Why DC Comics Just Can’t Win…

Okay, look – the flames are completely in line with the history of the character. It’s not… It isn’t… Okay, yes, he’s flaming. Ha, ha, ARE WE DONE NOW?

As you may have heard by now, DC Comics is re-introducing an old character with a twist. In the upcoming issue of “Earth-2,” Alan Scott is being re-imagined as a gay man.

For a little background: Alan Scott is Green Lantern. No, not that one. Or that one. Or the other three. Prior to the reboot of 2011, Alan Scott was the original Green Lantern, with a ring that was much more mystical than scientific. He served in the Justice Society, a WW2-era superhero super-group, and had two kids, Obsidian and Jade, who were superheroes in their own right. Over the years, Alan got older and younger, then older – and then younger again, but he was considered to be one of the moral pillars of the superhero community. He had been doing it longer than anyone, and commanded great respect amongst his fellow heroes.

“Earth-2” is a new series that starts in the modern age with the destruction of the Justice League. Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman are dead, leaving a void in the world of heroes. The first arc will, as far as I can predict, follow the emergence of a new, modern Justice Society. We’ve already seen Al Pratt (the Atom) and Jay Garrick (Flash), as well as the news-making Alan Scott, and word is that this Earth is going to lean a little more towards the mystical than the scientific in terms of how our heroes get their powers.

All that aside, now, let’s look at their decision to re-imagine Alan Scott as a gay man and why DC Comics can’t win.

Here is the problem that DC is facing with this: there was no choice they could have made that would have avoided backlash from some sector of their fan base. Their options were:

Create a whole new gay character: And no one would have cared. It’s diabolically hard to introduce new characters into comics and have people like them. That’s why some of the most popular characters today were also popular 20, 30, 40 years ago. If they had tried to make a new character, the odds are that he would have sunk into obscurity within months. Every new character that becomes a success does so on the corpses of dozens who didn’t.

Make an existing hero gay: Which is what they’ve done, of course, provoking a chorus of complaints from fans that they’re “dishonoring” a great character. Set aside the fact that these fans probably hadn’t given Alan Scott a second thought until this news hit the web, they’re basically insisting that if DC is going to make a gay character, it should be an original one. See the point above.

Make an existing hero gay – in an alternate universe: Now they can say, “Well yes, Alan Scott is gay, but if we need to we can just say it’s not the ‘real’ Alan Scott.” If things go horribly wrong, they could just let “Earth-2” finish its run, wait for people to forget, and then re-introduce Alan into the mainstream DCU with a playboy bunny on his arm. But now, for those of us who are fine with re-envisioning Alan Scott as gay [1], there’s the slight worry that him not being the “real” Alan Scott is a bit of a cheat.

Well, there goes society. G’nite everyone.

Mixed in with all of that is the complaint that they’re just doing this to be hip and trendy. President Obama has voiced his support for gay marriage, DOMA is being chipped away at left and right, and gayness in general is becoming more acceptable to the population at large. Over at Marvel, their mainstream gay hero, Northstar, is getting married soon, and a lot of people think that DC is just jumping on the gay bandwagon. That part, at least, demonstrates a high level of ignorance over how fast the comics-making process works. While I wouldn’t put it past DC Editorial to get on the red phone to Robinson and say, “Make Alan Scott gay, dammit, we have to beat Marvel to the queer kids!” that isn’t what happened. Word is they’ve had this one in the works since late last year, when “Earth 2” was being set up as a way to make up for the Justice Society having been lost in the reboot.

From what I’ve read, it seems as though DC is acting more-or-less in good faith here. They’re just as attention-hungry as anyone else, so there is still a non-zero chance that they’re doing this to get attention, and will let Gay Alan vanish into comics history at some point. But the writer, James Robinson, has a history with Alan Scott, so I trust he will do his best to make the story real and complex and interesting.

I plan on giving them the benefit of the doubt. Even though fans may bitch, and even though DC doesn’t have a great track record with the whole “sincerity” thing, I’m going to support them with this, Earth-2 and all. Comics needs more diversity. There needs to be characters that readers of all stripes can identify with. There needs to be someone on the page for some gay kid reading comics to look up to and imagine himself being. There’s no reason the DC Universe – either one – can’t resemble the real world in at least some small ways.

Interviews with Robinson look good, too. He says, “The reality is the world is filled with fantastic gay people that contribute to society in every aspect you can imagine from medicine to arts to serving in the military. It’s nice to put one in a super team and acknowledge that there’s a gay character there too. But I want to reiterate, it’s just one aspect. He’s a gallant, heroic, green knight that would die for the Earth and its people and fight to his dying breath. There are so many other fantastic attributes to Alan Scott and I want people to see that he’s gay and he’s also everything you’d want in a hero.”

The artist, Nicola Scott (no relation), says, “Alan strikes me as an incredibly open, honest and warm man, a natural leader and absolutely the right choice to be Guardian of the Earth. His sexuality is incidental. Every time I draw him I love him even more.”

The take-home is that the people who are building the new Alan Scott have great affection for him. They want him to be a hero, not just a gay guy with some flashy jewelry.

Plus it pisses off the “One Million Moms,” and anything that does that can’t be all bad.

Bonus Round: Predictions

And hello to you too…

Well, one prediction and one bad feeling in my gut, and both of them have to do with Alan’s boyfriend, Sam.

1) Sam will become Obsidian. Why? That panel right after we see Sam for the first time, Alan says, “Sam! What are you doing lurking in the shadows?” Emphasis mine, of course. This may be Robinson tipping his hand. The original Alan Scott had a son, Todd, who could manipulate shadows. Also, Todd was gay. And slightly insane, depending on when he was being written.

2) Sam will be fridge-stuffed. At least this’ll be in the tradition of new Green Lanterns, anyway. You see, back in the day when Kyle Rayner became a Green Lantern, he had an awesome girlfriend, Alexandra. She was cool, she was supportive, she helped him decide to keep the ring and use it right.

Then she was murdered, folded up like a paper crane, and stuffed into Kyle’s fridge. Just to piss him off. Much like Peter Parker and Uncle Ben, this gave Kyle the momentum to become the hero that he did. It’s unfortunate that she had to die to do it. Now the term “fridge-stuffing” applies generally to characters (usually female) who are killed in order to give the protagonist (usually male) a reason to continue the heroic journey.

It would be all-too-easy to kill off Sam as a way to kick-start Alan’s heroic career. Even worse, it would then allow the writers to ignore his sexuality altogether for the rest of the series. After all, if he’s mourning for his poor, dead love, he’s hardly going to start dating again anytime soon. So we don’t need to worry about trying to write a gay romance and kicking any more hornets’ nests.

And despite the title of this entry, it is possible for DC Comics to win this. All they have to do is write a fantastic comic book, with grounded, complex, interesting characters. Make Alan and Sam people who are important to the reader, and let us believe in who they are and what they want to do in the world.

Do that, and victory is yours, DC. I look forward to it.

—–

[1] *raises hand* Hi.

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Haters Gonna Hate. But They Shouldn’t….

I got this link from my friend Sarah, who felt it was vital that everyone read it. She was, of course, right, and you should.

“I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay” by Dan Pierce. About beliefs, about acceptance and about how it can be really, really hard to love The Other, no matter what your religion tells you. It’s a good read, if a little rambly in bits, and tries to explore why it is we hate so easily without taking a moment to think about how that hate – based on such petty things as race or tattoos or religion or sexuality – can really screw up the lives of a lot of people.

Avoid the comments, as they rapidly devolve into a shit-slinging contest between Christian apologists and militant atheists. Which is pretty much a textbook definition of irony right there…

tattoo design

Can you homosexuality?

So I came out to one of my classes yesterday.

It really wasn’t something I expected to do, certainly not in the lesson plan, but when that ball starts rolling there’s really very little chance of stopping it.

Here’s how it worked out: we were practicing some basic can/can’t, could/couldn’t language. We talked about some famous people – Salvador Dali, Albert Einstein, for example – and what they could and couldn’t do as children. Then the students had to ask each other questions – “When could you…?” or “What could you do when you were…?”

All well and good, and then I had them ask me questions since we had some time left and I needed to fill it. I got “When could you teach English?” and “When could you cook?” And then… “When could you get married?”

This question, or some variant of it, comes up from time to time, and I first correct the grammar – “When could you get married?” – and then tell them that I’m not married. This is usually followed by “Eh? But… Ring! Ring!” They point to the ring I wear on my left hand, given to me by The Boyfriend a few years ago.

And this is where the dilemma starts. I don’t feel comfortable sharing that part of my life with my students. Approaching that boundary between the teacher/student relationship and the human being/human being relationship is awkward to me, and I would rather preserve the distance in order to do my job better. I know other teachers do it differently, and that’s cool, and I don’t want to be a featureless placeholder to them. I need to be human enough so that they’ll enjoy the class, but not so human as to distract them from what’s going on.

It makes sense in my head. Really. I swear.

At the same time, I can’t lie about it. To do that, to say, “Oh, yes, my wife. She’s lovely. Moving on…” would be an insult to The Boyfriend. I told him, and he was surprised and, I suppose, flattered, even though he would find it hard to do the same thing. With his colleagues, he has chosen to avoid the issue as much as possible, and if that means making a few… embellishments so that they’ll change the topic, then so be it. My overriding sense of honesty, however, won’t let me do that.

As for the students, they probably get lied to enough as it is, and I don’t want to be a part of that if I don’t have to. They’re growing up, and someone has to start treating them like adults, if only in a few small ways.

On top of that, there is what I believe to be the ethical responsibility of someone in my position – a gay man with some authority and standing amongst a group of young people who are still developing their moral view of the world. I know that I have a chance to expose them to a gay person, to let them know that we are real people, which may help them be more tolerant and accepting of gay people in their future. What’s more, statistics suggest that there are probably about 50 gay kids in this school, and perhaps knowing that there’s at least one teacher like them will help them get through this tough time in their lives. I don’t expect them to start hovering around my desk from now on, but I hope that, when word gets around – and it will – there’ll be a few gay kids who can at least say, “Well, he’s gay and open about it and doing okay. Maybe I can deal with it too.”

All this shoots through my head, creating a cognitive block so that all I can really do is answer the questions as they are fired at me rather than just open my mouth and explain the whole thing. Am I divorced? No. Is it fashion? No. Is she dead? No. Is it another man’s wife? Hell, no.

Finally, one of the boys asked if it was a woman or a man, and laughed at the ridiculousness of the idea. I told them that was the key question, and that was pretty much that. They asked if I was serious, the girls thought it was the coolest thing in the world, and I had to let them all kind of freak out for a minute before I ended the class. To my relief – but not surprise – no one really got upset as far as I could tell. And the Alphas in the class seemed cool with it, which is the important thing.

Any remnant of a lesson plan that I had was pretty much out the window, so we ended early.

I’m not afraid of anything, certainly – my colleagues all know, and no one has blinked at it. And I think I’ve built up enough of a rapport with my students between last year and this year that even if they have a predisposition against gay people, they may find themselves wondering if they can maintain it against someone they know and like.

It was just a very strange way to end my day, and I figured I’d share.

UPDATE (22 October): The other day, one of the Alphas came up to me as I was preparing the whiteboard for the lesson and said, “Can I ask you something?” And my answer to that is always, of course, Yes. So he stood next to me, and in kind of a stage whisper asked, “Are you… gay?”

Given the above, I figured he’d either forgotten about it or just not taken it seriously at the time. So I said, “Yes I am.”

“Really?”

“Yup.” And I continued writing vocabulary up on the board. He turned around and said to his friends, “Yes.” And that was the last I heard about it.

Until some of the girls asked what my favorite color was, and seemed shocked that it wasn’t rainbow. TV has a lot to answer for.

I wanted to take him aside after class and ask why he asked me, but I didn’t. Somehow I figured that it wasn’t the right question to ask – at least not then and there. So we’ll see how things work out.

NAMBLA? Really?

I found today that the Family Research Council – an advocacy group that advocates, among other things, against gay and lesbian civil rights – wanted people to say what they thought about the group. So I went over to their survey, loaded to bear, and basically threw in all the worst stuff I thought about them. That they were bigots and fearmongers, anti-civil rights, hypocrites hiding under the banner of Christianity and murderers of gay youth.

At one point, they asked if I had ever given them money, and if not then why not? I wrote that I would sooner give money to NAMBLA than the Family Research Council.

Then I thought, Really? NAMBLA? So I decided to see if my off-the-cuff choice of advocacy groups held up.

1) The Name
“Family Research Council.’ Kind of an unassuming name, doesn’t really tell much about what they do or what their goals are.
“North American Man/Boy Love Association.” Well. No question about what it is NAMBLA is promoting there. The who and what are pretty well spelled out. So, for clarity of name, NAMBLA is the winner here.

2) The Goals
On the page “Who We Are,” NAMBLA writes:

NAMBLA’s goal is to end the extreme oppression of men and boys in mutually consensual relationships by:

  • building understanding and support for such relationships;
  • educating the general public on the benevolent nature of man/boy love;
  • cooperating with lesbian, gay, feminist, and other liberation movements;
  • supporting the liberation of persons of all ages from sexual prejudice and oppression.

Okay, some weasel wording going on in there, but it’s a pretty clear statement of what they want to see happen.

On the FRC’s “Mission Statement” page, they say:

Family Research Council (FRC) champions marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society. FRC shapes public debate and formulates public policy that values human life and upholds the institutions of marriage and the family. Believing that God is the author of life, liberty, and the family, FRC promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.

Again, it’s pretty clear from their statement what they want, though they do couch it in more abstract terms. They don’t come out with specific goals, but rather promote ideals. I’m giving this one to NAMBLA, but only by a little. They’re much less nebulous in their goals, which allows them much less wiggle-room to try and fit the group’s actions to their statements.

3) Freedom

Okay, this one takes a little bit of rationalization, but stick with me. I asked myself which group was more inclined to promote freedom. The FRC is not – they openly advocate the denial of full civil rights to gays and lesbians, up to an including amending the constitution of the United States. They’re against the repeal of DA/DT as well, in favor of keeping gays and lesbians from serving in the military. They promote abstinence-only education, restricting the freedom of schools to promote proper sex education, want to restrict pornography, are against the rights of women to choose how and when they want to have children, and in general want to lock down on the freedom of people who do not share their values. On the other hand, they want to expand the role of religion (specifically Christianity) in politics and schools, encouraging Judeo-Christian values as the basis of American morality and law.

NAMBLA wants to be able to have “mutually consensual” relationships between men and boys. While I disagree with their stated goals, from a purely objective point of view, they are trying to expand liberty for themselves, without restricting it for anyone else. So while NAMBLA is an excellent example of where the limits of freedom should be drawn, they aren’t trying to take away my rights or force people by law or public policy to do something they don’t want to do. Winner: NAMBLA.

This may be the fever talking, or it may just be my own brilliant rationalization of the contempt in which I hold the Family Research Council, but I find that they are far less morally defensible than the North American Man/Boy Love Association. The former couches its goals in imprecise, vague language and seeks to restrict the freedoms and civil rights of those they dislike, while forcing their own moral and religious values on others. The latter is clear and unambiguous about its goals, and is advocating the expansion of freedoms for a (thankfully) small minority of men, without restricting the freedoms of any other group.

So. Family Research Council, congratulations. If I were in one of Jigsaw’s horrible murder-traps and told I had sixty seconds to choose between you and NAMBLA before spider monkeys are released to eat my eyeballs, I would choose NAMBLA with alacrity.

At least contempt is some kind of attention

I feel bad for Gay Republicans, I really do. They may not need my pity, but there it is.

I read about Homocon, a recent convention for gay Republicans, where Ann Coulter was one of the main speakers. With her usual sandpaper-like delicacy and tact, Ms. Coulter ran off some rather bad gay jokes, culminating in the quip that same-sex marriage “is not a civil right – you’re not black,” and then implying that because gay oppression is not comparable to black oppression, we should all just stop whining.

Like any population of people, gays and lesbians are going to have internal political differences. While I believe that being One Of Us does oblige you to favor social justice [1], there’s nothing in the Gay Rules and Bylaws that says you can’t favor small government over large, market freedom, aggressive national security, tax cuts and other conservative standards.

The problem for a politically or economically conservative gay or lesbian person is that they have nowhere to go but into the arms of the people who actively and openly hate them.

The Democrats are out, obviously, seeing as how even though they’re nicer to queers, every other part of their agenda would be abhorrent to a Conservative. Third parties are fine and all, but let’s face it – voting for the Libertarians isn’t exactly hitching your wagon to a star.

All that’s left for the conservative homosexual who wants to be politically active is the GOP, and going to them is like Wendy Torrance thinking that maybe Jack is just smashing through the door with an axe to tell her he’s awfully sorry about trying to kill her.

Listen, Gay Republicans: your party hates you. [2] They would be perfectly happy if you just vanished from the political landscape. The only reason someone like Coulter comes to talk to you is because she gets off on abusing people who won’t or can’t hit back. You don’t have the voting numbers that the conservative Christians do – hell, even NASCAR fans would be a better political investment. You’re a trophy minority for the Republican Party – token fags that they can show off to their friends. You’re in a classic abusive relationship, and you keep going back because you have this deluded vision that Maybe This Time Will Be Different.

But it won’t. The GOP – and its twisted, mutie by-blow the Tea Party – are never going to sincerely welcome you in and fight for your rights. Not in our lifetimes, anyway. Every time you write a check for the RNC, you’re giving aid and comfort to those who want you to get back in the closet and shut the hell up.

But right now, you have nowhere else to go, not if you want to remain true to your politics. That’s why I pity you.

But my pity runs thin – you’re choosing to be true to your politics rather than yourselves.

Maybe it’s because you can’t bear the thought that, if you go, no one in the party you supported will actually miss you. And maybe knowing you’re alone is worse than throwing your lot in with those who despise you.

——————-

[1] If you’re a member of an oppressed minority and you’re opposed to the full and free civil rights of other oppressed minorities, then you’re a cyclopean hypocrite and need to go away.

[2] Individual Republicans may vary. I know plenty of (straight) Republicans who are very much in favor of gay civil rights and vote accordingly. But then, they don’t make party policy.

I know we’re not supposed to keep score or anything, but….

We got James Randi!

James Randi, famous magician and skeptic, has publicly come out of the closet at the age of 81. You can listen to him talk about it on the For Good Reason podcast. Listening to him, I can really understand where he’s coming from. Being gay has just been part of who he is, not the defining quality of who he is. And of all those parts of him – magician, skeptic – being a gay man wasn’t the most important part of who he was. “I never adopted any protective coloration.” Nice turn of phrase….

Of course, now we have someone else to point to when gay youth feel like there’s no one out there who understands what they’re going through. Every celebrity, scientist, politician who embraces his or her sexuality in such a public manner is helping remove the stigma of being gay or lesbian from the public eye, and as Randi says, “In another two decades, I’m confident that young people will find themselves in a vastly improved atmosphere of acceptance.” And as for the gay adults who are still in hiding, let this be a lesson that it’s never too late.

So good for you, Randi! Time to go put those magic tricks to good use – picking up cute guys at bars.

Maybe he’s in the Gay CIA….

You know, working behind enemy lines or something?

This story has been passed around a lot this morning, and it got me thinking. Mostly about self-respect, principles and compassion.

Long story short: California Senator Roy Ashburn has long been an opponent of gay rights, especially same-sex marriage. He has be vociferous in his opposition, which made his DUI arrest a couple of weeks ago all the more interesting. He was with another gentleman, and they were both coming home from a well-known Sacramento gay bar. Finally he has come out and admitted that he was gay.

My first thought was, “Serves you right, you lying Republican scum,” but that’s sort of my default response. I’d think the same thing if Orrin Hatch got a paper cut. But there is a certain amount of satisfaction to be taken when someone who has been so openly and vocally against homosexuality turns out to have been a Double-Secret Gay the whole time. The fact that he has a wife and kids just makes it all the worse – not only has he been lying to his constituents, but to the people who should be most important to him.

I marvel at it, too. How much self-loathing does it take to maintain a lie of this caliber for so long? I mean, it’s bad enough if you’re just trying to keep your gayness a secret – millions of men have had to do that throughout history, but they at least had the excuse that revealing themselves could have resulted in ostracism, injury or death. Ashburn doesn’t have that excuse, seeing as how he lives in California. But still, if you want to keep it a secret because you think it’s something that is dangerous to you, okay. Just try not to hurt anyone else in the process.

Well, Ashburn has failed at that. He has a wife and kids who have been lied to. He has supporters and staff who have been lied to. He has lovers who have been lied to. And the worst part is that his lie, in this day and age, is pretty much unnecessary. He doesn’t need to lie about who he is, and I’m pretty sure he knows it.

That being said, I feel bad for him.

In a radio interview, he said “I’m gay. Those are the words that have been so difficult for me for so long.” You see, I was lucky. I was extraordinarily lucky that I had friends and family who were loving and accepting of who I was. I was never insulted or cursed by anyone I came out to, never rejected or ostracized. I never felt that I was at risk of losing someone I loved by coming out. In short, my circumstances were about as good as they can possibly get for someone who is coming out gay. Even so, actually saying the words to these wonderful people and telling them what, in many cases, they had already figured out for themselves, was amazingly difficult. It often required alcohol.

So if it was that hard for me, and I was basically in the best possible position to come out, how hard must it be for someone like Ashburn? Not just because he risks losing his career and his marriage and kids, or that he’s now facing nationwide public scorn and will have to pay a pretty hard penance to get back into the good graces of the people he loves and respects. By saying those words, he is confessing to years of lies and initiating the destruction of an identity that he has built over an entire lifetime. My coming out, as difficult as it was for me, was nothing compared to this.

And so I feel compassion for the poor bastard. If he does it right, he will be able to build a new life, one in which he can be honest to himself and those he loves. He may even be able to continue in politics, if he plays his cards right. I understand he says he’ll keep voting on an anti-gay platform because that’s what his constituents would want, but I think that’s just the cognitive dissonance talking. If he follows through on this, he’ll soon be forced to reconcile his vote with his sexuality, and will realize that “it’s what my constituents want” is just another lie to be done away with.

All of my compassion for him, of course, is predicated on his continuing to be honest with himself and behaving in a manner consistent with his newfound honesty. If he strays from that path, well, may his suffering be endless.