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X-Men ’97’s Genosha’s storyline mirrors the Black experience

todayApril 17, 2024 3

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X-Men '97’s Genosha's storyline mirrors the Black experience

The Disney + X-Men ’97 series, a continuation of the beloved 1990s animated show, has generated significant buzz among fans for its nostalgic appeal and thought-provoking storylines. One of the most impactful events in the series is during episode five featuring the destruction of Genosha, a fictional island nation that served as a sanctuary for mutants. This tragic event draws striking parallels to real-world violence against Black communities, and the show’s handling of the aftermath has the potential to resonate deeply with Black audiences.

The Significance of Genosha in X-Men Lore

The significance of Genosha in X-Men lore cannot be overstated, as it represents a complex and evolving metaphor for the struggles of marginalized communities, particularly the Black experience, in the face of oppression, violence, and the dream of a safe haven.

Introduced in 1988 by Chris Claremont and Rick Leonardi, Genosha initially served as a stark representation of apartheid-era South Africa. The island nation was a totalitarian state that brutally oppressed its mutant population, using them as slave labor and subjecting them to inhumane treatment. This narrative parallels the real-world history of apartheid, where the white minority government of South Africa enforced a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination against the Black majority from 1948 until the early 1990s.

However, Genosha’s story took a turn in the late 1990s when the original oppressive government was overthrown, and Magneto, a mutant revolutionary, established a new mutant-led state. This transformation mirrors the real-world fall of apartheid in South Africa and the rise of Black leadership in the country, most notably with the election of Nelson Mandela as the first Black president in 1994.

Under Magneto’s rule, Genosha became a sanctuary for mutants to live freely without fear of persecution. This concept of a safe haven resonates deeply with the Black community’s long-standing desire for spaces where they can thrive without the constant threat of racism and oppression. 

The significance of Genosha as a mutant sanctuary is further emphasized by the fact that Magneto, a Holocaust survivor, became its leader. Magneto’s backstory as a Jewish survivor of Nazi persecution adds another layer of complexity to the metaphor, drawing parallels between the oppression of mutants and the real-world experiences of marginalized communities, including the Jewish people during the Holocaust and the ongoing struggles of Black people against systemic racism.

The destruction of Genosha also highlights the importance of leadership and solidarity within marginalized communities. In the show, Magneto’s role as the leader of Genosha and his ultimate sacrifice to protect his people resonates with the experiences of Black leaders who have fought and died for the rights and safety of their communities. The mutants’ struggle to rebuild and heal in the aftermath of the attack mirrors the resilience and strength demonstrated by Black communities in the face of unimaginable tragedy and loss.

The Destruction of Genosha and Its Real-World Parallels

In X-Men ’97, Genosha is destroyed in a genocidal attack, mirroring the real-world violence and trauma inflicted upon Black communities throughout history. From the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, where a thriving Black neighborhood was burned to the ground by a white mob, to more recent tragedies like the Charleston church shooting in 2015, where a white supremacist killed nine Black parishioners, Black people have repeatedly seen their communities and spaces of refuge targeted and destroyed by hate-fueled violence. Places where Black people can gather, create, and celebrate their culture without the weight of white supremacy.

Moreover, the attack on Genosha in X-Men ’97 is reminiscent of the genocidal acts committed against Black people, such as the transatlantic slave trade and the colonization of Africa. The show’s depiction of a massive, coordinated assault on a thriving mutant population parallels the systematic violence and oppression that has been inflicted upon Black communities throughout history. 

The show’s depiction of the trauma, grief, and resilience of the mutant survivors in the wake of this devastating event has the potential to strike a deep chord with Black viewers, mirroring their own experiences and struggles in the face of real-world violence and oppression.

One of the most poignant aspects of the aftermath is the exploration of collective trauma and grief. The mutant characters in X-Men ’97 are forced to confront the sudden and violent loss of their loved ones, their homes, and their sense of safety and belonging. This mirrors the experiences of Black communities in the United States who have endured countless acts of racially motivated violence.

The Importance of Representation

The importance of representation in X-Men ’97, particularly in the context of Genosha’s destruction and its aftermath, cannot be overstated. As the show explores themes that resonate with the Black experience, portraying Black characters will be crucial in delivering a meaningful and impactful narrative.

Representation matters because it allows marginalized communities to see themselves reflected in the media they consume, validating their experiences and providing a sense of belonging. In X-Men ’97, characters like Storm, Bishop, and Lucas Bishop, who are all of African descent, have the potential to serve as powerful representations of Black resilience, leadership, and heroism in the face of tragedy and oppression.

Bishop & Storm from X-Men ’97

Storm, one of the most iconic X-Men characters, has long been a symbol of representation for Black women in comics. As a powerful mutant who can control the weather, Storm has broken barriers and challenged stereotypes. In episode two, Storm loses her powers, a storyline that parallels the struggles and resilience of Black women in today’s society.

Losing her powers can be seen as a metaphor for the challenges Black women face in a society that often undermines their abilities and agency. It reflects the systemic barriers and discrimination that Black women encounter in various aspects of life, from the workplace to healthcare.

Despite these obstacles, Black women have consistently demonstrated resilience and the ability to overcome adversity. Storm’s journey in X-Men ’97 mirrors this resilience as she navigates the loss of her powers. It showcases her inner strength and determination to persevere, even when faced with significant setbacks. Storm’s depowered arc in X-Men ’97 presents an opportunity to explore the intersectionality of her identity as both a mutant and a Black woman. The show can explore how these two aspects of her identity intersect and influence her experiences.

Parallels in Non-Marvel Comic Books

While the X-Men comics, particularly the Genosha storyline, have explored themes that resonate with Black audiences, several other non-Marvel comic books have delved into tragedy’s aftermath and impact on Black communities. These stories often mirror real-world experiences of trauma, resilience, and the ongoing struggle for justice.

One notable example is the “Bitter Root” series from Image Comics, which follows a Black family of monster hunters during the Harlem Renaissance. The comic’s exploration of generational trauma and the importance of healing and unity in the face of adversity strikes a chord with Black readers who have witnessed the devastating effects of racism on their communities.

Another relevant non-Marvel comic is “BLACK” from Black Mask Studios, which directly addresses the issue of police brutality and its devastating impact on Black communities. The story follows a young Black man who discovers he has superpowers after being shot by police, and his journey to find purpose and justice resonates with Black readers who have experienced or witnessed similar traumas.

Other non-Marvel comics that have explored themes relevant to the Black experience include “Prince of Cats” by Ronald Wimberly, which retells Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” from the perspective of Tybalt in a 1980s Brooklyn setting, and “The Banks” by Roxane Gay and Ming Doyle, a heist story about three generations of Black women working to overcome family trauma.

These comics, like the X-Men’s Genosha storyline, use fantastical and superhero elements to explore very real and relatable experiences for Black audiences. By delving into the aftermath of tragedy and the ongoing struggle for justice, these stories provide representation and validation for Black readers while fostering empathy and understanding among non-Black audiences.


In conclusion, Genosha’s evolution from an apartheid state to a mutant sanctuary and its ultimate destruction serves as a poignant and powerful metaphor for the struggles, dreams, and resilience of marginalized communities, particularly the Black experience. Its significance in X-Men lore lies in its ability to reflect and comment on real-world issues of oppression, violence, and the search for a safe haven in a world that often seems hostile and unforgiving.

The destruction of Genosha in X-Men ’97 presents a unique opportunity for the series to explore themes that resonate deeply with Black audiences. By drawing parallels to real-world violence against Black communities and depicting the aftermath of such tragedy with sensitivity and nuance, the show could provide a powerful and thought-provoking narrative that speaks to the Black experience.

Ultimately, the power of the X-Men franchise, and superhero stories more broadly, lies in their ability to inspire hope and imagine a world where justice and equality prevail. In exploring the aftermath of Genosha’s destruction and its resonance with the Black experience, X-Men ’97 has the potential to contribute to this legacy by sparking meaningful conversations, fostering empathy and understanding, and empowering audiences to envision and fight for a better future.

Article written and researched with assistance from Perplexity AI


Written by: Tarik Moody

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