The power of fear in X-Men and Joseph Conrad

Last night I watched X-Men: First Class, a jolly good film with Kevin Bacon (pictured below).


The plot revolves around Charles Xavier’s original discovery of the world of mutants, and the formation of the first groups of X-Men. The story’s set in 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, and features some cool, old clips of Kennedy on the news. It also features Michael Fassbender as Magneto, which is just fine by me.


Anyway, towards the end, that nasty Sebastian Shaw (played by Bacon) uses his mutant power to absorb a rather large amount of nuclear energy from his submarine, storing it up in his little footloose body, ready to eject it back into the world and jolly well ruin it, slightly.


It reminded me of a scene from Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel The Secret Agent, in which the cruel, anarchistic and lonely suicide-bomber, The Professor, is explaining his motives to Ossipon. He spends every day walking around with a small rubber ball in his pocket, which is connected to a set of live explosives in his jacket. One squeeze of the ball and there’s a fair amount of havoc for everyone.

But on being asked how he protects himself, he replies:

‘I have the means to make myself deadly, but that by itself you understand, is absolutely nothing in the way of protection. What is effective is the belief those people have in my will to use the means. That’s their impression. It is absolute. Therefore I am deadly.’

So you see, I’m seeing a nice little similarity between this guy, Sebastian Shaw, and everyone involved in the Cold War. They have the ability to do these awful things, but their power actually lies in the fear they instill. Jolly intriguing!


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