Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Problem with a Gay Green Lantern

In the following weeks, I plan to have a long series of posts focusing on sexuality and gender in the media.  We'll be looking at cases where people are using these ideas in a flawed manner, then looking at some potential avenues of how to use these very important concepts in a correct and meaningful way.  Let's begin with the concept of sexuality, in particular, homosexuality.  


A few weeks ago, DC Comics built up a huge controversy over the announcement that one of its "main" superheroes would be revealed as gay.  It caused quite a stir in the media, but was eventually revealed to the comic reading public to a lukewarm reaction.  To be perfectly honest, no one really cared.  And, to me, that shows how accepting the new generation has become.  This "big reveal" that DC planned was only met with indifference only shows how engrained the ideas of homosexuality and acceptance are in modern society.  And, if this "big reveal" was done in a different way and at a different time, I would have had a similar indifference.  I don't really care if a character is gay, straight, bisexual, or whatever.

But, the fact of the matter is that, when you look closer at the timing and style of this this "big reveal," you will realize how shameful this change was.  It seems to be that this "reveal" was not done in true, genuine respect for the idea and trials of homosexuals, but in a poor, half-assed marketing ploy in order to compete with Marvel comics and to reap the benefits of a recent cultural event.  Now, I have read that the writer of the new, gay Alan Scott wanted to create a positive gay role model in the new universe, but the timing and manner of Mr. Scott's eventual revelation just smacks of editorial mandates.

Let's look at the timing of the reveal.  DC co-publisher Dan Didio revealed the announcement of a gay superhero to a convention audience in the month of May.  However, this was around the time of an announcement by the Marvel company that one of its already established gay superheroes, Northstar, proposed to his long-timed boyfriend, Kyle (could they think of a more boring name?).  Now, I must admit that I don't know which announcement came first, but the more important thing to note is that BOTH of these announcements were announced mere moments after President Barack Obama announced his support of gay rights.  To me, it seems like  Marvel and (more importantly) DC were just trying to ride on the coattails of this announcement.  Now, I am always one to admit good business sense and this was a good business move.  Before Obama'a announcement, producing such story lines would have been a huge gamble, but after the acclaim of Obama's speech, every business could have jumped on the gay rights train.  However, when it comes something like writing a character, adding something as important and life-changing as homosexuality to a character is not something you can just add.  It requires planning and dedication.  When a character is announced as gay, we have to look at the surrounding evidence and go, "yes, that makes sense."  It can't be thrown in on the last minute.  And, as much as Marvel is riding on the coat tails of Obama's announcement, I at least have to give them credit for making their character (Northstar) an established homosexual.  His marriage may have came out of the blue, but not the character himself.  Alan Scott, on the other hand, is just all the sudden revealed to be the gay.  No lead up.  No establishment.  He's just...there.  It's an alternate reality where he's been gay for years.  But we have no lead up to that either.  It's just introduced.  Well...OK.  Not much we can say about it.  It sounds like a bullshit surprise reveal, but whatever.

But that's not the only thing that bothers me about DC's reveal, as opposed to Marvel's.  You see, Marvel was just building off a character that was in their main universe and making a natural progression of character.  In addition, Marvel's announcement of the marriage, while poorly handled (they announced what happens in the comic before it even goes on sale...so what's the point of actually buying the comic?), was relatively low key.  DC made a huge deal of the announcement.

In addition, at the convention, Didio said that the character to be revealed would be a "major superhero."  To every person who reads comics, and even to those who don't, a major superhero means someone we all know.  Superman, Wonder Woman (who I would have expected), maybe even Hawkman.  Sure, I could accept a B-lister.  Booster Gold?  Blue Beetle?  Maybe, with some good writing, I could see that.  But then they announced it was Green Lantern, but not Hal Jordan.  It was Alan Scott, someone who can barely be considered a "major" hero in the DC Universe.  But then it was revealed that this wasn't even the "real" Alan Scott, but an Alternate Earth Alan Scott.  OK...so the "major superhero" is an alternate reality version of a C-List, Golden Age Superhero?  Does this sound like DC wanted to make a character gay without affecting their main universe to anyone else?  Seriously, it sounds like they said "Well, we need to make a character gay, but let's do as little damage to our established characters as possible.  Let's create an alternate universe."  This, to me, does not seem like they really wanted to make a change.  It seems like a half-assed cop-out.  This screams an editorial mandate rather than a moving statement on the acceptance of gays in modern culture.  It seems more worthy of condemnation than praise.

But what bugs me the most about this reveal is that DC already has gay characters.  Detective Renee Montoya (aka the Question) and Batwoman have been lesbians for years.  Well-written, well-established, lesbian characters who live in DC's main universe.  Would someone tell me why these characters are simply ignored?  Is it because they aren't controversial enough?

DC Comics and their characters have been the victim of idiotic editorial mandates for years.  But this strikes me as just dumb and insulting to the gay movement.  A character being gay should NEVER be a marketing ploy.  They shouldn't be a form of controversy for advertising.  This does not show respect to gay and lesbian rights.  It just shows that DC is willing to exploit the lives of real people for a quick cash grab.

However, next week, I'll be discussing another instance where the idea of homosexuality is wrongly implemented.  That time, we'll be talking more about established characters...

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