The Marvel Cinematic Universe films have grossed nearly 9 billion dollars, even without the film rights to their best selling comic book, the X-Men. Without the X-Men, Marvel Studios films can't use any mutant characters. In response, they've switched out mutants for another super-powered minority: the Inhumans. At first the move seemed desperate, but now the MCU is laying the groundwork to make Inhumans better than mutants.
Mutants do have a few advantages over the Inhumans, such as name recognition. Audiences have heard of Professor X and Wolverine, but Black Bolt and Medusa aren’t exactly household names.
Inhumans also have a complicated backstory: Thousands of years ago aliens called the Kree came to Earth and experimented on humans. The ancestors of these humans gain superpowers when they’re exposed to a mist created by terrigan crystals.
How do mutants get their powers? They occur randomly when they hit puberty.
The anti-mutant sentiment in the comic books was always a metaphor for civil and gay rights. This is one reason the X-Men resonated in our culture, particularly with the gay community. It was hard to see how the Inhumans could be anything except second-tier mutants—until Agents of SHIELD season 3.
In the season premiere, President Matthew Ellis (who was kidnapped by super-humans in Iron Man 3) announced a special task force to uncover alien threats, following the Chitauri invasion of New York in the Avengers. A president expanding government authority following an attack on New York is an all-too relatable scenario for Americans.
Ordinary citizens in the MCU are feeling powerless and exposed. They can’t counter-attack the Chitauri by invading another planet. Like many Americans following 9-11, they are easily frightened and xenophobic.
Exploiting these similarities is where Agents of SHIELD begins to shine. Tuesday’s episode featured a nationwide manhunt for an Inhuman named Lincoln. His face was all over he news with the caption, “Alien Wanted.” If you throw the word “Illegal” at the front of that caption, the immigration subtext becomes clear.
Anti-immigration activists claim that illegal immigrants are national security risks. In the MCU, the public thinks the Inhumans are alien sleeper cells, here to prepare the next invasion. People are afraid of mutants because they have powers, but they’re more afraid of Inhumans because they have powers and an agenda.
All of this leads into Marvel’s next big screen release, [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409). This film, along with Agents of SHIELD, is becoming a metaphor for America’s response to 9-11. The public is afraid of threats abroad and at home. They pass legislation to make them feel secure, even though it infringes on the civil liberties of others.
At the center of this fight are the Inhumans, regular people who are hated because of their ancestry. That’s a potential metaphor for immigration if I ever heard one.
I want to know what you think! Post really controversial opinions in the comments below, or yell at me on twitter: @ryanarey