not his own views at all. No one else in the book espouses these ideas, so why is the speech being equated with the whole book? Everyone has come across someone who gets all high and mighty about language and race. I could digress for paragraphs about why I refuse to use the term African-American. These people exist in the real world, so what’s so horrible about one showing up in a comic? Feel free to disagree with and dislike the comic book character, but remember, it’s the character telling you you’re wrong for saying mutant, not Rick Remender and not Marvel.

But if there’s one thing comic fans love as much as they hate being told they’re wrong, it’s being angry. This was a slow news week, with little to actually get angry at, so boom, we get this controversy instead of a reasonable reaction. Hey Comic Community, if you ever find yourself wondering why, despite the exploding popularity of comic books and super-heroes, we still have the reputation of being a bunch of angry and/or sad losers with no lives, remember this “M-Word” business. It’s you. It’s your fault. You and The Big Bang Theory. Well, ok, it’s mostly The Big Bang Theory, but you need to take some accountability too.