Morrison and dehuminization

Posted by Squares (8661 posts) - - Show Bio
Grant Morrison is a very talented writer, well-known both for his witty dialogue as well as his skill in writing action sequences. However, while writing for the New X-men title back in the early 2000s, he showed off a desire to bring political and humanitarian issues into the world of comics; from transgender issues to human rights, he seemed to make a beeline for as many emotionally-charged topics he could. Perhaps he was trying to be 'controversial'?
One theme, however, pops up on at least two occasions within his writing- dehumanization. What's funny is that he used almost identical phrasing in both occasions. The aforementioned occurrences are pictured below, in order of appearance:

You may have noticed that the second picture's wording is slightly odd. 'Pain of existence'? Isn't that an emo band? No, wait, that's Pain of Salvation. Still, it states that mutants feel pain differently than humans. The first picture's wording is more direct, identical in content but different in meaning(Keep in mind this takes place during the Planet X story arc, in which Magneto marched humans en masse into ovens). By stating that humans can't feel pain like mutants, Esme is attempting to re-enforce her point that Homo Sapiens (the judgmental human) is an inferior life form.
 What does this mean? Magneto has long believed that Mutants exist as the true inheritors of the earth (Note that he, on one occasion, told the three remaining Stepford Cuckoos that they would 'inherit the Earth'- is this a reference to their sister, Esme, or is he calling them meek?). By stating that humans are inferior, it's implied that mutants, therefore, have the right to do with humanity as they please- as beasts of burden, sources of food or entertainment, etc. Specifically, it's doing something far more profound to their human victims- dehumanizing. Often attached to the term ' compartmentalization', dehumanization is simply when one views a human being as being less than human, and are therefore undeserving of the dignity, respect and kindness that all human beings are seen as entitled to (human rights, that kind of thing). It's also famously attributed to being a large force in human rights abuses before and during WWII, especially those within concentration camps. An ordinary person would wonder at exactly how twisted one would have to be in order to perform some of the disgusting acts carried out by individuals like Mengele, let alone how one could justify participating in the extermination of innocent human beings as a member of the Nazi party. The answer, for the most part, is merely that those involved didn't see their victims as being human. Once you remove an individual's humanity, you take away their rights, ability to reason, even their capacity to love or hate or feel sadness or pain.
When the U-man pictured above states that mutant pain is different than that of humans, he's calling mutants inferior, therefore allowing his comrades to attack the school without the burden of guilt. Think about their intent- the U-men want to seize the school in order to operate it like an organ farm. 
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, I'd like to refer (only in passing) to a manga series by Akihito Yoshitomiknown as Ray. Therein, the titular character, a young woman known as Ray, grew up on an organ farm, in which children were kept in a facility that would sell off their organs to individuals, usually on the black market. The individuals working at the facility fed and watered the children, cleaned the building, harvested their organs, but never interacted with them in any other capacity, and saw them as less than human. 
The U-men want Xavier's as a sort of holding place for mutants, so that their organs can be harvested at leisure. Wings, x-ray eyes, tails, claws, anything that would grant special abilities to it's host; all are sought by Sublime's followers. At different points throughout the four or so comics preceding the one this picture originates from, various U-men have displayed qualms about harming the individuals they seek to exploit- one pauses when ordered to cut off Cyclops' head, another states his remorse at having to harm the members of Xavier's in order to obtain the organs they require. Each circumstance is met with another U-man re-enforcing the concept of mutants being subhuman, which is meant to allow the individual in question to continue with his task without experiencing guilt or disgust at his own actions. 
While heavy-handed (at best), Morrison satisfactorily displays the necessity of dehumanization in committing atrocities.
#1 Posted by Tavai (72 posts) - - Show Bio

Great points all around! I think that Morrison's use of dehumanization gave an edge to the tired Humans vs. Mutant dichotomy in X-Men lore. Prior to Morrison the hate between Homo Sapien and Superior was chalked up only to ignorance and fear, by allowing the characters to dehumanize each other the endgame seems all the more dire. As an Ethnic Studies scholar I've often analyzed the X-Men through the various critical race theory lens and it seems I've overlooked dehumanization in the books. I think adding that touch to the X-Men also makes the hate between to two races more realistic, because hate is violent, and violence is barbaric, unless justified like killing something sub-human. Native Americans and slaves were believed by American colonists to be less than human as a means to justify genocide or enslavement and it seems justly fit to exist in the X-Men universe. Anyway, cheers on a great article!

#2 Posted by Squares (8661 posts) - - Show Bio
@Tavai: The funny thing is that the dehumanization angle seems to be approached solely within the New X-men, during Morrison's run.

This edit will also create new pages on Comic Vine for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Comic Vine users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.