Lessons from a comic book movie

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2003

This past week I attended a training meeting for my work in Michigan. One of the sessions in the meeting was a round table discussion about what we as managers do to motivate our staff and ourselves. When it was my turn to speak, I said; &uot;I try to motivate my staff by giving them self-confidence – confidence in themselves, and confidence in their work.&uot; I feel quite strongly that if you have your health and you have self-confidence, you have everything! Without these, nothing else &uot;great&uot; can be realized.

Over the weekend I had some more time to reflect on the importance of self-confidence and what profound thing self-confidence can be, as I watched the movie &uot;X.2: X-Men United.&uot;

I have never been a comic book reader and had little knowledge of the movie &uot;X.2,&uot; but the recent releases of &uot;Spiderman&uot; and &uot;Daredevil&uot; had piqued my curiosity, so I thought I would try &uot;X.2.&uot;

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The film is based on the idea that human life, over time, evolves. As a result of a slow evolutionary process, humans evolve into mutants. Thus, humans and mutants are forced to live together on earth. Of course, the mutants are quite different than humans. Each mutant has special gifts (or defects), depending on your position. Some mutants can alter the weather and cause treacherous storms, some have hands made of metal blades, and others can manipulate fire. One mutant caught my attention. Her name was Mystique (played by Rebecca Romijn-Stamos). In the film she was an adversary of the X-Men, but she was confident and striking, nonetheless. She was a mutant with the ability to take on any life form (man, woman, black, white, Asian or Hispanic, young or old) she could become anyone as fast as Samantha on &uot;Bewitched&uot; twitched her nose and found herself back in time or in a new outfit. This breed of mutant was referred to as a &uot;shape shifter.&uot;

Mystique being a blue-skinned, odd-looking, scaly creature; and not at all what we might define as attractive, (and very different even by mutant standards) was asked why she did not just take the form of a &uot;normal-looking human.&uot; Then she would not have to tolerate the abuse and ridicule of being &uot;different.&uot; Mystique responded with the only answer any self-respecting mutant, (or human for that matter), could: &uot;I shouldn’t have to.&uot;

With that, I shouted &uot;Rock on, sister&uot; and clapped for her aloud. Other moviegoers may have been annoyed with my outward expression of pride, but I didn’t care. Too seldom do we celebrate our differences and all too often our society encourages conformity.

Mystique sent a message of confidence and pride and she was not going to be forced to conform or think less of herself because she was different. She represented the epitome of what we all strive to be: confident and accepted. I am so impressed with the message of the film I am considering taking my Girl Scout Troop to see the film.

The theatre was filled with many, many children that day. I was thrilled that along with the high-tech, sci-fi, ultra-cool sound effects – the message of the film was noble.

It promoted tolerance and understanding, acceptance and pride, confidence and self-assurance. The film reinforced all the things we hope our children will learn, understand, and embrace. It represents all we hope to be as individuals.

As the ‘soon-to-be mother’ of an adopted baby boy from Guatemala, I am glad our society is still responding to positive messages of confidence and tolerance. I hope my child will be self-confident and never feel the need to conform to the demands of a closed-indeed society. Because, just as Mystique so accurately put it, he shouldn’t have to!

So, to my new hero, Mystique: Shine on, sister! Shine on!

Rebecca Hill is the advertising director and a regular columnist for the News-Herald.