Character Analysis: Magneto and Family

Time for more character analysis! Today I want to get into the Magneto family from X-Men, specifically the X-Men: Evolution incarnation. As I’ve stated before in other rambling posts, I don’t actually read comics. I had a few as a kid, but since they cost money and weren’t already right there in the house like cartoons, my parents didn’t buy them for me much. So, I grew up mostly on the cartoons of any given franchise. And I liked the Evo cartoon. It was corny a lot of the time, sure, but I thought it was an interesting take.

Magneto is probably my favorite character of all the X-Men. I really like villains. I don’t always prefer them to the good guys, but I’m definitely always intrigued by them (I could fill books talking about the villains in Harry Potter or Batman). Magneto is particularly fascinating to me because the more you learn of his background, the more you see where he’s coming from and sympathize with him. I mean, this poor man has been through hell. He’s a victim of the Holocaust, persecuted for no reason other than blind hatred of his religion and race. He’s persecuted and hunted just because he’s different from those in power. Then, when he discovers his mutant abilities, he knows it’s going to happen again. He knows the lows that humanity will sink to, because he was there for it. He’s seen firsthand.

Magneto is in no way a heartless man. He remembers that Captain America and Wolverine saved him in the camps (remember, I’m going with the cartoon incarnation here). He’s since made an enemy of Wolverine, but when he has a clear shot to kill him, or at least kill Rogue and Kurt, he stops and lets them all go, repayment for the kindness that was shown to him years previously.

Now, the thing about using the Evo timeline means there’s a bigger gap of time between Erik getting out of the camps and the twins being born, but the flipside of that is that since they’re younger than their comic counterparts, all the things that happened to them have to be condensed. Some of my analysis of these characters stems a little bit from my personal headcanons. We don’t know all the details of the bad guys’ lives, because more time is spent developing the—in my opinion—infinitely less interesting X-Men. I’m looking at you, Jean and Scott. So, sorry about this, but I’m about to unload all of my headcanon so that I can talk about these characters. Let’s all just roll with it.

So, I think Erik looks about eleven to thirteen in the cartoon flashback. History lesson: all children under the age of fifteen were automatically sent to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. So, ignoring the historical inaccuracy (also, Auschwitz was liberated by the Russians), I thought that maybe Erik met Magda in the camps, and like their comic counterparts, they fell in love. I imagined that they stuck together after the war, both being orphans, and they eventually married when they were old enough. Magda I always imagined as a bright person. Whereas the Holocaust caused Erik to draw in on himself, the only thing Magda could do was open up and love the life she never thought she’d get to have.

Similar to the comics, I think they had Anya and that her death caused Erik to become even more resentful of the lot he was dealt in life (obviously his powers were already activated). I think that Erik and Magda would then make the conscious decision to not have any more children, that losing Anya was too much for them. During this time, Erik would have met Charles, and the two would form their friendship. Erik would start getting interested in his genetic experiments and would use them to keep himself young. Magda I think would know about the experiments and the desire for mutants to be on equal standing with humans. She would support his views on mutants and maybe be a little weirded out about the experiments, but she would go along with it, even letting him work on her because she wouldn’t want to grow old while he stayed young. Eventually time and bitter memories of the Nazis’ persecution would cause Erik’s views to become too different from Xavier’s, and they would have their breakup falling out, which would lead to Erik becoming more radical and forming the persona of Magneto. That, I think, he would keep a secret from Magda, because she wouldn’t approve.

Eventually, after he’s got Sabertooth and Mystique in his employment, Magda accidentally becomes pregnant with the twins. Even though they hadn’t wanted anymore kids, the Lensherrs still go through with the pregnancy. By this point Erik is more heavily involved with his mutant work than with his family, but their family is still mostly happy. Sure, Erik works a lot, but the twins have their mom, and they’re pleased to see their dad when he’s around. And Erik’s love for Magda and hers for him never, never wavers. But, when the twins are about six or so, Magda is killed, let’s say by a drunk driver. I say some kind of accident rather than her finding out about Erik’s activities and running away because I just so desperately want something to work for this family, and that something is going to be Erik and Magda’s love not being shattered due to fear and distrust.

So, with Magda gone, Erik is completely lost. He’s got his work, his life’s mission as a distraction from the pain, but he’s also got these two young children that he is completely incapable of caring for on an emotional level. I think that he does love them, but he doesn’t know what to do with them. Magda was the caretaker, not him. He doesn’t know how to handle these extremely fragile, small beings who are scared and sad and desperate for things to make sense to them. They’re a distraction from work and a reminder of Magda, so Erik hops a couple of borders (they still live in Germany, by the way), and dumps them at an orphanage in Romania.

So Erik goes back to his mutant work without looking back, leaving those poor kids completely lost and confused, torn apart from everything they’ve ever known except each other. I always imagined that as children, Pietro and Wanda would be extremely close. I liked what I knew of their relationship in the comics. They cared about each other. They always watched each other’s backs. If someone tried anything against one of them, the other was there ready to fuck that person up. So, the kids try to run away to find their dad, because they don’t know what else to do, but they’re picked up by the gypsies Django and Marya Maximoff. They’re taken in and loved and given a family again. And they don’t forget what they had before, but they take the opportunity to be happy with their new parents.

But, because this family can’t catch a break (they’re like the Winchesters. Why can’t they just be happy?), Wanda’s powers activate—let’s say the kids are around nine, maybe ten—and the townspeople, who already don’t like the gypsies living on the edge of town, attack the troupe. Django and others go to defend and hold them off, and Marya isn’t going to leave him behind, so she tells the twins to get out and run. Django is stabbed, and Marya is hung for being the “witch’s” mother. I don’t think I’d need to go into how traumatic it is for the twins to see that. They don’t want to leave, they want to be wrong, and they want their parents to be okay, because it’s not fair that this has happened again. But things aren’t ok, so Pietro grabs Wanda and runs, activating his gene.

In Evo, most of the mutant’s genes seem to activate around fifteen. Pietro and Wanda, in my mind, are exceptions (just like their dad), theirs starting much sooner than the norm. So, they’ve run off, and they just keep running, keep living on the streets, not knowing what to do until, through some crazy chance, they happen to run into Erik. They recognize him, and they latch on. Hearing that his kids inherited the mutant gene, Erik takes them back to America with him. I think that Pietro would be happy with this. Through the show, he’s constantly shown to have his loyalties lie with Magneto. Wanda is less forgiving. She remembers that he abandoned them, and she just wants the Maximoffs back. She becomes bitter and angry, and that causes her powers to fall out of her control. She becomes a danger to herself and those around her. Erik tries to make it work, he really does, even going so far as to setting up a truce with Xavier and asking for his help.

But it doesn’t work. Wanda’s too angry, and one day she almost kills Pietro in a temper tantrum. Erik decides that enough is enough and brings her to the asylum. Through the show we know what a huge impact this has on Wanda. But there’s never really a focus on what it does to Pietro. He’s just lost his twin, the one person who has always been with him, always there even when everyone else has left. The twins are still pretty young here, I’d say in the 11-13 range. They’re still very impressionable. Pietro tells Wanda in an episode that Magneto convinced him it was for the best, and it’s easy to see how he would believe that. He’s seen the damage that Wanda’s powers can cause. He’s seen his sister, who was once sweet and kind, become so angry and dark. As far as he knows, this place is like a hospital, a place his sister will go to become better and eventually she’ll be with him again. Pietro here is still at an age where he trusts the adults around him. They’re adults, and he’s a kid. He expects them to know how to handle situations.

I think the thing that kept Pietro docile under Magneto’s roof was that he still had his sister. But Wanda’s gone now, and Magneto doesn’t seem to care, and Pietro can’t go visit her. Eventually, probably only within a couple of months, Pietro’s bitter feelings would creep up, and he would become resentful of Magneto taking his sister away. He becomes less respectful, and the faster he gets, the more impatient he is about everything, and Magneto finally doesn’t want to put up with it anymore, because the cause has always required more attention than his children. So he drops Pietro off in an orphanage. This time, Pietro doesn’t care. He doesn’t want to have anything to do with Magneto anymore, and things continue to drop for him until he’s like any other kid in the system, hopping from foster home to foster home, always being sent back because people don’t know how to deal with him.

I don’t think Pietro would want anything to do with Magneto, but at the same time, he can’t help but still want to be impressive enough. This eventually develops into a serious competitive streak, and enter the stupid rivalry with Evan Daniels (I hated Spyke. I don’t even care. His character was so incredibly annoying. I like Jean more than him, and that is saying something).

For his part, Magneto keeps an eye on Pietro. Because now he knows that his children are mutants. Now he has a vested interest in them, even if his work is a more pressing concern. I really think losing Magda was the worst thing that could have happened to Magneto. I think there was always a chance for him as long as she was still alive and with him. But without her, he’s got no ties to humanity. Without her, it’s all about the mutant cause.

So, let’s skip ahead to the show. As I said before, Pietro’s loyalties lie solely with Magento in the show. He eventually betrays friends, Mystique, and even Wanda, but more on that in a minute. In Speed and Spyke (ugh so hard to watch that episode, stupid Evan), Magneto doesn’t send Mystique after Pietro. He goes himself. He goes personally. He’s been keeping a close enough eye on his son to know that the boy isn’t going to come along if a lackey comes to collect. He knows about the inflated sense of self-worth and entitlement that Pietro’s developed, about the attitude. The exchange between them in the jail is familiar but also rushed. It’s made very clear to the new viewer that the two know each other but not to what extent. With knowledge of their past and the assumption that Pietro hasn’t lived with his father in a long time, their reunion is curt. It’s handled like a business deal. I’ll do this for you if you do something for me. Pietro’s the sort of person who can carry a grudge, but he doesn’t show that when he sees his father again. He just accepts the offer when one would guess that he would have gotten angry and declared that he’d rather rot in the cell than accept help from the man who constantly abandoned him.

Underneath all of Pietro’s bravado, his crash behavior, and his self-centeredness, there is most definitely a little boy who just desperately wants his father to love him and see him as something worthwhile. He wants what I think he had with Django, a father who is proud of him and his accomplishments and abilities, proud of these things because he’s his son, not interested because he’s a mutant.

Moving on to Hex Factor, Pietro recognizes Wanda in an instant when she walks in the door. They haven’t seen each other in probably five years, but it takes nothing for him to know that’s his sister, and his immediate reaction is to be terrified. I think this means that Pietro never forgot about Wanda, that he never tried to move on and forget her, but that he also knew her well enough to know that she would take great offense at ever seeing him again. He knew that she would blame him for what happened to her. There isn’t even an ounce of joy at their reunion, and that’s heartbreaking.

I hate Wanda’s Evo characterization. I hate the unrelenting anger. Yes, there were instances in the comics and in the newest cartoon where Wanda would get angry, but it was never this all-consuming mess (I know there’s something about her going crazy and trying to rewrite reality, but that was a mother’s extreme grief at losing her kids). Yes, given the circumstances, she’s more than entitled to this anger, but I still don’t like it. Wanda has a one-track mind through the show, and she barely gives Pietro a second glance, even when he tries to talk to her. I think Pietro is genuinely sorry for everything that happened to Wanda and that he still wishes that none of it had happened, but his desperation to prove himself to his father wins out, and he betrays the Brotherhood. That definitely broke my heart when I first saw it. I wanted Pietro to turn his back on Magento in favor of his sister. Pietro and Wanda were once everything to each other, and Magento has never given them anything, yet Pietro chooses Magneto. I honestly don’t think Pietro enjoyed doing it, that any snark he displayed was a cover for his guilt.

There is definitely guilt there. After Mangeto has Wanda’s mind rewritten—which he shows absolutely no remorse for, because again, the cause is always going to come first and Wanda was in the way—Pietro at first is determined to keep her from knowing the truth. In that time, with her anger problem contained, I think they grew closer, because by the time Apocalypse offs Magneto, Pietro’s ready to tell her the truth, despite what reaction it might cause—which ends up being a subway derailment before he can even finish.

Magneto’s apparent death and reappearance as a Horseman definitely rattled the twins. In the last episode, when he wakes up, the first thing Magneto sees are his children staring down at him with very open expressions of concern. As this is the last episode, we get a brief wrap up in the form of some visions Xavier gets from Apocalypse’s mind. The very first thing we see is Magneto training—really, it looks more like playing—with the new recruits. This to me says that being a Horseman rattled him pretty badly as well. We don’t know if this incarnation of Magneto goes back to being a villain, but at least for some period of time he changes his ways and repents. Wanda and Pietro eventually go on to become Avengers just like their comic counterparts, despite how Xavier makes it sound like they remain bad guys. I saw that S.H.I.E.L.D. logo, Charles, you can’t lie to me.

This entry has kind of gotten out of hand, lengthwise, but my basic point here is that Mangeto’s family is a tragic one that never seemed to be able to catch a break. Whatever happiness they manage to obtain doesn’t last long and is ripped away in cruel ways. Given the vague ending, it’s possible that things finally work out for them, which I could only hope for. Like I said, Magneto is my favorite in the X-Men franchise. He’s complex and sympathetic despite his status as a villain. You know exactly why he’s doing the things he does. It’s all for his people, to ensure that mutants are never subjected to another Final Solution.

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