There are a lot of things I hate in life: raw tomatoes in anything but bruschetta, footless leggings with dresses, this research project. Small things, you know, but huge annoyances.
The big issue I had been having with my project was that I lacked a “so what;” I was doing a character analysis without any purpose. That’s part of why I haven’t been able to cohesively explain it. All I knew was that I wanted to examine Magneto’s Holocaust influence. That was it. That’s not a research paper though; you can’t make a thesis with just that. Why that character? Why superheroes? What is the point of anything I was doing? Why am I here?
Admittedly, that last one will likely never be answered.
Alas, I’m not allowed to give up. (Mostly because I like my GPA.) And so, it was with great consternation that I firmly decided to change my topic. Magneto is rad and all, but that’s no help if I cannot say anything (academically) relevant about him. Dismayed, I knew that it was time to let him go. I didn’t know where I would go from there, but I knew I had no footing with him anyway.
First, though, I had heaps of research that I had to sort out and delete.
BUT THEN, WHEN ALL HOPE WAS LOST, ALL OF MY PROBLEMS WERE SOLVED.
See, the thing about having 900 bookmarks of research jammed into one folder is that it’s highly unlikely that you’ve read it all. I, for one, thought I had. I was wrong. Jammed in the middle of that folder was my saving grace: “Americanizing the Holocaust: The Case of ‘Jakob the Liar.'”
Americanization is so real. It’s a phenomenon that makes a lot of patriotic sense but is probably an academic travesty. Literally all of history that we plebs in the US know is Americanized as heck. There’s a mainstream narrative that some higher-up decided to distort from “real” history that everyone just sticks with. Here’s an example.
In case you didn’t know, Inglourious Basterds, in all of its terribleness/glory, is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s great because its comedic genius if you’re into black humor. It’s terrible because it’s damn historical sacrilege. There are some parts of it that are accurate, such as the German invasion of France and subsequent government control and policing. Yes, there were various “real Inglorious Bastards,” or Jewish units that killed Nazis. However, I’m 900% sure that Hitler did not die in a movie theater fire. I’m also pretty sure that even the “real” Bastards did not scalp 100 Nazis each.
But what Tarantino’s film portrays is still so important. There’s a good-evil paradigm. There’s Jewish vengeance and resistance. And, most importantly, there are American heroes swooping in for the kill.
That, right there, is an Americanization of the Holocaust.
AND MAN, IS IT SO RELEVANT.
This is Chris Claremont, the man who gave Magneto his Holocaust background in 1966. Claremont believed that this would make Magneto a more complex villain with understandable motives. To me, it works. Even calling Magneto a villain gives me the willies, because he isn’t, not really. He’s an extremist, but his ideology makes a lot of sense to me.
However, perhaps that’s because Magneto has been Americanized, just like me.
It’s undeniable that Magneto is an American creation and that his influences are from Jewish Americans looking for heroes in the post-WWII life. The narrative he has been given, therefore, has gotten the American treatment. He has that good/evil, resistance, heroic aspect going for him that all-American folklore loves and has applied to the Holocaust. He embodies the Holocaust suffering narrative that the US seems fascinated with, a la Anne Frank and The Pianist.
However, it’s also interesting to note how he defies that Americanization. He occupies a moral gray space, despite his own starkly contrasted good/evil ideology. He is a resistance leader, but he is an aggressor to the American government; nothing about his story calls for the hero that the US envisions. Magneto is both a product of the Americanization of the Holocaust and an antithesis of it.
Examining that might just be worth something, Americanization can be my “so what.”
So it turns out that I’m stickin’ with him. (((((((((: #bless