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Old 08-12-2010, 07:13 AM   #1
tg_ambro
 
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Default [Supers] Social Stigmas, Mutants and Mutates

Greetings true believers,

In my upcoming supers campaign, I've been working the list of selectable power sources and have decided to include Mutant (Supers p.34) as one. Taking my cue from the box which describes Mutant, and my fond childhood memories of watching the X-Men, I want Mutants to have Social Stigma: Freak (Supers p.32).

This decision lead me to wonder, why were the X-men, and all other mutants (those born with, but whose powers manifest around puberty,) discriminated against while the mutates (those that gained powers in strange origins) like The Incredible Hulk and The Amazing Spider-man, not disciminated against?

This is genuine curiousity, because I am familiar with comics, I am by no means an expert. So I am unfamiliar with how this issue was handled in the comics.

To summarize:

Question one: Why would the public discriminate against people who were born with powers (mutants,) when others that gained powers after the birth (mutates) get a pass?

Question two: If this issue was simply handwaved in the comics (or other media) what are realistic (or at least Supers friendly) reasons for this difference in opinion.

I'm open to hearing the reason given in the comics as well as personal ideas and opinions, so please, don't hold back!

Excelsior!
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Old 08-12-2010, 08:49 AM   #2
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Default Re: [Supers] Social Stigmas, Mutants and Mutates

I believe in the Marvel-verse (and I may be wrong) that mutants were actually the first members of a separate species, an evolutionary "next step" of humanity who could actually have children like them. The "mutates" on the other hand were seen as homo sapiens who just happened to have powers. The divide, of course, is exacerbated by extremists like Magneto, who proclaim mutants a superior race destined to replace non-mutant humanity.

In practice, of course, this is not so easy to manage, barring rubber-science "mutant detectors." Powers look much alike to the average person, so unless someone is known to be a mutant, it should be impossible to tell the two apart. I remember one issue where Spider-Man was rumored to be "some sort of mutant." Besides having their powers from birth, the one thing I can see is that a higher proportion of mutants tend to have visible physical transformations ... though of course, this doesn't explain mutates like the Thing or the Hulk, or "invisible" mutants like Professor X.

So, in a nutshell, the discrimination is because they're "not like us" and could end up replacing us. Would you want your daughter to marry a mutant? ;-)
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Old 08-12-2010, 08:50 AM   #3
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Default Re: [Supers] Social Stigmas, Mutants and Mutates

There's the In-Universe explanation and the Out-Of-Universe explanation, at least as far as Marvel's take on it.

The Out-Of-Universe explanation is simple: Mutants are a figurehead for other minority groups, making the X-books a soapbox for tackling issues regarding discrimination in general. The other books don't have discrimination issues as a central on-going theme.

The In-Universe explanation is trickier. Because Mutants claim to be "the next step in man's evolution", this makes them targets by those that don't want non-powered humans to lose their station as the "dominant" species. You'll notice that the biggest anti-mutant characters are : Henry Peter Gyrich, Rev. Stryker, etc. You'd think I'd place J. Jonah Jameson on that list, but he's come out in favor of mutant rights in Daily Bugle editorials several times; his beef is with costumed vigilantes (and Spider-Man in particular).


Now, my personal opinion for Social Stigma (Freak) is that it should be reserved for folks that have obvious mutations, such as Nightcrawler, Goblyn, Ben Grimm, and Artie Maddicks to name just a few. These are folks that can't hide their mutations without Stark-tech image inducers or overly-large trenchcoats.

If your world has mandatory markings for mutants (e.g. a large "M" over one eye, such as that sported by Bishop, or the "hound" tattoos on Rachel Summers's face), then Social Stigma (Mutant) would come into play for those so marked, with a prereq of Distinctive Features for the marking itself.

Just my $0.02 worth.
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Old 08-12-2010, 08:53 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Supers] Social Stigmas, Mutants and Mutates

Quote:
Originally Posted by tbrock1031 View Post
The Out-Of-Universe explanation is simple: Mutants are a figurehead for other minority groups, making the X-books a soapbox for tackling issues regarding discrimination in general. The other books don't have discrimination issues as a central on-going theme.
Bingo. At first, it was a stand-in for racism (with Professor X/Magneto creating a sort of MLK/Malcom X dynamic). Lately, it's been seen as a surrogate for gay rights issues.
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Old 08-12-2010, 09:03 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Supers] Social Stigmas, Mutants and Mutates

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rocket Man View Post
I believe in the Marvel-verse (and I may be wrong) that mutants were actually the first members of a separate species, an evolutionary "next step" of humanity who could actually have children like them. The "mutates" on the other hand were seen as homo sapiens who just happened to have powers. The divide, of course, is exacerbated by extremists like Magneto, who proclaim mutants a superior race destined to replace non-mutant humanity.

In practice, of course, this is not so easy to manage, barring rubber-science "mutant detectors." Powers look much alike to the average person, so unless someone is known to be a mutant, it should be impossible to tell the two apart. I remember one issue where Spider-Man was rumored to be "some sort of mutant." Besides having their powers from birth, the one thing I can see is that a higher proportion of mutants tend to have visible physical transformations ... though of course, this doesn't explain mutates like the Thing or the Hulk, or "invisible" mutants like Professor X.

So, in a nutshell, the discrimination is because they're "not like us" and could end up replacing us. Would you want your daughter to marry a mutant? ;-)
Spot on.... in early X-Men comics, a lot of the anti-mutant furor was driven by people like Trask comparing mutants vs. normal humans to Cro-Magnon vs. Neanderthal man, the presumption being that one species would overtake and destroy the other, possibly with an intermediate stage where regular Homo sapiens were slaves of Homo superior. This was based on the presumption that mutants constituted a separate species because they would have mutant children, never mind the real world definition of a mutant as offspring that's different from its parents (or their ability to interbreed with regular humans, or the fact that these were still the children of regular humans), and therefore people mutated by freak accidents were not seen as the same sort of existential threat.

Of course, if mutates tend to have children with freakish powers as well (whether you call those offspring mutants or 'caterpillars' or whatever), as it turns out is very, very common indeed in the Marvel Universe (Franklin Richards, the Hulk's sons, alternate future Spider-Girl, half the cast of Secret Warriors), that distinction kind of ceases to matter, one would think. In that case, all those with hereditable powers beyond the human norm would be seen as potentially replacing regular humanity, or not.
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Old 08-12-2010, 10:13 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Supers] Social Stigmas, Mutants and Mutates

I've read only the Morrison's "New X-Men"; in that story-arc is explained that "mutating" is a normal step in the human evolution: the mutant birt-rate is skyrocketing and the future is a World of fancy and strange creatures with even more strange powers. I like that approach also because "mutant" is not a sinonime of "superpower": only few lucky mutants gain useful powers, the vast majority get only phisical deformities, handicaps and maybe some weird ability.

In his world the prejudice factor is almost none; but in RPG terms bear in mind that prejudice is a strong motive and could easily shift the focus of your campaing

(semi-OT personal note)
Making some research to answer this post I was quite amazed dicovering that some of the weirdest Morrison's characters (like Beak or Angel Salvatore) are now square-jawed standard superheroes with cool body suit and flashy powers. Evidently In the Marvel Universe troubled character built around mature themes and serious personal conflict don't last long...
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Old 08-12-2010, 10:37 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Supers] Social Stigmas, Mutants and Mutates

Quote:
Originally Posted by tg_ambro View Post
Greetings true believers,

This decision lead me to wonder, why were the X-men, and all other mutants (those born with, but whose powers manifest around puberty,) discriminated against while the mutates (those that gained powers in strange origins) like The Incredible Hulk and The Amazing Spider-man, not disciminated against?
It would be difficult to pick worse examples. Mutants in the Marvel Universe have either a -2 social stigma or a Secret: Mutant. The Hulk has a -3 stigma as a monster. And when you have headlines asking the public to decide whether you are a threat or just a menace...well your mutancy or lack of same becomes a moot point.

Quote:
Question one: Why would the public discriminate against people who were born with powers (mutants,) when others that gained powers after the birth (mutates) get a pass?
Honestly? It's the fault of Xavier and Magneto and those like them. Xavier and Magneto organize mutants-only clubs, call them "homo superior", predict they'll replace homo sapiens, and have shoot-outs with government agencies and each other. Then there's Trask and his mutant son who uses precognition to produce a self-fulfilling prophecy of race war between those who have the X-Factor and those who don't. Having defined "mutants" as a distinct minority, and a sometimes threatening one, the resulting prejudice is inevitable. Since mutancy can be detected with a brain scan, it isn't impossible to identify even the normal-looking ones and most of them aren't normal-looking. They have big feet or red eyes, or spikes growing out of their bodies. People with accidental origins have in fact been mistaken for mutants when they look funny.

Last edited by David Johnston2; 08-12-2010 at 10:40 AM.
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Old 08-12-2010, 01:04 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Supers] Social Stigmas, Mutants and Mutates

I dont know all of the details that led to the early division between mutants and mutates but from what I understand part of it is the early quasi celebratory status of Mutates and that before they were Mutates they were already extraordinary people or important in some way beforehand. A couple quick examples of what I mean.

1: Captain America became a War Hero and fought Nazis
2: The Fantastic Four were 1st generation astronauts who were I think the first in space in the marvel verse


Secondly a person could become a Mutate during their life given the right circumstances which means that having powers similar to them is possible for someone given the right bit of (un)luck. That's going give people who secretly or not secretly want that type of power for themselves hope that it can happen to them.

Mutants are different they are born with their powers and if you are not born a mutant you can never be one. Its more exclusionary in that sense and because they are born to this power they never have to do anything to earn it. Which means that people of any personality type can have these powers and because they have them at earlier ages their impulse control over their powers is more questionable.

Mutations frequently occurs in the Marvel Verse either at birth or during puberty neither is an age group well known for its self control. While their are marvel examples of teen Mutates most of them are adults or near adults when they first get their powers which allows people to easier think of them as adults.
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Old 08-12-2010, 01:35 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Supers] Social Stigmas, Mutants and Mutates

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nosforontu View Post
I dont know all of the details that led to the early division between mutants and mutates but from what I understand part of it is the early quasi celebratory status of Mutates and that before they were Mutates they were already extraordinary people or important in some way beforehand. A couple quick examples of what I mean.

1: Captain America became a War Hero and fought Nazis
2: The Fantastic Four were 1st generation astronauts who were I think the first in space in the marvel verse


Secondly a person could become a Mutate during their life given the right circumstances which means that having powers similar to them is possible for someone given the right bit of (un)luck. That's going give people who secretly or not secretly want that type of power for themselves hope that it can happen to them.

Mutants are different they are born with their powers and if you are not born a mutant you can never be one. Its more exclusionary in that sense and because they are born to this power they never have to do anything to earn it. Which means that people of any personality type can have these powers and because they have them at earlier ages their impulse control over their powers is more questionable.
Actually, a quick survey of the MU shows that if anything, the vast majority of folks who become mutates through freak accidents or rash experimentation in fact use their powers for crime, mayhem, or self-aggrandizement. For every Spider-Man, there's a whole rogue's gallery of people like Electro and the Sandman and Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus and the Scorpion, etc., etc. Many of them were career criminals even before their transformations. I'd think the odds would be slightly better that a random cross-section of teens gaining powers from an innate mutation could be persuaded to use their powers for the benefit of society, or at least not to its detriment.

But that has more to do with the storytelling requirements of superhero comics, where you always need a new villain for your hero to battle or else things get stale, than a statement about what a plausible outcome would be. In a semi-realistic world apart from the introduction of superpowers itself, I'd imagine that many, many more supers would become celebrities or use their powers for other lawful forms of work ala Supertemps rather than fight or commit crime.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nosforontu View Post
Mutations frequently occurs in the Marvel Verse either at birth or during puberty neither is an age group well known for its self control. While their are marvel examples of teen Mutates most of them are adults or near adults when they first get their powers which allows people to easier think of them as adults.
While I'll grant you that the idea of teenagers + superpowers is pretty scary on its face, I'd dispute that a bit - of the mutates actually shown in the MU, if anything those who gain their powers as teens seem less likely to use their new abilities for evil than the adults. Think Johnny Storm and Peter Parker versus Max Dillon and Emil Blonsky.
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