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Here’s Ben Martin on the Legacy Virus as an AIDS allegory:
I wanted to get a deeper take on the Legacy Virus as an analogy for AIDS. As you’ve mentioned more than once on the pod, it’s clear that’s what the writers had in mind, but I feel it misses the mark in a couple of important ways over the life of the story element.
My first issue with the analogy is that the big stigma about AIDS in the early days was that it only affected gay men, when in fact that was not the case. I was born with a genetic blood disorder called hemophilia, and many of the kids and staff from the hemophilia summer camp I attended as a teenager in the 1990s contracted HIV from contaminated blood products used for treatment. While I was fortunate to avoid the contaminated products, many I grew up with did not, as half of all people with hemophilia in the U.S., including 90% of those with severe hemophilia, contracted HIV. You may remember Ryan White, who did a lot of public outreach about HIV and AIDS after contracting it through treatment for his hemophilia. With the exception of Moira MacTaggart, the Legacy Virus only targeted mutants, meaning it missed the mark on the way AIDS was incorrectly and maliciously used as a propaganda weapon against homosexuals, when in fact it was something that could affect anyone who contracted it. Leaving out that aspect is a disservice to the wide range of people affected by HIV and AIDS in my view. I would have loved to see a human villain use the Legacy Virus to stir up hatred, only to find out they contracted it themselves. Maybe that’s what they tried to do with Moira, but I recall either Beast or Xavier saying it’s likely she only contracted it through prolonged exposure to it while studying it.
My second issue is that, through the magic of comic book science, the Legacy Virus was altogether wiped out (with the exception of a few samples in test tubes that popped up in an X-Force run as far as I know). My friends who are still living with HIV and AIDS today do so with a decreased quality of life and tons of medication. They are, fortunately, alive, but their lives are not what they were before. That’s a smaller nitpick, but I personally think it would have been really interesting to see characters contract the virus, receive the cure, but still be living with some consequences of the disease in some way, whether it be a change to their mutant powers or just poor health in general or something like that.
On a side note, if you can find it, there’s a fantastic 2010 documentary called “Bad Blood: A Cautionary Tale” currently available on Amazon Prime that explores the impact of HIV on the hemophilia community. It’s very powerful and is an important story.
LINKS & FURTHER THEORIES
- You can hear about Infectia in happier times on Episode 92 – Living in Ship.
- Jay recently discussed the backup story from Classic X-Men #43 (along with some other Phoenix-related comics) on fellow X-cast Battle of the Atom!
That bit on the Legacy/AIDS parallel reminds me of this piece in the LA Review of Books a couple of years ago.