Friday, May 20, 2016

Professor X and Magneto: A Personal Shipping Manifesto: PART I [AN OVERVIEW OF GENERAL SHIPPINESS]



The sappy, sentimental and dramatic piece of saccharine writing that you just read was the first draft of my Charles/Erik Shipping Manifesto which I started in Microsoft Word last year, but never got to continue because I was too busy reading and reviewing X-Men comics and some novels in between. Nevertheless, I decided that it's about time I write something extensive about Cherik's relationship because this whole sobriety thing isn't working out for me anymore. Essentially, what I I'm trying to say here is that shipping Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr (a.k.a Professor X and Magneto) in all their known incarnations in comics, cartoons and film is my ULTIMATE VICE AND ADDICTION and--as much as it pains me to say this--it's been at least seven months and twenty-one days since my last indulgence (NOTE: I started writing this entry on January 21, 2016). Sobriety over not shipping these adorable fucks is pretty depressing, given the amount of fangasmic moments I usually experience whenever I discuss about this pairing at the height of my addiction (which spurted around mid-May 2014 right after watching X-Men: First Class for the second time with a friend). I've been bottling it all up inside in the last seven months because it is my utmost intention that I COMPLETELY BREAKDOWN by the time the next film of the franchise rolls around this year (X-Men: Apocalypse). I've so much love for Cherik pouring out of my pores that it's horrifying and disgustingly adhesive--as if I could just glue myself to this pairing forever. AND I CAN. Don't even challenge me, you naive, non-shipping reader who is probably creeped out by all of this.

Just looking back on the copious amounts of hours I spent Cherik-ing in social media is a pleasurable burn to my clitoris

Now that I have finished my 2015 X-Men Comics Diet, I can focus on writing the three essays I promised to deliver in the middle of 2016 and, understandably, the top of that list had to be this entry, and I'm going to take my sweet, sweet time writing this too, building up with the necessary and intense foreplay before rocking all your collective worlds with the uncomfortable penetrations that will ensue in all orifices available for Cherik you never asked to witness or read about. If you don't want to fall in the rabbit-hole of my seriously crippling obsession with Charles/Erik ship then I suggest you STOP READING NOW. It will get worse--infinitely more contrived, ramble-y and insane as this entry develops. If you still wish to venture on then--*soft chuckle with a Kubrick-esque smile plastered on my face* you...are...most...welcome.


WARNING: I shall be using various images about Cherik which will be composed of fan art and graphics that I did not make myself, and I may never get to credit them properly during the course of this manifesto. I apologize if you have seen your work used here without accreditation (mostly because they're images I saved and I don't even remember the places online I got them from). But please take comfort in the fact that I shall use your illustrations for the best of Cherikdom. Before we begin, here is the outline for the manifesto which I kept in a personalized Cherik journal (And yes, I own one):


Always go an extra mile of madness to express your obsession, folks!




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THE CARTOONS: Old Geezers and their issues

I continue writing this post in May this time (it's officially been ten months and 4 days since I last indulged in Cherik), so it's time to talk about my introduction to the X-Men which was the nineties cartoon series X-Men: The Animated Series. I had re-watched a few episodes from this childhood love of mine, and though it doesn't hold up nearly as amazingly as other superhero cartoon adaptations (hello, Batman: The Animated Series), there is still some understated charm and quirkiness to the kids' show itself that solidified a lot of my fan-favorite moments and character interpretations even to this day. Not all of them, of course. I used to have a crush on Gambit growing up (mostly because I've pretended to be Rogue as an eight-year-old girl; as well as Pink Power Ranger, but that's neither here or there). Now, I don't like Gambit. I just don't. Let's move on.

Ah, the nineties...
Xavier and Magnus (that's Magneto's canonical name--it was only later that it was changed to 'Erik') were leaders of opposing forces; Xavier with his X-Men, and Mags with his subtly deemed Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Having different ideals and methods with no room for compromise is difficult enough, but having a history of friendship and bromance with your sworn enemy is another level of angst altogether. Their story pretty much follows the comics; the two gentlemen met at Israel where they worked in a clinic for Holocaust survivors. They instantly hit it off. Both Xavier and Mags would talk about hypothetical moral conundrums like, "Dude, what if a superpowered race of alternate humans become possible. How do you think normal folk would react and shit?", "Like, dude, they would totes turn on them superpowered people because humanity is all, like, envious and ignorant and shit", "Nah, dude. You need to see the best in people more", "No way, dude, humans suck. Gimme superpowered people any day, fo sho!".

Like, for real-reals, yo!

Disagreeing in this fundamental level caused some friction between the two, but they still continued on with their friendship because they're true comrades who intellectually intrigue and challenge each other. However, this was put to the test when one of the patients (Xavier was irresponsibly also dating) was kidnapped by a bunch of Nazi fuckers. Now Mags, being a Holocaust survivor himself, will not put up with that shit and so joins Xavier to rescue the girl. During a violent confrontation, both men reveal that they have superpowers to each other. This would have been a great moment when, once again, Xavier and Mags would become even closer than before now that they share yet another common factor, but Mags went all gung-ho and took it too far. He almost killed the Nazis. I personally don't see anything wrong with that, but self-righteous baby Xavier does not want blood on his hands at all, and stops Mags from his rampage. Mags wasn't happy about that, and the two parted ways in bitter terms.

But check 'em magnetic waves, ya'll

A personal favorite episode of most Cherik shippers in the cartoons was when the two dorks got trapped in Savage Land which was inhabited by prehistoric creatures like dinosaurs and wannabe Tarzans. It's a two-parter where neither men can use their powers, but hey at least Charles is walking! It's mostly a reunion/getaway episodic story that is filled with laugh-out-loud hijinks and subtext. As it turns out, the villain Mister Sinister (read: not a stripper name) had abducted them for the evil-lulz, and they have to fight their way through the jungle and get back home to their respective teams. Now I can't stress how ridiculous and shippy the entire ordeal of this two-parter Cherik shippines, so I'll let the message come across through these series of fan-arts from Tumblr:



Meanwhile, another momentous SUBTEXT OF HOMO happens when, during the cartoons' finale:


The thing that really gets me about Xavier and Magnus in the cartoons is how devoted they are to one another. Whenever the X-Men and the Brotherhood would do battle against each other, their leaders don't act antagonistically at all with one another--it almost feels as if it was a marriage undergoing a stressful amount of conflict and disagreements, and the mutants they are leading were simply caught up in a custodial battle. I remember being a kid and actually wondering why Xavier and Mags just don't kill each other if they are such bad enemies, and only after finishing the cartoons did I realize (at eight years old, mind you) that these two old geezers were simply 'friends arguing and could still make up when the time is right'. I haven't shipped them yet, but I did recognize that they really should just stop fighting and be BFFs once more.

Hug it out, homebros, just hug it alllllll out...


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FIRST-CLASS GAYNESS: 


Now let's fast-forward to my favorite adaptation of the relationship. Understandably and pretty fucking obviously, it's no other than the 2011 masterpiece X-Men: First Class otherwise known as 'the film in which McAvoy and Fassbender are the gayest heterosexual men in the history of cinema, and that I personally blame their version of Cherik for my disease'. How do I even begin to describe XMFC? Oh, how about the many moments that in the film that reconstructed my perception about love, friendship, and the concept of soulmates? Are you guys ready? Prepare the tissues...

When a young telepath by the name of Charles Xavier (played by the dashing darling Scottish actor James McAvoy) crossed paths with Holocaust survivor Erik Lehnsherr (a role magnanimously filled by the brilliant Michael Fassbender) who has the mutant ability of controlling metal, their connection was so instant (that pivotal scene where Charles dives in to rescue Erik from drowning not just in the ocean but mostly due to his reckless vendetta)—often subtle yet surprisingly strong with a depth and intensity that was hard to miss. It could easily be due to the two actors’ on-screen chemistry (both McAvoy and Fassbender are great friends and do occasionally publicize in interviews how playfully smitten they are of each other) or the desired result of the screenwriters and director when they interpreted the relationship between the characters with unmistakable romanticism.

"It is arguable that the seemingly garden-variety superhero action-flick X-Men: First Class is  actually foremost a ‘love story’ between these two men, and a parable about tolerance, ideology and  diversity second." 

Whatever it is, one thing is for certain: the XMFC interpretation of their rivalry has sparked the interest and captivated the hearts and imaginations of numerous fans everywhere. These same fans also considered and took to heart the relationship between Charles and Erik to be an earnestly passionate yet ultimately tragic story of two men gifted with immense powers being able to find an equal in each other in a world that denounces and persecutes their mutant kind. Both are aspiring leaders with tremendous amounts of dedication to see their vision for radical change be made reality, and yet the one obstacle that got in the way of them securing a fruitful alliance was the differences in their ideals and methods of accomplishing them.


The most favorable way of looking at their story is through a more personal level: what Charles and Erik had for one another is true love, one that knows no creed, race or sexual orientation. The reason why a lot of their female fans would often ‘ship’ them in a romantic and sexual context is perhaps brought out by the narrative framing and subtext present in X-Men: First Class where most of their scenes play out like a courtship sequence that eventually led into marriage but ended in heartbreak and divorce. There is a lot of unspoken moments in the film itself that lend themselves into subtext and open interpretation, particularly the composition of Charles and Erik’s dynamics as characters and the true nature of their feelings for one another. It would do the relationship an injustice, however to merely describe it as blatantly homoerotic even for someone such as myself who does believe that is the case. I would rather concur that what Charles and Erik have goes beyond the sexual and the romantic. It is intimate without the sexuality, amorous without the romance. 


Theirs is a connection so delicate yet so remarkably fierce while we the viewers could only watch in awe and anticipation as it unfolds in our screens. 

One scene where we see Charles reaching out to Erik’s mind using his telepathy, uncovering a beautiful memory about his late mother in order to help Erik unlock his hidden potentials. Raw and sore like scar tissue, we know that Erik has been mentally and emotionally brutalized as a Jewish teenager under Nazi oppression, and this hinders him from fully taking control of his mutant abilities. Through Charles’ compassion and willingness to look beyond the darkness in Erik’s heart, both men are then able to locate where his true power lies—the point between rage and serenity. Charles reaffirms that there is goodness in Erik as long as he is brave enough to access it. Little did he know that by helping Erik find his center, Charles has created the very man who will stand against him in the later years, the tragedy of which will be realized as the film reaches that painful crescendo later on.


And that moment came when Erik goes back to the clutches of darkness, forcing Charles out of his system by putting on a helmet that dissuades Charles’ telepathy from communicating and influencing him. It was a symbolic barricade that seals his rejection of the love and companionship that Charles has offered him with, and chooses a path of violence and hatred instead. But Erik himself felt betrayed as well when Charles refused to share his vision of a new world for the mutants. 

Looking into each other’s eyes as he held him close, Erik swore for the first and final time that he wanted Charles fighting the war by his side because they do want the same things. And Charles apologizes and refutes the statement, unknowingly driving the wedge further between them. 


With both men heartbroken and at loss with words, Erik then lets Charles slip away from his arms and stands up in order to recruit the other mutants to join him in his crusade. He leaves Charles behind with a damaged spine and the bitter aftertaste of what they had and what could have if they chose each other instead of clinging stubbornly to their opposing ideals. But perhaps it’s the price required in order to move forward with their battles: to be bereft of each other.



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Tons of online articles have discussed the relationship of Charles and Erik in this adaptation, and the general consensus seems to celebrate the chemistry between the actors, and the respective character developments that occurred in both Charles and Erik that are dependent of each other. In article entitled, "True Bromance: The Magnetic Attraction between X-Men’s Professor X and Magneto" written by Christoper Morgan from heroes and Heartbreakers blog, he examined the stark differences in both their upbringings and experiences that both drew them to one another at first, but consequently drove them apart by the end of the film:

"Charles was born to a family of New York blue bloods. Knowing that his ability to read minds set him apart from everyone else, a brain that size can be intimidating to man and woman alike, and also realizing that there he wasn’t every really alone in his unique abilites, Charles turned his familial home into a school for gifted youngsters. Erik, on the other hand, has led a life of pain. He is the Jewish child of Nazi Europe, and the only survivor in his family.  The man has seen the very depths of human depravity and evil. He knows that being different makes a person a target and a victim, not special. He also has seen first hand what humans do to people that they see as different. He also is determined to never again be a victim."


"The two boys met in their younger years and shared a few passionate afternoons, evenings, and sometimes mornings, lost in the throes of heated debate about the nature of mutant rights. They worked tirelessly to bring about real change for their  brothers and sisters. They saw a new dawn coming to humanity and knew that if they didn’t take up the charge to guide it, things would go horribly wrong. But there was a darkness in Erik, one that not even Charles, no matter how big his intellect, could penetrate. Knowing that they would never be able to agree, Erik broke from the side of his one-time partner and formed the malevolent Brotherhood of Mutants."

As for the film's subtext, the article "Is 'X-Men: First Class' the Love Story of Professor X and Magneto" written by Sara Jaffe from Alternet site makes an argument that XMFC's theme (as most of the previous X-Men movies have done so in the past) is likening the outright prejudice against mutants to that of the suppression of homosexuality. The relationship between Charles and Erik also touches upon issues of intimacy. The following passages for me truly explain sufficiently the undercurrent of tension and ongoing oppression among all the characters in the film, but chiefly that of Erik's:

"For a while, it is intimacy that truly gives Erik strength—Charles' ability to literally get inside his head is what increases his power, teaches him to focus it. But when faced with Shaw, who has now created the Cuban Missile Crisis, Charles cannot understand the levels of damage inflicted on young Erik. To carry the mutant powers as sexuality metaphor one step further, Shaw's abuse of young Erik's powers carries a trauma very like sexual abuse, and it's something Erik is too deeply wounded by and ashamed of to share even with CharlesAnd so they can hold each other's hands through the first part of the attack, through finding Shaw, but when it comes time to stare all his childhood trauma in the face, Erik must shut his love out of his head. He must use the helmet Shaw created to block out Charles for himself. Shaw, meanwhile, is the very embodiment of straight masculinity, of warmongering patriarchy. Shaw absorbs and reflects energy, turns it on his enemies, and treats the woman in his life (Emma Frost, as many have noted totally wasted in this film) like crap. In fighting him, Erik winds up becoming like him. He winds up becoming Magneto.

It's actually one of the movie's least believable twists, that abuse from a fellow mutant turned Erik against humanity and made him believe that mutants are superior. Still, his fate was sealed the minute he put on Shaw's helmet and closed out the possibility of true intimacy. Or did he? Would Charles have eventually failed Erik the same way he failed Mystique, willing to be friends and companions but ultimately rejecting his love? It's a bullet from human CIA agent Moira MacTaggart's gun that hits Charles, but it's Erik's deflection that sent it into his spine. Charles gets to be the martyr for the human race that he wanted to be, and as he lies in Erik's arms he wastes his last opportunity to keep Erik by his side, the way he claimed to want.


My personal favorite essay written about XMFC's Cherik is from the dreamwidth user labingi. She stresses that the film in her perspective (which I share as a fellow shipper) is indeed a love story between two men in a lot more complicated ways that could only be realized if one takes the time to dig deeper. Here are excerpts from her article which I strongly agree with:



The essayist leaves us with this hopeful yet devastating message which captures the essence of Professor X and Magneto's relationship all across its adaptations from comics to film. This truly resonates for me:


"The crowning power of Charles/Erik ship is that it soldiers on past its brief, intoxicating idyll into years of hardship, anger, and distrust--wounded but never dying."



In my next post entitled "Part II: The Comics and the Events Therein that Defined Them", I will proceed to further flood you with needless yet unavoidable FEELS of the comics kind where Professor X and Magneto's relationship were tested time and time again. My analysis will be based on certain key storylines and issues which have astounding occasions of sadness and despair. I will be dissecting all the Cherik-centered comics I've read in the past year and why you should read them for yourselves.

2 comments:

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    1. Thank you! There are two more parts to come for this manifesto :)

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