Darwin is code for Civil Rights.

This is my favorite examples of subtext in X-Men First Class. Besides being beautiful, it’s also extremely moving once you understand what the scene is all about.

Charles and Erik, at the point in the film, are scouring the globe for mutants like themselves. There are *several layers* of subtext in this entire montage- which I’ll detail once I get the finished subtext into a coherent post- but I’ve chosen the scene where Charles and Erik find and recruit the African-American mutant known as Darwin. He’s currently working as a cab driver in New York City, and the scene begins with Charles and Erik climbing into the back of Darwin’s cab.

Immediately, the scene seems strange. Why? Because this cab has absolutely no partition between the driver and the passengers. It’s just open space. However, despite that, when Erik and Charles get into the cab, Darwin decides to address them through the rear view mirror, even though he could just turn around and look right at them. So, right off the bat, the subtext is set up where Darwin is looking into a mirror and the reflection is Charles and Erik.

Illustrated here:



(note Charles’ arm around Erik and their close proximity to one another. It stays that way for the duration of the scene.)

“Where to, fellas?” Darwin asks Erik and Charles.

Erik responds with “Richmond, Virgina, please.”

Darwin laughs, responding with “Right, so you want the airport, the station, what?”


And this line of dialogue leads into this *amazing* exchange between Erik, Charles, and Darwin. The scene switches back to Erik and Charles, but this time as the reflection in the rear view mirror. Charles responds with the innuendo/subtext laden line (which he says as seductively as fucking possible): “We were rather hoping you would…take us all the way.” As soon as Charles says the word “would,” Erik turns to look at him, and Charles eyes move to Erik’s reflection in the mirror, sees Erik looking at him, and ends with “take us all the way.”



Oh, it’s gorgeous, isn’t it?

Darwin responds with (still addressing them through the mirror) “That’s a six hour drive.”

Erik says: “That’ll give us plenty of time to talk.” As he says that, he raises his hand to lower the taximeter, using a gesture I’ve never seen him use in any other films, and strangely resembles the iconic “benediction” or blessing gesture attributed to Christ in ancient and medieval art. (Which I find interesting, considering Erik is a Jewish man.)


So, yeah, weird scene, huh? But it’s so beautiful, and let me tell you why:

1) Despite there being no partition in the cab, and Darwin could easily just turn around and talk to Erik and Charles, the entirety of their conversation happens in the rear view mirror. Why is that significant? Because it’s pointing to the correlation between civil rights (which were THE issue in the 60s, which is the time period in which this film takes place) and gay rights, which are THE rights issue today. Darwin and the two men reflect one another because their fight for rights and recognition are the same.

2) Darwin. His name says it all. The writers/director could have picked any character from the enormous X-Men universe, but they chose him. Why? Because his name is synonymous with evolution. Civil rights in the 60s were part of evolution, so are gay rights. And he is the one driving the cab- evolution is in the driver’s seat, baby.

3) The entirety of the dialogue is riddled with subtext. “Where to fellas?” (Where is evolution headed next?) “Richmond, VA, please.” (This place is significant, but part of another post. I’ll deal with it later.) “Right, so you want the airport, the station, what?” (Do you want to get there faster/take another route/take another form of transportation to your end goal?) “We were rather hoping you would take us all the way.” (Obvious sexual innuendo and gazes between Erik and Charles during this line aside, they’re asking evolution to take them all the way to the day when gay marriage/love is legalized/accepted.) “That’s a six hour drive.” (That’s gonna be a while, and it’s gonna be pricey/take a lot/require serious work.) “That’ll give us plenty of time to talk.” (We can discuss the particulars through time/discuss things and work them out/figure out how to reach our goal of acceptance.)

4. Darwin is African-American. He is looking at Erik and Charles not only as a reflection in the mirror, but at the two men *behind* him. As in, he’s looking at the past to his own civil rights battles. Charles and Erik are looking forward to their own. Note that Darwin’s face is never shown in the rear view mirror- why? Because the focus is now on Erik and Charles/gay rights, and Darwin sees them as his reflection, not his own face because even though the battle of racism continues, the civil rights advocates won the war, therefore Darwin/black race/evolution is in the driver’s seat.

5. This entire conversation takes place in NYC- which is where Darwin is from, and where same sex marriage was famously legalized in 2011, the same year this film was released.

(and once again, I love the mixing of faiths here with Erik’s Christlike “Christian” gesture in direct contrast to his Jewish upbringing.)

Isn’t that beautiful? It’s so beautiful. When I first saw this scene for what it was, I cried my eyes out. I realized, for the first time, that this trilogy of X-Men films references past (and still raging) rights battles- women, African-American, children, gingers- no, I’m not kidding- anyone who is different and has been stigmatized for it.), but the *core* of the story is about gay rights and same sex love/marriage as symbolized by Erik and Charles/Professor X and Magneto. (I mean, let’s face it, these two have been in love for forever. It’s about time they get their due.) Beautiful, isn’t it? This amazing universe of mutants is precious to us because of it’s universal and timeless message that can continually be updated and retold to reflect whatever rights battles are being fought in the current age. (And why I love the graphic novel series so much, or even why I’m a fangirl at all.)

Please, writers/directors/producers of this updated trilogy: give us Erik and Charles. It’s so important, so vitally important that people see this, recognize it, confront it, so they- and we as a species- can move forward. Please let love win out. Turn the tears and heartbreak from the break-up on the beach-


(fucking GOD, their expressions.)

and bring them back home, together, hand in hand and side by side to teach, guide, and integrate their  community into the world, so that we may all benefit from their love:


(From Claremont’s X-Men Excalibur series where Charles and Erik finally move in together.)



(Note all the x’s in the fencing. X’s are all over the place in the films. X marks the spot.)




(PS- isn’t Darwin’s smile dazzling? I love him.)


~ by hln351 on March 31, 2015.

One Response to “Darwin is code for Civil Rights.”

  1. Reblogged this on charlesanderik2016.

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