X-Men has long dealt with bigotry and discrimination in our society, now Sophie Turner and Jessica Chastain bring mental illness and empathy to the 'Dark Phoenix' conversation.
Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner and Academy Award Nominee Jessica Chastain held a press conference in Mexico City as part of their tour for Dark Phoenix , the 7th installment of the X-Men franchise. When journalists raised questions about analogies the film makes with contemporary problems, both Turner and Chastain championed for a better understanding of mental illnesses while also encouraging more empathy and willingness towards dialogue.
It's only understandable, since the X-Men saga is about a universe in which mutants, or people who develop all sorts of superhuman capabilities (like telekinesis and telepathy) face discrimination and bigotry by humans who do not have powers. Mutants must either live in hiding, hide their powers or start rebelling in order to survive. The X-Men are often compared to real life conflicts regarding Civil Rights in the United States, antisemitism, and LGBT themes.Turner finds the 7th installment of the saga, however, a perfect parable to mental illness. Dark Phoenix deals with Jean Grey (played by Turner), who is unable to control her own powers due to the sheer force and destructiveness of its traits. These powers are so massive they completely change her personality as she struggles to either restrain them or use her skills for good. And Sophie Turner totally gets her character. She mentions an important message "that applies to all the X-Men movies" which is that "what makes you different is what makes you special and there's power in that when you embrace your differences".
However, what makes Dark Phoenix even more special is that it deals with a character who is taken over by the "Phoenix" a power larger than her more "human" self. "I feel very passionately about mental health", said Turner. "This movie very much studied mental illnesses like schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder, addiction and how that affects yourself and the people around you. You can never really have too many discussions about mental health."
Jean Grey is a gentle and kind young girl who is later revealed to be the most powerful mutant alive. Her true self comes and goes as her powers and the "Phoenix", a semi-goddess personality that Jean has trouble understanding and controlling, take over her which in turn alienates her from friends and allies. The comparison to mental illnesses is crystal clear, which is something that sets this movie apart from the rest of the saga. In Turner's words, she would like to point out
the fact that young girls and young boys will be able to see a female superhero who is, not only the protagonist, but also the antagonist and just how kind of well rounded she is as a characters. She has flaws like every woman and I just think it’s such a brilliant, honest kind of writing about a woman going through mental illness or something that appears to be like that. And that was really important to me.
When asked what super power she would like to have, Jessica Chastain, who plays an alien shapeshifter that manipulates the "Phoenix", answered she wished to
create a power where people are interested in listening to other people and understanding where they’re coming from and having a dialogue. I truly believe that participating in that and listening to people you create love, you create tolerance, you create compassion, all of that.
Dark Phoenix will be released on June 7th, and the early buzz says it's going to bring a worthy closure to the X-Men story. With actresses committed to these causes, it may just be the kind of message the world needs right now.