For the most part, X-Men: The Last Stand was an entirely forgettable movie. (Too many plot devices, messy direction, and how many characters can you kill off in one film?)
But there was one scene which stuck with me, and resonates now that I have a chronic illness. Rogue and Storm are debating the ethics of a new drug which can remove (or “cure”) the powers of a mutant.
Rogue: Is it true? Can they cure us?
Prof. Charles Xavier: Yes, Rogue. It appears to be true.
Storm: No, Professor. They can’t cure us. You want to know why? Because there’s nothin’ to cure. Nothing’s wrong with you. Or any of us, for that matter.
This scene illustrates the varying mutant responses to the “cure”, and to me, is representative of the tensions which can exist among the disability and chronic illness communities. Storm’s reply articulates an important creed for disability activists: that disabled bodies are merely different, not “wrong”, and certainly not in need of change.
This is a powerful statement in a society where disabled bodies are often presented as less than or deviant from the able-bodied norm. The plot device of a medicated “cure” which would enforce a rigid standard of bodily normality brings this idea home.
On the other hand, Rogue is conflicted about her mutant powers. It’s easy to see why – instead of conjuring up storm clouds and shooting down bolts of lightning, she kills everyone she touches. Her powers are beyond her control.
I can empathise with Rogue’s decision to take the “cure” and remove her powers. Although she found in the X-Men a supportive group who would help her develop and control her powers, they couldn’t stop them hurting her and those she loved.
Rogue/Marie: I’m sorry, I had to.
Bobby: Marie, this isn’t what I wanted…
Rogue/Marie: I know. It’s what I want.
Of course, I am significantly simplifying the issues presented in The Last Stand for the sake of discussion. The mutants’ response to a proposed “cure” must be taken in the context of a government who chooses to force the drug on all mutants under the guise of assimilation. Similarly, we live in a society where disability is commonly portrayed as shameful, and disabled bodies are often shunned from the public sphere (whether by lack of accessibility or other means).
It is also worth considering that making a decision to accept a “cure” with full agency might not be possible in a society where attitudes towards mutants (or disabled bodies) are so heavily loaded. How many would choose to remove their powers, not because they wanted to, but because they thought it was the only way to integrate into society?
I’ve just briefly mentioned these points, but have listed resources for further reading into the politics of The Last Stand below if you are interested.
The overarching premise of X-Men: The Last Stand – if you were presented with a cure, would you take it – is an interesting one, and the way it is explored in the film is fairly nuanced. It’s hard to disagree with the film’s overarching anti-cure message, especially when that “cure” is something that is forced upon those who may not need or want it.
On a personal level, however, Rogue’s character is all-too-relatable. The idea of a power that hurts you is an easy metaphor for those such as myself who live with a chronic illness that is untreatable and unmanaged.
One of the strengths of The Last Stand is how it explores each mutants’ response to the “cure” in a non-judgemental manner. It’s worth considering the various ways disability identities can be expressed, and that actively seeking treatment does not necessarily disqualify someone from practicing disability pride.
Rogue’s return to the Mutant Academy at the end of the film gives me hope that whether Rogue or Storm, we are all X-Men, and in it together.
A ‘Last Stand’ Against Cure – Robert McRuer
Am I disabled or a mutant? – Hayleigh Barclay in Disability Horizons
A Review of X-Men: The Last Stand from a Disability Perspective – Kara Sheridan of Audacity Magazine