Magneto: A Villain Motivated by Fear

I can’t remember ever not being afraid. As a child, I would always double-check to make sure my parents were going to wait in the car and not leave me at the library. If they did that, they might never come back. I had no reason to distrust them; they never left me anywhere or forgot me, but I feared it, and would wonder how I would get home if it happened. As a little kid. =P

Others have always seemed much more eager to engage with the world; I have held back, analyzed, detached, weighed the pros and cons, figured out what the “rational” choice was (which avoided risks and kept me safe). Once I discovered the Enneagram, which explains a person’s deepest fears and motives and how it shapes their behavior, I recognized myself as a 6 – The Loyalist, also known as the Strategist. 6’s feel like their feet are on shifting sand. They can’t trust others, and don’t trust themselves. Fear drives them to be careful, and play it safe. They choose Logic as a stronghold, because it should not fail them. They ruthlessly question everything, and trust no one.

Sixes are reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy. Excellent “troubleshooters,” they foresee problems and foster cooperation, but can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious—running on stress while complaining about it. They can be cautious and indecisive, but also reactive, defiant and rebellious. They typically have problems with self-doubt and suspicion. At their Best: internally stable and self-reliant, courageously championing themselves and others.

Now, being a 6 is not all bad. I am good at foreseeing consequences and pitfalls and pointing them out to other people (which has not always earned me friends). 6’s dislike being disliked, which gives us a natural warmth, a sense of humor, and the ability to know how to get others to if not like us, at least not see us as a threat. And rationalizing away my feelings has been useful. But it’s still there, that sense of being afraid.

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Which is why, out of all the villains I like, I have always felt the strongest appreciation and compassion for Magneto in the original X-Men trilogy. He is a 6 and motivated by fear. Fear the Holocaust will repeat itself. A belief he cannot trust humans, or Charles Xavier, or his “friends.” He is also smart and does not take risks. Unlike a lot of villains, his motives are not self-serving or malicious. He thinks he is doing the right thing, in protecting Mutants / his kind from humans… who have a terrible track record for turning against whatever they do not understand. In his cynicism, he is logically sound – and right. Humans are not going to accept Mutants.

Charles is the idealist, Magneto the fear-driven rationalist. It always pains me to see him caught, held in prison, abused. At the risk of spoilers, his “fate” in the third movie broke my heart. I actually cried. They took his powers away from him, the only thing that helped him feel safe. I cannot imagine having that done to me. It would break be my worst nightmare. Thankfully, the end of the movie gave me hope his powers might return. It didn’t feel right to deprive him of them like that.

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Magneto has a very 6 way of inciting rebellion. His methods escalate based on human responses and how much of a threat he feels – he moves from wanting to make everyone a Mutant (thereby reducing the risk of persecution) starting with the world leaders, to wanting to kill all humans in X2 (since the villain intended to do the same to Mutants), to terminating the human ability to create a serum that makes Mutants “normal” in X3. Magneto isn’t stupid. He’s a distrustful, questioning 6 who knows that “optional” can soon become “mandatory,” or, as they used against him, “weaponized,” where people have their powers removed against their will. Their ultimate self, violated.

In a way, I think what makes X-Men the untouchable favorite of the superhero franchises for me is the dichotomy between Fear and Idealism in Magneto and Xavier. Neither one is right. Magneto could trust people more and be less reactive; Xavier needs to trust less and be a little more suspicious. His idealism and determination to believe in the goodness of Magneto and larger humanity is his undoing; and Magneto’s fear is his undoing. I feel that tug daily, between my distrust, pessimism, and fear and my idealism, optimism, and desire to believe the best in people.

The Enneagram’s purpose is to show you where your natural fears break down; how they are irrational and keep you from living up to your full potential. As a 6, I have to learn to recognize fear-driven responses and react with less anxiety. I think it’s good to find villains you can identify with, because then you can see who you might be, if you do not check your instinctive impulses. People have often done bad things out of fear. They may think their motives pure, or insist they are doing it to protect themselves or others, but there is really no excuse for the choices we make once we know what’s driving them.

13 thoughts on “Magneto: A Villain Motivated by Fear

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  1. Magneto is my favorite superhero villain. And, much as I love the MCU… Wolverine will always be my favorite superhero, so I will always like the X-men world just a little (or a lot, some days) more. Especially the first three. Especially X-2.

    I’ve never investigated the Eannagram thing, but perhaps I should. It sounds like you’ve gained some great insights from it.

    1. I think he’s mine too. He’s more approachable and believable than a lot of the others. Thanos is harder to understand (eradicate half the population, including myself, if it means protecting it) but Magneto has a straightforward motive. I think that’s what makes the X-Men trilogy good — the motives are all straight forward. The story is easy to follow. I wish more stories made that choice.

      X2 is an excellent movie.

      You should look into it. See if the library has a book on it, they usually go into it with more nuance than online resources. It is slowly teaching me tolerance for myself and others. 😉

  2. Great article! I am an Enneagram 6 and so I related to everything here. For some reason, I never really noticed Magneto was a six but I can see it now. He is such a great, complex villain. The X-Men are still my favorite superhero franchise too.

    1. Thank you. 🙂 I’m sorry you get to share the fun of being a 6, but at least we both know where we stand, right? Hah!

      I honestly didn’t realize Magento was a 6 either until I was re-watching the original trilogy. Then, it became very apparent to me that he was a head type first, and then his 6-ness just exploded all over the screen. So it was kind of like this “AHA, no wonder I liked him so much” moment of revelation.

      I feel the X-Men trilogy still holds up, even after the bombardment of super-hero characters, in part BECAUSE it has such strong characters (Magneto, Xavier, Rogue, Wolverine).

    1. Magneto is a terrific villain and one of my favorites. I think you might like it, because it has a little bit of everything, but IMO, Magneto and Xavier are the best things about it. (And depicted by superb actors too, their chemistry as frienemies is terrific). I love the original trilogy! (Just not the prequels! There, the personalities of the main duo have been completely changed and they have totally different Enneagram types, so I’m just like o.O CONSISTENCY PLEASE?)

      Um. That you are both 1w9s? 😂

      1. Frenemies is such a fun trope 😀 (Oh! Is THIS the consistency-lacking series you were talking about? *shakes finger at filmmakers*)

        Wait, whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? We have the same Enneagram type? I DIDN’T KNOW THAT.

        *rushes off to the blog to re-read what you said about him that I’ve completely forgotten apparently*

        1. Magneto and Xavier work together sometimes, and against one another sometimes, but Xavier cannot always trust Magneto to have his best interests in mind. 😉

          (Yes, this is the series I was complaining about the other day. You don’t grow an ESFP Enneagram 847 Magneto into a 638 INTJ Magneto. Altough, I was also crabbing about Star Wars, where ESFP Anakin turns into ISTJ Darth Vader. :P)

          My co-mod typed Thanos but after watching the movie, I agree with her. He’s motivated by doing what is “right” — even if the Avengers see it as wrong.

          1. That goes without saying, yup. 😉

            Whoa. That is . . . a VERY big jump. ESFPs and INTJs are about as far apart on the scale as you can get, aren’t they?

            He definitely is, which is what fascinates me the most . . . that his sense of right & wrong is so TWISTED, yet he remains so THOROUGHLY CONVINCED of its correctness.

          2. Yes, they have a reverse stacking order. Older Magneto is calm, disciplined, far-sighted, and cautious. Young Mageto is a risk-taking, aggressive hothead. Even if you could buy Fassbender growing old like McKellen (impossible, since they have zero physical features in common and dissimilar facial structures) … when exactly did Magneto get smarter? 😛

            Most 1 villains are very convinced of the moral appropriateness of what they are doing, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it. 😉

          3. Yup. It’s not fair to just ask the audience to assume the character magically became SO much smarter & more strategic & more cautious, “just because they’re older.” All old people are not automatically good strategists.

            True, true . . . 😉

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