I’d like to state officially for the record that HOLY HELL THIS CAME FROM NO WHERE. Seriously, I was not sad today. It was a good day. But then I started getting so meta I turned my meta inwards and—let me just say you are about to get to know me….
When I was very little, around two or three, I was obsessed with superheroes (not much changes,) I never read the comics, that’s not something I did until just last year really, but I love everything about them. Superman was my favorite. I wanted tobehim. I tied my blanket across my shoulders and pretended to fly around my house saving the kitchen appliances. Superheroes were amazing. What little kid doesn’t think they’re the greatest thing in the whole goddamn world? Everything is just better when they’re around. Little kid logic dictates that everything is going to be okay if there’s a superhero that’s going to come to the rescue.
Now my household was a DC purest kinda house. I didn’t get exposed to any Marvel aside from peripheral pop culture knowledge. I knew about the X-Men, I think, when I was a kid. I knew the name at any rate. Didn’t know who they were, what they did. I think I remember thinking Wolverine sounded like a kick-ass superhero name. That’s it. That’s the extent of my memory with my interactions with X-Men comics as a kid.
And here’s the deal.
Here’s the thing that creeps into my head sometimes and makes me shrink a little inside.
What if I knew about those comics and those characters when I was little? When everything was super amazing and magical and I didn’t analyze characters as societal figures or literary figures, but I just accepted them as nearly mythical and half realistic figures?
That seems a little dumb coming from an adult, and maybe that’s true. But I often reply to posts stating “What would my life have been like if I knew about Magneto when I was growing up?”
Some of you might get what I mean when I say this, some of you might not and how do I make you understand the non-childish implications in that question?
When I was five and people told me I was going to Hell I could have used a superhero who might have understood why I stayed up for weeks at a time terrified I was going to die, and that I had done something horribly wrong, but had no concept of what it was or how to fix it.
When I was teased and mocked for being Jewish by my white, Christian classmates when I was seven and I instigated a school wide war zone to get my bullies to shut up for good I could have used a superhero convincing me I was right and I wasn’t some horrible child who needed to be the one who was punished when all was said and done.
When I was screaming about hating being who I was I could have used a superhero to tell me I didn’t need to hate myself.
When I was twelve and called a kike for the first time and nearly strangled the boy who called me that I could have used a superhero to tell me crying about what a bigot said wasn’t worth it. That I wasn’t what was wrong.
When I was fourteen and trying to scour my family lineage for anything that wasn’t Jewish I didn’t need a hero then, I needed someone to slap me in my face.
Because self-hatred is a thing that sticks in your bones, I think. Even now that I’ve embraced who I am I am still always going to linger somewhere on the outside. Because hindsight is 20/20 and you can’t realize how all of these things come back at you. How you treated your family because you were young and stupid and so goddamn angry all the time. Every day. Never letting up and keeping it so down in you you didn’t even know yourself just how much hatred you were capable of.
It’s funny, it really is. When I was first introduced to Magneto I had to lock myself in my room shortly thereafter and break down. Because all I could think of was, oh my god, oh my god, wherewereyou when I was a kid? And yeah, that’s rather silly, a grown adult sobbing about uncontrollable things and fiction.
But I decided to stop lying to myself and that was when I realized how long I had spent hating my own blood. There is a reason I find it so important that mutants are superheroes because ofbloodbecause of the DNA thatmakesthem. Because when you spend most of your life thinking something is disgusting or shameful in your own blood, you never realize how extraordinary you might just be all of that time.
So I became a lot more open about being Jewish. I talked about with my friends more, I brought it up in class. And, oh, when I talked about with classmates and acquaintances things changed FAST. Immediately I was distanced, I was othered, I thought I grew spots or horns the way some people eyed me! And I was reminded all over again about the shame this would have brought upon me as a child. And instead I combated it. I pushed back. I laughed in the faces of bigots and verbally assaulted their snide antisemitism. And I thought, man, why didn’t I do this earlier? Why did I waste all of this time hating myself?
I know it wasn’t just a fictional character that started this change in me. I’m an adult, I’m getting comfortable in my skin, I’m too old to listen to people’s nonsense about what I should be and what is acceptable. But. Never underestimate the power of good fiction. We are naturally keen on finding those who best represent ourselves, or who represent our ideals. When we cannot find them we believe we are not good enough. Something is wrong with us. We are at fault. As a child that is something that is processed heavily and is not to be trivialized. I internalized that right away.
Superheroes are important. They are essential. I think we find ourselves in them, especially when they can be us. If I could go back in time and talk to me as a child and say, hey, you know there’s a superhero out there that’s Jewish like us? I would have been awestruck. That was everything I needed to hear. No one was like me. Not as a hero or a savior or a fighter. Kids pick up on that. Kids know when they can’t find themselves in the characters they idolize.
Hey, the realization may have come late but I’m grateful for it anyway. I don’t hate myself anymore. I may still be that angry Jew, but I’m not angry at myself anymore. I don’t think I’m something that needs to be ashamed or hide who I am.
So fuck it, maybe I’m a kid who never got older than twelve.
Because I still believe in superheroes.
And I believe Magneto is my hero.