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X-Men

X-Men: First Class (2011) is an adaptation of the comic book series about X-Men, a group of superheroes who are “Mutants”– people with superhuman abilities activated by the “X gene.” In this introductory scene, we are introduced to Erik Lehnsherr, a young Jewish boy, before he is known by his mutant identity “Magneto.” The scene opens on Jews being corralled through the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. As Erik is separated from his family, he is restrained by the guards. Desperately reaching for his screaming mother, we see the metal gates of the camp groan and bend as his ability to manipulate metal is unleashed by his intense emotions. The suffering that young Magneto experiences at the hands of the Nazis is intricately entwined with his special ability: it is only through anger and pain that he is able to truly tap into his power.

discussion

How do we know where this scene is set and who the people in it are?

What is the stimulus for the boy’s special powers being unlocked?

What is the connection between religious identity, suffering, and power that this scene is making?

Is religion the only identity that could have been used to make the point in this scene? What other facets of identity are connected with persecution— and power?