What really got me is this meaningful moment where Kevin Bacon’s character, Sebastian Shaw, looks at “Darwin”, played by Edi Gathegi (Kenyan?), and makes a clear reference to slavery, the “enslavement” of mutants. [This after we’ve seen this fuckery of two white d00des (known as Magneto and Xavier) lounging in front of the Lincoln Memorial playing chess, talking about freedom; after witnessing a mixed raced (Angel/Zoe Kravitz) woman being asked “How would like to have a job where you get to keep your clothes on?” by a white wealthy British man.]
Now, what really, REALLY gets me is that Darwin’s ability is “adapt to survive”. Of course, within the first official demonstration of his abilities, they would script/plot an attack that he CANNOT ADAPT TO! A regurgitated attack from a white mutant, one of his fellows, that kills him.
“Jesus, man, you are killin’ me!” Darwin says to Havoc moments before Havoc’s own powers are used by another white character, the villain, to do just that.
What does this teach us? White villains offering freedom are not your friends and neither are white allies. Even when they aren’t trying, they’re dangerous to our survival.
And we end things the way we started them: with white characters as the good guys. White people are the ones to go stop the war and be the heroes, divided yet heroes.
It teaches us that once a white man decides you’re going to die, other white people are used against you and you will, indeed, die, even if your power is to “adapt to survive”.
Let’s not even discuss how his nickname is “Darwin”, and he is named for Charles Darwin, with that survival of the fittest bullshit and other ideologies used to further racism.
Darwin is a sympathetic yet cruel mix between what I call the three archetypes:
- The Dead Weight: a character who must die in order for the plot/story to go on
- The Sacrificial Lamb: a character who is dispensable and his death or life makes no difference to the plot
- The Catalyst: a character who is usually killed to inspire the heroes to fight on (Phil in The Avengers is a recent example but he was white.)
For Darwin, his death being excused as a Catalyst falls flat, as he is never mentioned again after the X-Men mobilizes with any importance. So it only stands to reason that he falls most securely in the categories of Dead Weight in the interest of white heroes even after his Blackness is used as a foothold for references and allusions to slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. Co-opting and appropriation abound, as long as a token is present.
Darwin’s ability is to “adapt to survive”, yet he doesn’t adapt, ends up dead without a scrap to even bury. He is made invisible and erased from the film, while we chalk up yet another Black character for the Hollywood Film’s “Killed Off/Killed Off First” List.
Even in fiction, its still a white man’s game. Real power lies in the ability to manipulate and influence people’s dreams, imaginations, and fantasies. They can say your power is to adapt to survive and in the same breath kill you by writing the story so that you can’t adapt if they say you can’t.
But I guess you can’t expect anything from the people who enslaved and continue to oppress you, who have always used you for profit and entertainment.