Logan Spoilers. My brother and I grew up with the X-men cartoon and comics. Saturday morning if we missed X-Men, our week was a dried up raisin of a dream deferred. It was serious business. And no episode was complete without Wolverine, any X-men fan knew that. Wolverine’s always been my dude, hands down. What super powers would you want, Preshona? Wolverine’s. Dang, that was quick, you didn’t need a moment to think about it? Nope. Only thing that could make it better is if I could fly too, but see, Wolvy does this leap thing that’s pretty dope as well.
So to hear this was the last movie with him was like: why us? I mean everybody else gets to keep their superheroes. Superman ain’t going no where, Spidey’s got longevity. Batman never seems to stop being a young, rich, charmless white dude. So why they gotta make Logan all old and a martyr–oh. That’s when it hits me. X-men has always been a metaphor for the Black Power/Civil Rights Movement [Stan Lee-confirmed fact], and there in my subconscious, Wolverine was never just a short, grumpy, hairy white Canadian dude. And honestly, piecing together everything I’ve ever known about my favorite fictional superhero, he shared a lot with my real life ones. Now, Hugh plays a great version of the comic icon, and seems to be a real nice guy to boot. So, not taking anything away from my man Hugh. But let’s look at this metaphorically, right. There really was never anything white about the dude, if you really look at it.
1.) “To be Black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” – James Baldwin. Wolverine arguably went through the most trauma than most any other mutant. Because he’s lived the longest. And living through generations of persecution and the pain of losing loved ones [slavery, Cointelpro, assassinations, redlining, social engineering, the 13th amendment, medical experimentation, front lining in every war, exclusion, segregation, diminishment, etc.,] can make you feel like a lone wolf in a sea of privilege. Makes sense why most of the other mutants don’t necessarily resonate with him. Wolverine is like Kevin on Real World who just doesn’t vibe with all the rest of the folks in the house because his experience is different from theirs- but he rides for them, regardless. In the cartoon, he did take to the only other troubled black-haired, tan skinned youngster in the school, Jubilee. I remember that. Maybe why I saw Wolverine as an avuncular figure in cartoon world, like I did Malcolm in the real one.
2.) He was a Tuskegee Experiment. Supremacist Colonel Stryker ran experiments on him because of his powers, to see how much he could handle and how to manipulate those powers for his agenda to destroy mutants. In the Tuskegee experiments, U.S. scientists injected a group of Black men with syphillis, never told them they had it, and then never treated them – even when they found the cure. This was through the course of 1932 – 1972. 40 years.
3.) They manipulated Wolverine’s memories in order to best control him for their purposes.
Something like historical erasure. Which is why we homeschool. Remember this?
4.) The Storm-Wolverine symbolism. Wolverine’s long-standing relationship in the cartoon was with Storm, the African deity of lightning and Nature, like a female Shango of the Yoruba faith. Almost like commentary on connecting to one’s ancestral roots builds the strongest of relationships. Granted Wolverine has had a lot of relationships in the comics due to his age and appeal, but when you piece together that Storm’s only other main relationships were with Black Panther, an African prince of Wakanda and Forge, a Native American mutant of the Cheyenne Nation: Wolverine in this context makes sense for the spirits to which she is intrinsically drawn.
5.) The Jean Grey attraction. Disclaimer: love is love, in all its colors and diversity. Just thinking of the interesting symbology of the forbidden love between Jean Grey and Wolverine, in the context of this article of racial identity. Dr. Francis Welsing speaks on the forbidden inter-racial attraction thing experienced by some. She wrote of a phenomenon exhibited by some white women in which they experience a strong innate physical attraction to athletic Black men, in spite of their familiarity and comfort with white men, e.g. Cyclops, Wolverine’s polar opposite in the cartoons. I think we’ve all heard the stereotype, or witnessed it. I had a homie in college named –altering names for respect– Wele. He played for our basketball team. You don’t know how many countless white female peers and friends approached me like “You’re friends with Wele?? Could you tell him about me?” The man had a girlfriend : ). One of my close friends, who was Irish American, once told me she had this unexplainable desire to have a Black baby. Sort of something like this lol: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7xOb1qwXbc. Dr. Welsing wasn’t lying, man: ). And it is not to say that real whole feelings and relationships cannot be experienced interracially: they absolutely have. It’s just an interesting observable phenomenon that occurs at times and that may find some parallel in this story. In the case of Jean Grey, she’s a great, compassionate gal, who is not depicted as superficial by any means. She would just never leave Cyclops for her attraction to Logan, adding to Logan’s pain and her own confusion. Some fans say Jean Grey was his true love; I don’t deny they had something. I also don’t deny this potential underlying factor of why they could never be. Ultimately, I think it is possible that Wolverine was the unfamiliar for her, a culture she didn’t understand and even subconsciously feared, as it was so far from her comfort zone. Not the case for every interracial relationship, just those women who find themselves drawn to it but subconsciously fear it or think it “wrong, discomforting or unnatural”. Of course this could just be forbidden love with no racial implications, as it is depicted in the comics – but it just adds an extra layer within this context.
6.) This strong hint in Logan.
Remember this? 245 years. About as old as Old Man Logan.
7.) Why make Logan aged, a “junkie”, and ultimately assassinated and the X-Men killed by governmental groups and their leader? When you follow the history of the Black Panthers, you’ll see a parallel storyline: young, powerful, organized, with strong ideas for the community — to persecuted and infiltrated. In that process of infiltration, some were cruelly assassinated. Fred Hampton, like Professor X, was killed while he was asleep in his bed. Some, like the powerful Huey Newton, were taken in by the introduction of drugs into their communities [which, according to San Jose Mercury journalist Gary Web’s exposee Dark Alliance, was also led by government agencies like the CIA and the FBI].
((7b. – and whose hair really just stands up like that? You know Wolverine wasn’t using no dag-on hairspray, be real.))
8.) Laura, X-23, an invincible girl of Mexican descent, as his heir.
There was powerful symbology with making Laura the lab-produced daughter of Wolverine and a kidnapped Mexican woman. I traveled once to Ciudad Juarez, a city notorious for mysterious kidnappings of Mexican maquiladora workers, whose bodies were ultimately found raped and killed. We interviewed the local police about the devastating issue: they knew nothing. Nothing. How do you know nothing? A cover-up seemed clear and very upsetting. J-Lo acted in a film about this tragedy: please check it out. For the Logan writers to create a back-story to this horrendous real life cover-up as a means of starting a controlled, genetically manipulated X-force was quite symbolic. As the cult-classic Get Out (I’m claiming it) hints, countless black and brown lives have been found missing and brutally murdered, with no public outrage from our governments. What is the reason? To have Laura be the product of an oppressed Mexican woman and the coveted DNA of a potential symbol of Black power is a statement reminiscent of the Brown Berets, the militant Mexican American group inspired and influenced directly by the Black Panthers.
9.) Wolverine’s assassination, through the chest: the “X” placed at his grave. As heart-renching as it was to see your invincible childhood superhero assassinated on-screen, the toughest part was to know that it was nothing short of what happened to your real-life hero. The “X” placed at his grave, I believe, symbolized more than the X-Men, but a homage to their namesake. [El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz].
10.) The Inclusion of the Black Family who was harassed by a racist overseer in Logan seemed homage to the origin of the foundation of X-Men: collective Black response to oppression. In fact the father of the family played by Eriq La Salle (Yes, Coming to America fans, it was Darryl and Dr. Benton from ER] was one of two humans shown in the franchise or at least this film (along with the Mexican nurse, Gabriela, who risked her life to save Laura) who displayed heroic qualities. Again, I believe this was homage – consciously or not- to the inspiration behind X-Men. Add to this that the storyline of the assassinated Black family in Logan was the incorporation of Old Man Logan’s impetus story in the comics. In the comics of this alternate dimension ending of the X-Men, Logan retires to a farm and settles down with a wife and kids after the assassination of the X-Men. His wife and kids were then assassinated by an order from an oppressive overseer, evil Hulk. In the film Logan, Old Man Logan’s family was replaced by a Black family in which the father was their hero and protector, even without mutant powers. The quote from the clearly racist henchmen sent down to harass the family was that the father looked to have hired some “muscle”, referring to Wolverine. In fact Wolverine held the mutant version of that story. What sucked though was how this family’s death was walked-over casualty of the storyline (see below footnotes). Still, the symbology was not lost.
Whether Lee or writer/director James Mangold consciously intended for this or not, I don’t know, but something I’ve learned about creation is that it has a way of coming through us as vessels, carrying a message and impact even larger than us. To me, it is undeniable that Wolverine has been a symbol for Black Man in America, and you can’t tell me nothing different. It made watching Logan doubly harder for me. When I was talking about the ending of Logan one day I realized I was choking back tears; a healer told me that it was bringing up undealt-with trauma and to reflect on it. I realized that as a melanated person on this planet, as an admitted Laura who does strive daily to preserve the legacy of my heroes like Malcolm and Huey – this sh*t was doubly hard to watch. The injustice of having to see my real-life heroes and my fictional superheroes persecuted, infiltrated and assassinated seemed a cold cruelty: but it was a reality check. In real life, this is what they do to our heroes. So face the reality of our purpose and the context to our being here. To see this story told through predominantly white actors I hope resonates with people who don’t relate to or understand the trauma of Black people in this country and this planet. I hope we stay woke and care to look up our shared history, because what has happened to Black and Brown people affects everyone. This is your community. This is our story. Wolverine is Malcolm [more so than Magneto ever truly was], is Huey, is Fred, is Tuskegee, and is the persecution and temporary assassination of Black Man in America. For as Huey said before his death, “You can kill my body, but you can’t kill my soul.”
Sincerely, a woke brown girl in America. http://www.oneloveistruechange.com/resources-by-category
*Disclaimer Footnotes: The Logan film was not however void of racist tropes, as seen in other X-Men films: see blatant racism in X-Men portrayals. The first of which opened with Latino “cholos” who appeared as if they were from LA or Southern California from the 90s, trying to steal Logan’s tires on the Mexican side of the border, and ultimately facing their savage death at the hands of Logan’s claws: pretty unnecessary. Also the very heartless scene of the caring Black family assassinated and then stepped over by Logan with no moment of grief. These follow a line of undeniably troubling racist choices made by the franchise, but the overlying commentary on the persecuted Black and Latino Power movements are not lost on me, regardless, whether intentional or not, making it a bittersweet experience all-around.