You are a god among insects. Never let anyone tell you any different.
(Magneto speaking to Pyro in the movie X2)
You will be like God.
(Satan speaking to Eve in the garden of Eden)
There are many reasons for the popularity of the X-Men which have been well fleshed out in many circles— the universal themes of misunderstanding, isolation, angst, etc.
But let’s explore a topic that Magneto himself loves to talk about in the X-Men universe, that of mutants being gods.
What really distinguishes a being as a “god”, and why does Magneto (or anyone else) want to be one? Could this be part of the X-Men’s appeal, an appeal to humanity’s desire to become godlike, which has been present from literally the beginning of time?
The above scene out of the movie X2 could have been labeled “The Temptation of Pyro.” What desire is Magneto appealing to with his “temptation” to the young mutant Pyro? It’s not simply about his superhuman abilities— Pyro already has those. So what is it, what does it really mean to be a god, and why does that appeal to Magneto and Pyro and every other human?
I would posit that there are two things at a more fundamental level than mere ability that make a being a god, and two things that every human soul desires. The first is to become the controller of one’s own destiny, and the other is to become worthy of worship.
Let’s look at both in turn. Every psychoanalyst will tell you one of the root issues of every neurosis is that of frustration with the lack of control which is an inevitable part of a mortal living in a fallen world. We all desire control, we all desire to be able to decide and then control our own destiny without the interference of anyone else. Every toddler who stamps her foot “NO!”, every dreamer, every dictator, every busdriver, every demented soul strapped into a wheelchair, everyone wants complete and unalterable autonomy.
Only one being in a universe can have that level of autonomy— and that being has to be God. There is room for only one unalterable will, only one person who cannot be hindered in any way, only one person who cannot be told, “You are in the wrong!” Although Magneto would like to be that person (and so would Ian McKellan, by the way), only one being can lay claim to being God.
The other desire that is deeply embedded in the human psyche is the desire to be worshipped. From the little girl who stands on top of a table in her Easter dress to the stereotyped megalomaniac who orders all to bow before him, we all want to be on a pedestal. Even in people whose hurts have damaged their “self-image”— they still retain that image, that ego, that would wish that they were above others. But there can be only one true “King of the Hill” in a universe, there can be only one who is truly worthy of worship.
I think the real question then becomes, “Which god will you acknowledge?” Will you subliminally or openly wish for your own deity, to control your own destiny and elevate yourself above others? It is a futile way of life. Or, though humility and repentance and grace, will you discard your desire for autonomy and become a servant of the one true God, and bow in holy fear and worship before Him who alone is worthy of all worship and majesty and glory?