“The New Mutants” Spoiler Review: Marvel and LGBTQ+ Representation

Preface: Full disclosure, I am a casual Marvel fan at best. I have minimal knowledge of the characters and this *origin story?* was my first exposure to the X-Men.

When I saw the first trailer for “The New Mutants” I was (pleasantly) surprised to see that not only is the story based around characters my age, but that there was an assumedly lesbian romance at the forefront. I was even more taken aback when the trailer ended and I realized that this was an X-Men film. X-Men is obviously a property of Marvel, which is a property of the Walt Disney Company. Not only was the film produced by Marvel and Disney by association, it had a PG-13 rating. “Holy crap,” I thought. “This is a movie for families. This is the Marvel of the future.” And my heart grew 3 sizes that day.

Despite my appreciation for it’s prominent queer representation, “The New Mutants” was marketed as a horror movie (a barrier broken down in it’s own right). If there is one thing you must know about me, it is that I cannot do scary. I wasn’t planning on seeing it but my viewing of the film ended up being the result of fear-facing on an otherwise uneventful Autumn Friday night. I am very happy I caved, because I have plenty of thoughts.

The character I instantly took interest in when introduced to the class of principals was Rahne Sinclair, a teenage werewolf portrayed by “Game of Thrones” actress Maisy Williams. The first thought that emerged upon the introduction of the character was, “Wow, I know that girl.” Williams’ portrayal was flawless. Rahne was the girl from school who keeps quiet but her wheels are always turning, the girl that provides amazing support but conceals her own world, the girl who seemingly knows everyone but no one truly knows her. When alone, Rahne would let her internal monologue verbally slip, and through it we got to know more about her. The writer gave her little “inside joke” moments that made me laugh while going over many other viewers’ heads. One of the more noticeable ones being the fact that she was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the hospital TV, a show that has been “claimed” in a sense by the LGBTQ community due to its revolutionary lesbian/bisexual representation. Rahne was special to me because I could relate to her. As someone who identified my sexuality at a young age and have been “out” through the entirety of high school, so much of my experience was represented through this character. This was taken further by the fact that she was an openly LGBTQ teen who embraces both her sexuality and religion, an experience (and occasionally, struggle) that I can relate to on a very deep level. Rahne’s trauma on this front presents itself very prominently in the second act of the movie, that is all I will give away about that. In conclusion, the character was incredibly well-thought-out and Williams’ performance was outstanding and presented a depth I wouldn’t have expected out of a Marvel superhero movie.

Then there was Dani Moonstar, portrayed by up-and-comer Blu Hunt. It is not my place to discuss the story given to her as an Indigenous Native American lead, that goes to members of her specific culture and those educated on it. However, as an uneducated viewer, I appreciated the backstory given to her character and how/why her mysterious mutant powers present themselves in the way they do. Kicking off the movie, her character is handed a tremendous amount of trauma, and as is oh-so common in Hollywood, she seemingly works through it in days and lets it take the back-burner when presented with a romantic interest. I will not sin the movie for this as it is a quick-moving plot and the film concludes with it’s various characters in different stages of resolution and development. It was just something I felt the need to point out. I also appreciate the fact that Dani stays a strong protagonist throughout, despite the fact that the situation she is presented with provides limitless villain potential.

As LGBTQ characters, I collected that the connection between Rahne and Dani was a new experience, but that gender played no part in Dani’s approach to her feelings. When asked about this revolutionary love story in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Maisy Williams said this:

“I love that is wasn’t labeled. These girls are just in love with one another (…) I don’t think any of the other mutants even mention it. It’s just normalized. I think it’s time for that now. We’re way past those limits.”

Despite obviously rooting for the characters that made me feel seen, I actually appreciated how the romance between the two did not at all interfere with the film’s central plot and instead only surfaced in times when a romance felt natural, not at all forced. Dani is the individual that goes through the most character development by far, and I don’t think they could have found anyone more perfect for the part than Blu Hunt. Her dynamic and emotion-provoking performance is not one that goes unnoticed, and I look forward to seeing her future projects.

The last thing I have to give the movie praise for is it’s casting. Although none of the principal “teen” actors were teens, my head nearly exploded when learning their actual ages. The cast’s portrayals of the teenage experience (even if that experience involves mutant powers and a mysterious “super hospital”) are brilliant and real. The characters were clearly designed with strong intention, and attention to detail. It definitely shows.

I highly recommend this movie for anyone who wants a little scare, some kickass super heroes, and a love story that represents a large community of modern teens. To watch “The New Mutants” trailer, click here.

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