WhatsAMatterday: Making a Spectacle of Gay Heroes
So, usually what I do for these Smatterday things is a bunch of links leading to different bits of news from the comicbook world, along with my own brief thoughts on them. This week I'm trying something new, the first of what I plan on making a semi-regular feature called "WhatsAMatterday" where I focus on a single topic which has been bothering me (still with numerous links), and talk/rant more completely about what I dislike about it. Today, I'm annoyed over both Marvel and DC's recent handling of their homosexual characters.
Of course, the Internet has been exploding with people discussing this topic, and as some have pointed out, participating in further online ranting over it is, in many ways, adding to the problem. So know that I am aware of the self-defeatism inherent in this column, and I'm choosing to write it anyway. I hate myself just a wee bit for it, but I'll live.
Earlier this week, Marvel announced on The View that one of their superheroes, Northstar, would be proposing to and then marrying his boyfriend Kyle in Astonishing X-Men. DC, meanwhile, said that one of their "iconic" male characters, who had been straight pre-New 52, would soon be revealed to be gay in the new universe. In both cases, the companies got a ton of attention and coverage, both positive and negative, from sources big and small. Just hours after the words were spoken, the whole freaking world new about it, and we were all making up our minds about whether or not it was a good idea before any of us had even read any of the actual comicbook material involved.
And therein lies the heart of my problem with all the media hullabaloo generated (intentionally) by these announcements. Before the characters themselves get a chance to propose or come out of the closet---or however the DC character's sexuality is revealed within whatever series he'll be in---those of us in the real world all already know about it, and so our reactions to it as readers are unavoidably influenced by external factors. And I just HATE that. I hate being unable to enjoy a comicbook story or, truthfully, any work of art, without the outside world effecting my experience.
I understand that may sound a little ridiculous in this day and age. We're all so connected and information spreads so quickly that it seems impossible to entirely avoid spoilers or other people's opinions, especially as a comicbook fan. Because of course there are endless teasers, previews, interviews, advance reviews, etc. coming out every day for any number of titles. But the difference between the everyday industry hype and the media storm surrounding these recent gay superheroes seems pretty clear to me. It's not about hooking us with a cool story, or idea, or even character. It's about promoting the simple fact that homosexuals exist in these universes.
And why is this even news? You know what other major life events superheroes go through ALL THE TIME? They die and are reborn. They completely change their personalities, sometimes donning brand new outfits and/or monikers. They create alternate realities with their minds and trap everyone in the world there without their knowledge. So why is a change in marital status or even sexual preference such an enormous attention-getter? Of course, I know the reason why. It's because Marvel and DC want some credit for advancing the cause of gay rights. But guess what, idiots? You're the last ones on that bandwagon.
Movies, TV, theater, music, even non-superhero comicbooks have all been telling stories with and about gay characters for a long, long while now. Having the first gay superhero wedding take place in 2012 is not something to be proud of, and neither is egging on a bunch of speculation about who is or isn't gay in your universe. The Big Two need to stop patting themselves on the back for finally, and still only occasionally, recognizing the diversity of our world, and start apologizing for how long it took them to do so.
And ideally, they'd do it in a way that doesn't spoil any more stories.