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Comic books are doing everything superhero films aren’t for queer representation

Comic books are doing everything superhero films aren’t for queer representation
As comic books become increasingly inclusive, it’s becoming harder and harder for film adaptations to justify their relative stagnation on that side, writes Clémence Michallon

he news came on National Coming Out Day, in the form of a blog post by DC Comics: Superman is bisexual. In a new comic book to be released on 9 十一月, the superhero will fall for, and become romantically involved with, a male reporter named Jay Nakamura. The announcement came with a drawing of Superman kissing his new love interest.

This generated a flurry of headlines, adequately so: progress in queer representation in comic books and their film adaptations has often been frustratingly slow. So to see a character in Superman’s trademark suit kissing his boyfriend is not nothing. And it’s a sign that comic books have managed to progress at a faster pace than their movie counterparts, and more successfully so.

仍然, some nuance is needed here. The Superman in DC’s announcement is Jon Kent, the son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane. It’s what 美国国家公共电台’s Glen Weldon called “a kind of release valve”: “It means they can say the thing (‘Superman comes out!’) that’s certain to attract attention … but they’ll always be able to ease the pressure by hitting that valve, and pointing to those all-important asterisks.”

考虑到这一点, Weldon acknowledges that “progress is being made here”, and that “in terms of representation, 当然, this is an unalloyed Good Thing”. Writer Tom Taylor, who has worked on the new Superman series with artist John Timms, 告诉 纽约时报 that “replacing Clark Kent with another straight white saviour felt like a missed opportunity”. 换句话说: there was a chance to shape Superman’s legacy in a meaningful way, and DC took it. This is a “yes, and” situation: 是的, this is a step in the right direction, and there is still work to be done.

DC’s announcement is also a more direct form of queer representation than what we have seen on the big screen so far. 上 奇迹’s side, 也, comic books have ventured where films have declined to go. Same-sex kisses between superheroes have so far been immortalised in ink, not pixels. If you’re looking for transgender characters, you’ll have to turn to comic books, 也.

Some strides have been made on the big and small screens. In June this year, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki officially acknowledged his bisexuality in an episode of the hit Disney+ series dedicated to – and named after – his character. Director Kate Herron thoughtfully acknowledged the moment on Twitter: “From the moment I joined @LokiOfficial it was very important to me, and my goal, to acknowledge Loki was bisexual. It is a part of who he is and who I am too. I know this is a small step but I’m happy, and my heart is so full, to say that this is now canon in [the MCU].”

It was a milestone, with still some ways to go. “No matter how many queer Marvel fans gush over this fleeting recognition of their own existence, it’s hard to see that anything has really changed,”写道 独立’s Louis Chilton. “We have not seen Loki in a relationship with a man, 和, if the ongoing flirtation with Sylvie is any indicator, there won’t be one in his immediate future.”

This is a situation Marvel has run into repeatedly: the acknowledgment of a character’s sexuality without a representation of it on screen. Valkyrie, portrayed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by Tessa Thompson, has long been bisexual as far as comic books are concerned. The MCU has yet to recognise that aspect of the character’s background, although it’s expected to change in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. “”First of all, as king, as new king [of Asgard], she needs to find her queen,” Thompson told fans of Valkyrie at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con. “So that will be the first order of business.” In her head at least, Thompson has always played Valkyrie as queer, dating back to the 2017 Thor: 诸神黄昏. 在 2018, 她告诉 独立’s Alexandra Pollard: “I hope that we get to a space, in terms of the stories that we tell, where that’s something that gets to exist, and it doesn’t have to be noteworthy.”

With comic books becoming increasingly inclusive, and increasingly vocal in their representation of queer characters, it’s becoming harder and harder for films to justify their relative stagnation on that side. There is the argument that Marvel and DC films are sexless by nature, and that they have to be suitable for younger fans as well. This notion, 当然, doesn’t hold up to even the tiniest bit of scrutiny: romantic interests have always played a crucial part in any male superhero’s development. (Superman and Lois Lane, anyone? Spider-Man and Mary Jane?) Romance isn’t sex. Identity isn’t sex. It’s entirely possible to acknowledge a character’s sexual orientation and/or queer identity while remaining in family-friendly territory. Perhaps it’s even preferable for kids not to be fed exclusively super-straight content! I’m just spitballing here!

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DC’s announcement about Superman’s bisexuality has been met with some backlash – the basic, absurd, hate-filled kind I have no desire to engage with. But surely this isn’t the sentiment that should be shaping the future of superhero movies. How many people saw 复仇者联盟: 结束游戏 again? 多于 100 million in its first weekend, 根据 美国国家公共电台. When you have a reach that big, you have a responsibility to do something with it. At this point, queer representation in superhero films shouldn’t be a matter of “if”, it should be a matter of “when” and “how”.

There does seem to be some hope on the horizon. 永恒的, directed by Chloé Zhao, will feature the first openly gay superhero in the MCU. Phastos, portrayed by Brian Tyree Henry, will have a husband and a child. We’re getting somewhere, it seems, but we need to get there faster.