Framing Gays: DC’s queer sensationalism

The inclusion of homosexuality in the Green Lantern’s character profile is not ‘incidental’ as it claims to be. It was reactionary and a tool of hype

In the latest bid to integrate homosexuality into pop-culture, the comic book franchise DC has decided to introduce another gay superhero into their universe. Writer James Robinson told USA Today after the release of Earth 2 issue 2, in which Alan and his partner Sam are depicted kissing in a tight embrace, that “presenting that kind of a heroic role model hopefully will be a good thing and help to show gays in a positive light for people who might be a little more small-minded”. This is definitely progress since their first gay character, Extrano – a lurid, Luhrmann-esque compound of nearly all the gay stereotypes. So initially it seems that Robinson is embarking on a noble enterprise the scale of which perhaps dwarfs the exploits of the valorous new LGBT icon. But DC is doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons. The reintroduction of Alan Scott as a gay icon is a tragedy.

Earlier this year the company launched ’The New 52’, which was an opportunity to reinvigorate some of the characters in the DC Universe and develop new story arcs unrestrained by prior lore. Perhaps one of the most criticised of these re-imaginings is Alan Scott, the Green Lantern of sector 2814. Alan has been integral to the development of the Green Lantern comic series, he was the first human Green Lantern to wield the emerald light in centuries, and is the basis of Hal Jordan who recently featured in the 2011 blockbuster Green Lantern. But now Scott has been reinvented as a younger, gay version of himself.

One Million Moms was the first organisation to speak out against the introduction of a gay superhero, deeming DC’s decision as an unacceptable contribution to the ‘trash’ in today’s media. Their concern is that children who see these figures as role models will want to imitate them. One Millions Moms apparently would rather their sons refrain from aspiring to be the guardians of Earth if that entails a little fellatio along the way. But DC protested claiming that sexuality is ‘incidental’ to the character. Scott will exist in a world where virtue decides character, not sexual preference.

But despite this, DC do not fully appreciate their responsibility as a vehicle for social progress. It is important to depict homosexuality in a favourable light to combat the tides of negativity surrounding the issue, but the chief aim of heightening awareness should be to demonstrate that there is no fundamental difference between human beings on account of their orientation. DC abuses their role as a media institution by reducing homosexuality to a catalyst for publicising their product. Homosexuality is not a mere marketing mechanism. To treat it as such is offensive.

DC isn’t the only one guilty of manipulating sexuality. J.K. Rowling is another figure to have jumped on the bandwagon by flippantly deciding that Dumbledore is gay. It no doubt boosted interest in her already blossoming empire, and it’s great that these icons are beginning to surface, but it should be the responsibility of the media to diminish controversy by compensating for it, not aggravate the issue in the name of avarice. The inclusion of homosexuality in Scott’s character profile is not ‘incidental’ as it claims to be. It was reactionary and a tool of hype.

DC do not fully appreciate their responsibility as a vehicle for social progress… Homosexuality is not a mere marketing mechanism. To treat it as such is offensive.

The introduction of an iconic gay superhero came immanently after DC’s rival, Marvel, hosted a gay wedding between X-Men’s Northstar and his long-term partner in a recent edition of The Astonishing X-Men. In light of this, DC’s decision to act as the harbinger of a brand spanking new gay champion hardly seems coincidental. Prior to the launch of the New 52, DC announced that one of the integral hero’s sexuality would change. Speculation erupted in the DC fan base as if homosexuality was some novelty facet. The way to handle social progress is through normalcy, not sensationalism. Homosexuality is not a tool to shift product, capitalising on a social issue is deplorable. If institutions like DC don’t take responsibility for a representative, normal portrayal of gays in the media, then there simply will not exist an adequate portrayal of gays in the media.

The New 52 interestingly writes out Alan Scott’s tormented openly gay son to accommodate for Scott’s reinvention. The character of Obsidian was carefully developed over numerous issues that followed him through torment and rejection until he finally resolved his identity crisis and accepted his sexuality. But Obsidian was a minor character, so perhaps he wasn’t loud enough to beckon the attention that DC wanted from the LGBT community. It is a travesty that Obsidian will be absent from The New 52 because unlike his father, his homosexuality was not an arbitrary sales device, it was an essential feature of his character, but the demiurges of DC want a little recognition for their incitement of social progress. Which will no doubt be reflected in the figures for The New 52 release. If sensitivity and balance cannot be reflected in fiction, they will never be instantiated in actuality.

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