When we meet fellow mutant Storm (Alexandra Shipp), it’s in Cairo, where she’s making a living kicking up wind and shoplifting while everyone is wondering where that freaky wind came from. Her house is nearly devoid of decoration; the most visible sign of personality is a picture of Mystique. And not Jennifer Lawrence Mystique. It’s the full-on ginger-haired, blue-skinned, scaly version. When asked, Storm enthusiastically describes how Mystique is her favorite and how she wants to be like her. They’re the same kind of freak (yes I know they have different powers I am speaking metaphorically don’t email me).
That shared sense of freakdom is why I strapped on my Wonder Woman Underoos, punched out the bottoms of Dixie cups and went forth to fight evil in my front yard (note: I did not do this RECENTLY). Wonder Woman was the only superhero I could recognize as being like me.
It got better, of course, from Ramona Quimby to Beverly Crusher to Buffy Summers to C.J. Cregg to Felicity Smoak to Peggy Carter. The point being, good thing I’m white and straight, because now I have a lot of choices. Female characters who look like me — or thinner, prettier versions of me, frankly — are no longer uncommon. I’m visible now. A lot of people aren’t.
Representation builds on representation; once the first person in a category proves that people aren’t going to lose their minds about a female/black/gay/trans/disabled/Asian/Latino superhero/president/romantic lead/Ghostbuster, then you get more and more of the same. In “Apocalypse,” it took seeing someone like Mystique being celebrated on TV to make Storm realize that she wasn’t the problem; the problem was those who kept on telling her that what made her special meant she was made wrong.
Too many people hear that too often, and the more diversity we see on screen and in comics and toys (WHERE IS MY KAMALA KHAN FIGURE, FUNKO?!), the more that people can see that they are visible. And being visible means they are valued — not in spite of their differences or their freaky powers, but because of them.
More Reelists from Kristen Page-Kirby