ByAubrey Eaton, writer at
I love superheroes (mostly Team Marvel), sci-fi, fantasy, mashups, what if's, and original work
Aubrey Eaton

Okay, hear me out.

Apocalypse is a staple villain in the X-Men universe. He's right up there at the top of the list, second only to Magneto. He is an incredible obstacle that never seems to go away. He challenges the X-Men and each time be seemingly breaks them, they come together stronger together.

But he is the last nemesis I'd want to see on the big screen.

Apocalypse--En Sabah Nur--"the First One"--one of the oldest and most powerful mutants ever. Born at the dawn of the Egyptian Pharaohs, he grew from slave to powerful leader to eventual would-be-world-conqueror. He is a complex character who built his whole ideology on "survival of the fittest" through his own turbulent life, from fighting to rise from the slave class to rise to the top. He was raised seeing life at the bottom and vowed to never go there again. He grew to despise that lower rung, and decided that those unfortunate to be there were better off dead than exist.

Who can make a whole story arc dissecting how he became the powerful being he is today.

But we can't have that. Because he is a one-dimensional villain. He is egotistical and genocidal. Period.

Without delving into how mainstream heroes win audiences by being portrayed as human as possible by being juxtaposed to one-tone villains, the choice of picking Apocalypse as the villain is the focus of this article.

The X-Men are an American superhero team. Yes they have members from around the world, but they are an American team, based in the United States and fight for America. Just as with the Avengers, whenever the X-Men fend off a threat that originates from a foreign nation/world/dimension, they are always seen as defending America from "the other". This is at its basest point very xenophobic and racist.

Again, yes they are a diverse team that has members from all over the world, but whenever they face off a threat, those who are part of the team (Storm, Sunfire, Colossus) are seem as the "good exemption". They're the token characters that make it "okay" to face off and dehumanize whoever they're facing at that time.

Apocalypse is an Egyptian mutant. Despite moving around the world and residing virtually everywhere, his entire motif is consistently Egyptian and everything about every story arc that involves him has some reference or another to Egyptian mythos. His whole shtick is that he rejuvenates himself by sleeping in a sarcophagus. This guy is Egyptian through and through.

And the way he's portrayed makes this a problem.

His ties to Egyptian mythology ties it to "evil" "bad" "villainous". On the polar opposite, Thor is tied to Norse mythology, and that has placed Norse mythology on a pedestal of "great" "heroic" "noble". Despite Odin and Thor being very misogynistic, controlling, conniving, and manipulative, they are seen as virtuous.
This happens because Norse mythos is tied to whiteness. Egyptian mythology is tied to the Middle East, the "other". Because whiteness is tied to "good", the Egyptian mythology is seen as its polar opposite as "evil".

Apocalypse is an Egyptian, and as the only Egyptian in his story arc, he is a representation of all Middle Eastern men. He is seen as aggressive, genocidal, arrogant, and simply pure evil. By having only one man of color on the screen, we monolithize the Middle East, and it justifies our American "heroes" to battle and overpower them. It is imperialism.

If we had heroes that were the reincarnation of Egyptian gods or Pharaohs, we could see how (just like in America--just like all over the world) the Middle East is multifaceted and complex and full of good. We'd be able to have a balance between the destructive representation within Apocalypse and these other heroes. Just as we have the villainous Kingpin or Green Goblin or Aldrich Killian, who are American villains, we have countless American heroes to show how not everyone in this country is the same, we should have the same representation across the globe.

Sadly, this is not the case. Most heroes in the Marvel and DC universes are from the United States. Although most villains are also from the US, when we look at the rest of the globe and compare the numbers of international heroes vs international villains, the villains outnumber heroes 3-1. This is a very calculated racist xenophobic representation of the global community. It enforces the stiff "patriotic" message meant to be received by readers and viewers across the country. It enforces the mindset of "us vs them". It all comes down to enforcing the encouragement of continuing imperialistic ventures overseas, all in the name of "liberty and justice".

So, Apocalypse should not be on the big screen. I understand it may be a little late for them to stop production, but they've made a shitty decision picking this character as the villain for one of the most anticipated films in comic fandom.

Also, one last note, as much as I love the actor Oscar Isaac, he is the wrong choice for the character. He is Latin American--Guatemalan and Cuban--not from the Middle East at all. This is a very tragic reality for every actor who is a person of color. Hollywood doesn't give a shit about where you're actually from, if you are brown they'll decide if where they'll place you. Hispanic, Arab, Asian, Black, it doesn't matter. Only after you've been in the game for years can you fight to portray characters true to yourself. But even that is a struggle.

It shouldn't be this way in 2015 but clearly there's no stop in sight. It is something we should all--as fans and buyers of merchandise--to protest and petition to get proper representation on screen by having POC represent themselves, and not have to deal with the whitewashing or corporate manhandling of representation.


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