Making the Grade: Professor Charles Xavier’s Psychic Powers

ProfessorX
Telepathy
I don’t know about this one. You’d think the ability to learn every deep, dark secret of the person in front of you just by scanning their blabbermouth hippocampus would be pretty nifty, but I’m guessing the novelty will wear off the millionth time you meet someone whose deepest, darkest secret involves the phrase “in the butt.” And let’s be honest, hearing how much the smiling convenience store clerk actually resents the time it’s taking you to consider your confectionary options doesn’t really help either of you get through the day. C-

Ability to plant mental suggestions
Otherwise known as the “these are not the droids you’re looking for” power. I think we all know a few situations in our lives where this kind of power would really come in handy, bank loan meetings and the reading of rich relatives’ wills being two of the more obvious ones. The only downside is that you wouldn’t want anyone to know you can do this, because then all your loved ones would start to grow resentful of your power over them, and then you start giving them mental suggestions to forget the previous mental suggestions you gave them, and then you slowly grow mad because you have this amazing power that no one can know about and you can’t be certain if people in your life love you because they want to love you or because you’ve just been ordering them to love you, and pretty soon your whole life turns into a Twilight Zone episode about the dangers of losing your soul because you’re treating everyone around you like your personal puppet-slaves and can never know if you were truly loved in this cold, lonely universe. But on the flip side: puppets are fun! A-

Manipulation of others’ sensory perceptions
Hey, major uncool. Bad enough we’re talking about prying into people’s inner thoughts or making them choose “less filling” when they wanted to choose “tastes great,” but now we’re talking about a whole different level of skeevy. “No, of course you’re not sitting on a futon in a dingy apartment with an acne-ridden guy who possesses unholy mental powers. You’re… lying in a giant field of marigolds! Surrounded by… loving unicorns! Who all smell like fresh blueberry muffins! And look, I’m your beloved Prince Randolpho, who just happens to look and sound just like your favorite teen pop idol and smells like the Old Spice your loving dad used to wear!” Life is scary enough without knowing that Chuck the Human Roofie is out there mucking around with our perceptions for his personal profit and amusement. D-

Projection of consciousness into the astral plane
Meh. I guess the power to separate my mind from my body and let my consciousness float willy-nilly in a realm of pure mental thoughts would be more appealing if, say, my body was confined to a wheelchair, but I don’t see a lot of useful day-to-day applications for this one. And I certainly wouldn’t want to do it too often and leave my inert corporeal self at the mercy of whatever Sharpie-wielding roommates I might have at the time. After a few minutes of quiet time followed by a quick astral tour of my back for any suspicious-looking moles, I think I’d be pretty much done with this power. C

Projection of psionic mental bolts
At some point, the X-Men writers realized an old guy in a wheelchair wasn’t the biggest physical threat, so they gave him the power to knock people out with “psionic mental bolts,” kind of like taking a big imaginary billy club to the inside of someone’s noggin. Nobody gets hurt, they just take your suggestion to go sleepy time really seriously. This really feels like all you would need in life. Lineup too long at Starbucks? WHAMMO! Problem solved. Kids boring you with long dissertations about the battle advantages of each and every goddamn Pokémon in existence? WHAMMO! Problem solved. The risk here is you might give in to the temptation to overuse your power, people will start catching on to your little game, someone will  invent a helmet made out of a magical mind-bolt repelling material — let’s call it contrivium —  and you’re back to square one relying on hormone-addled teenaged mutants to do your dirty work. And if you think facing down Magneto and the Juggernaut is scary, imagine living in a house full of horny, angst-ridden teenagers — and you can’t keep out their thoughts. C+

Ability to sense other mutants within a certain range
One of the bigger sci-fi gizmos in the X-Men universe is Cerebro, the computer that Xavier uses to scan everyone’s minds in search of mutant brain waves, an act that seemed a lot less ominous back before we knew the NSA was doing this for real with all our Google searches. What people often forget is that Cerebro didn’t do the actual detecting; it was only amplifying Xavier’s own natural ability to sense another mutant in his immediate surroundings. It’s kind of like how Bugs Bunny could sense buried gold in that one cartoon set in the Yukon, but without the body spasms and wacky sound effects. Yeah, I… don’t see how this is remotely useful, with or without the spasms. Determining whether the maniac running towards you at breakneck speed is either a mutant or just some guy who was bitten by a radioactive kumquat is of secondary importance to, you know, being able to get out of the damn way. Hee, “radioactive kumquat.” Gotta remember that one for my next Disqus username. D

Long-range telepathic communication
Professor X used to do this one all the time; his students would be working out in the Danger Room or mooning over each other in the library when they would all receive a mental blast from their teacher, whose disembodied head would order them to meet him in the solarium or wherever the hell he was at that moment. This feels like the height of laziness to me. I mean, even in the 1960s we had this thing called an “intercom” that could accomplish the exact same task; nowadays the bigger challenge in life is finding devices that don’t allow other people the ability to instantly message you whenever they feel like it. So what’s the professor’s deal here? Is he just showing off his omniscient side, is he too cheap to invest in a pile of cut-rate pagers, or is he, like the wizards in the Harry Potter books, so used to using his powers for tasks that he’s too damn lazy to push a button? Seriously, what’s up with the lack of manual labor in the Potter universe? With all the apparating and the levitating and the other ways wizards avoid doing any kind of activity, I’m surprised we didn’t have a book in the series called Harry Potter and the Half-Ton Prince. Thank you! Good night! Don’t forget to tip your waitress! C-

 

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