“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Magneto is a Marvel Comics character who has a very well written back story: First, he was a Jewish child who survived Nazi Germany’s concentration camps. He’s witnessed his entire family murdered by the state, so from there he has experience with state-sponsored terrorism with the explicit intent on genocide. Second, as a mutant in Marvel Comics Universe he also observes an entire society, perhaps on a global scale, hate his “kind”. Again, he sees hate crimes, government legislation against his group identity, on top of socialized demonization of mutants of all ages. Does any of this looks relatable? Does any of this looks familiar?
When Magneto was first conceptualized, he wasn’t intended to be a flat-out villain. Magneto was meant to be, technically, an anti-villain. You know how the anti-hero is a hero only by circumstance? An anti-villain is only a villain because of the same. The specifics with Magneto points to the fact that his “cause” isn’t necessarily an evil one. His cause is actually quite noble being that his ideology wishes to protect his social group which is largely demonized by media and government. It’s his means which places his character into question.
Another thing that shoves Magneto into the villain slot is, strange enough, what he thinks of his oppressors. Magneto, in short, hates ordinary humans (the group identity with the most sociological power), and find himself in deep conflict with those who wish to attempt to negotiate with them. Magneto, like the pre-Mecca Malcolm X, doesn’t think his oppressors can be helped or fixed. Magneto is prone to dish out the same demonization upon his oppressors that his oppressors do to him.
The Magneto Complex
The Magneto Complex is a condition we in the social activist community call when you begin to become the demons you are fighting. As a black abolitionist, it’s almost comical on how no matter how well intended you are, no matter how much of the Professor Xavier you are, white supremacy will always conflate you into the Magneto. It’s almost like they can’t tell the difference. Case in point: Black Lives Matter Protesters (a pro-police accountability movement) being outright demonized, slandered as a group who aim to kill police officers. Kill. Think about that for a moment.
If you are already infinitely demonized by a powerful social group, it’s easy to simply hate them,hate everything they stand for. Hate the cognitive dissonance, hate the pathetic rationalizations for killing your group with impunity, hate the resolve to continue with the modern day lynchings, hate the fact that there should be NO SURPRISE if a serial rapist cop gets off due to an all white jury with all black victims, hate the massive concerted effort to delegitimize your statement which is only, “stop killing us”. It’s ruthlessly easy to despise them for showing up at all of the riots, but none of the peaceful protests, walks, marches and speeches. It’s easy to hate them for not listening, blowing you off as if you are a joke or a fad, idiotic or insane. It’s easy to loathe them for how they are quick to point to how angry we get as if we should paralyze ourselves, while they show up with guns pointing at law enforcement personnel that tell you to obey no matter what. What about how the oppression bleeds off against gays, Asians, Latinos and women, all while still oppressing you? How can one not hate the active involvement in our suffering, along side the silence from the majority which enables the rest?
Really, how can a massive group simply allow their fellow human beings to suffer? It’s difficult to not hate these people; they are ruthless. They are callous; colder than a winter snow storm brushing across the northeast.
These people are making numerous Magnetos as I write this article. While I spent a great deal of my time attempting to moderate the more extreme fellows who advocate justice, I’m not going to waste anymore time pondering how do you prevent the Magneto Complex. I really don’t feel like fixing them. While I am currently still the Professor Xavier, I’m not going to fear embracing my inner Magneto… if the time comes. If pushed that far.