Seiberwing (seiberwing) wrote in inclusive_geeks,

I don't think normal means what you think it means.

Someone posted this interview with Teen Titans writesr Scott Lobdella nd Brett Booth on a message board I often frequent, and the crowd does not appear to be pleased. Self included.

I admit up front that I don't know Lobdell and Booth from Miller and Liefeld. My exposure to modern comics is limited and often filtered through hearsay, fanfiction and the DCAU. If they have a good track record writing minorities and this is some badly worded aberration I'd be happy to alter my opinion. But the more comic-oriented fanpeople on the board did not seem confident, so for now I'll take them at their word. Their very, very problematic word.


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This morning Bleeding Cool posted the news that the Teen Titans relaunch by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth will feature a new gay character, Bunker.

On his blog, Brett quotes Scott, describing the character to him in the Teen Titans script;

His real name is Miguel Jose Barragan. He was raised in a very small Mexican village called El Chilar. He was very loved by his family and the village as well — and they were as accepting of his homosexuality as they were to his super powers when they first manifested. To that end he grew up in an angst-free environment. [With you so far, it's nice to have at least one character without the gayngst just to mix things up, as well as avoiding the 'rural bigots' stereotype] He was born out of the closet and so he has a very refreshing outlook on life.

In response to some criticism, Brett then talks about the approach to the character;

So Bunker has been out of both closets since the get go. Why the more flamboyant look? Well it’s complicated. I’ve seen all the other gay superheroes out there, Ok maybe not all. They look just like regular heterosexuals, they act like regular heterosexuals, they just happen to have sex with people of their own gender, under the covers and in the dark. Sure you might get a kiss on a page, but that’s all (an no we won’t be doing any sex scenes in TT, get your minds OUT of the gutters;)

We wanted to show an interesting character who’s homosexuality is part of him, not something that’s hidden. Sure they are gay people who you wouldn’t know are gay right off the bat, but there are others who are a more flamboyant, and we thought it would be nice to actually see them portrayed in comics. Did we go over the top, I don’t think so. I wanted you to know he might be gay as soon as you see him. Our TT is partly about diversity of ANY kind, its about all kinds of teens getting together to help each other. It is a very difficult line to walk, will he be as I’ve read in some of the comments ‘fruity’? Not that I’m aware of. Will he be more effeminate than what we’ve seen before, the ‘typical’ gay male comic character, yes. Does it scare the shit out of me that I might inadvertently piss off the group I want to reflect in a positive way, you’re damn straight (pun intended!)

The Pink shirt has been changed to blue, it’s only pink because his costume is actually showing a bit, we didn’t want too many different colors. But I think the blue works just as well. I would have used that image but I don’t know if I got that change in my files…

As for the children.. Most simply don’t know or don’t care. It’s not like Migg’s is going to be doing a one man gay pride parade. I don’t think we even mention that he’s gay, you see him, you know it, no need to harp on about it. He’s just a happy fun loving guy! He won’t be wearing anything that I haven’t seen at Walmart. Well maybe Target;)

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So this seems to me to be kind of bullshit. Certainly there are flamboyant gay men (and bisexual men and asexual men and, shock and horror, straight men) in real life and there's nothing specifically wrong with writing one as long as they're a well-rounded person of a character. It's the implications he's making about us "normal" gay people that really gets to me.The subtext here seems to be that people who are gay but not flamboyantly so are somehow hiding. Our gay identity is suppressed beneath a veneer of het-acting "normality" and we "only" want to have sex with people of the same gender. Because that's not gay at all.

(Also I'd just like to throw in the fact that you are not a 'regular heterosexual' if you're a dark vigilante with dead parent issues in a bat costume who has a love/dislike relationship with a supervillain thief in a catsuit who just happens to be the opposite gender. Heterosexual, yes, but once you put on the tights and go out to punch evil clowns in the face you have officially left Planet Normal.)

As said, I don't mind a flamboyant character, gay or otherwise. Some of my best friends favorite characters are flamboyant. But why go with that particular, overused archetype if you want a 'gay-acting' hero? Doesn't a musclebound leather daddy practically exemplify the tank archetype of superhero? Can we have a bear who actually turns into a bear? What about a butch lesbian powerhouse, or a drag queen who shoots fire out of exquisitely mannicured fingertips (though I am told Tiger and Bunny has beaten them to the last one)? Maybe this guy, I want to read about that guy.

Or maybe our totally gay character can casually go to a gay bar, hang out with other gay people to discuss queer matters, or actually participate in some aspect of gay culture. It seems a little offensive to say that the only way to truly be out and gay to wear purple and flick your wrist and be the most blatant homosexual stereotype possible.

It's even more problematic coupled with this last part:

I don’t think we even mention that he’s gay, you see him, you know it, no need to harp on about it. He’s just a happy fun loving guy! He won’t be wearing anything that I haven’t seen at Walmart. Well maybe Target.

So this gay character, who is totally not hiding and totally expressing himself, doesn't even need to have his sexuality mentioned. You'll just infer it because he's so flaming that he must obviously be gay. He doesn't need to reference an old boyfriend, or talk about how he would totally do that one male supervillain, or do anything that might actually 'harp on about it'. He'll just be there to make you all happy. It's not like that's a common thing in works trying to imply a gay character but limited by personal or corporate censorship from coming out and saying it. Don't worry, we're thinking of the children.

I also agree with this comment by Gattsuru:

There's certainly a lot of interesting stories about having overtly queer (as in sexually/gender role radical) characters. Defining homosexuality and sexually radical behavior closely is not one of those interesting stories (even if conflict between those who do and don't could be), and even if handled very carefully, it's far more likely to be no story and a whole lot of offensive. Saying that "out" characters are hiding their sexuality because they make it obvious from a thousand feet is poorly worded.

Again, not familiar with their work, I might be taking this all wrong, but...as it stands, it's a little icky
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