EXTRA: Mutant Alert!

HOLLYWOOD, May 17, 2000 – All right, here’s the scoop: Mutants walk among us. But not to worry, a hard-line, true-blue U.S. senator is working to save America from these genetically impure subhumans. Heck, he’s even come up with ways to help you identify mutants in your midst, and if you suspect your milkman or co-worker, you can report them to the proper authorities. Say what?

Oh, yeah, we forgot to mention it’s all a (very clever) satirical campaign to promote Fox’s upcoming “X-Men” movie, which opens July 14 and stars Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Halle Berry.

The Mutant Watch Initiative (www.mutantwatch.com) sprang up on the Web last week. Corresponding TV commercials in which Sen. Kelly (as played by Bruce Davison) spews bellicose campaign rhetoric against mutants and asks voters to support his vision of a “genetically cleaner” America also began appearing.

Sen. Kelly (Bruce Davison) (In case you’re not familiar with Marvel’s “X-Men” comic, the titular heroes are mutants who use their powers for good, as opposed to other mutants that, you know, use them for bad. In the books, Sen. Kelly is a right-wing, intolerant politician – not based on a real person, we think — who’s a constant thorn in the X-Men’s collective side.)

The Web site and the TV ad, neither of which let on that their fakes, are raising comic fans’ hopes that “X-Men,” unlike, say “Batman and Robin,” might just be a comic-book movie with a brain.

“It’s certainly not an original idea,” Rob Worley of the Comics 2 Film Web site (www.comics2film.com) tells Hollywood.com. “‘Scream 3‘ had a similar promotion, in which they built a Web site for the studio where the movie-within-the-movie was set. Of course, ‘The Blair Witch Project‘ completely exploited the concept last year,”

“[The ‘X-Men‘ campaign] reminds me more of the satirical TV commercials that were seen in the movie ‘Robocop,’ which were a brilliant way to inject some of the movie’s reality into the viewers’ sensibilities. Everyone is familiar with political ads, so this allows the uninitiated to actually sit, momentarily, in the world of the X-Men and see what kind of prejudices are at play there. It may let non-comic readers see that there’s an interesting subtext to this movie.”

Of course, there’s always the outside (yet highly amusing) chance that somebody, somewhere, will take all this seriously.

“Wouldn’t it be great if it got all blown out of proportion?” muses Netizen “Jaywalker,” a poster on the rec.arts.comics.other-media newsgroup. “Kind of reminds me of the ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast that was taken seriously by so many. I’d love to see it hit the national news. Imagine Dan Rather telling people it’s only a movie.”

Sen. Kelly’s Web site, for all intents and purposes, looks pretty much like a real campaign tool. There’s information on his anti-mutant platform (“safeguarding our Creator’s original vision, a vision that is now imperiled by lethal and degenerate individuals among us”), and there’s even a diagnostic test to help you determine if you are a mutant. The test is “carefully compiled by our mutant profiling experts to determine the probability of basic level genetic mutation.”

“There’s a little Sen. Kelly in everybody,” Kelly alter-ego Bruce Davison said in an online chat on Comics Continuum (www.comicscontinuum.com) last week. “I think racism is inherent in every human soul. Sen. Kelly has the power to play with that fear. That’s part of the world we live in.”

That’s fine, but just to make it clear: Sen. Kelly isn’t really part of the world we live in.