When I was a young boy, I and Julio—not the one from down by the school yard, but the illegal Guatemalan refugee who lived with us for a while—used to enjoy watching “Wonder Woman” together. I enjoyed seeing a superhero dish out justice. Julio’s motivations may have been a tad different. We are talking Lynda Carter’s incarnation, after all.
Of course, this was problematic, and not for the reasons laid out here. Wonder Woman, while a woman, was ostensibly a straight woman. At least I think she was. Again, I was seven years old. But Julio, despite his limited understanding of English, was a really big fan. Maybe he, like me, just enjoyed seeing a superhero dish out justice. Or maybe he, like the adult me and my feelings on the Scarlet Witch from “Age of Ultron,” enjoyed Wonder Woman for her ancillary talents, those not directly related to meting out justice.
That is even more problematic, because while Wonder Woman was a woman, she was also a cis-woman, and that costume just screamed heteronormativity. Imagine how much improved my life would be had Zak Cheney-Rice of Mic been around to dispense some truth back in my formative years.
Does Spider-Man’s Contract Say He Has to Be Emo?
Writing in response to Stan Lee’s insistence, actually enforced by contract, that Spider-Man be white and heterosexual, Cheney-Rice laments, “Sure, Spider-Man was white and heterosexual at the time of his creation. But his creator was a white man working in commercial comics in America in the early 1960s. Was there ever really a chance he could’ve turned out any different?”
He could’ve not been bitten by a radioactive spider. He would’ve turned out really different then. He’d probably have just taken a job as a photographer at a newspaper where an actual superhero worked. But Cheney-Rice brings up an excellent point. Why do superheroes have to be heterosexual? In fact, isn’t it time that all superheroes move somewhere else on the spectrum?
Superman, for example, wasted a lot of time on Lois Lane. If Superman were demisexual or asexual, he could’ve dedicated much more energy to fighting crime. Plus, he would’ve been down to just kryptonite as his kryptonite. It would sort of change the dynamics of a great joke, but that’s not important right now.
Batman and Superman, not Batman Versus Superman
If he’d been gay, then maybe he and Batman could’ve formed a union instead of antagonizing one another. Their combined success rate would achieve what people in the business world who like to abuse English call “synergy.” Throw in Robin, obviously, and the synergy would be even that much greater.
Seriously. Name a superhero who wouldn’t be better off gay. Iron Man, The Flash, Captain America, Thor, Green Lantern: every one of them could be even more fabulous if we just let them. Even Wonder Woman is ripe for this treatment, as her mythology is obviously the product of the cisnormative times in which she was created. Sure, we can pretend she was based on the Amazon women, but we all know she’s more Sappho than Amazon. Let’s free her to be herself.
Stan Lee fought back against this line of argument in an interview with Newsarama. “It has nothing to do with being anti-gay, or anti-black, or anti-Latino or anything like that…I just see no reason to change that which has already been established when it’s so easy to add new characters. I say create new characters the way you want to. Hell, I’ll do it myself.”
New characters? Are you kidding me? As Cheney-Rice wrote at Mic, “Sigh.” Changing defining characteristics of existing characters is a nontroversy. No one cares if Thor is a not the son of Odin but the daughter of Mystique. What’s important is the time it takes to establish new characters. This is complicated in the case of female characters, because they only reach market maturity at 77 percent the speed of male characters.
No, the time for action is now. All superheroes must henceforth be gay to reflect the changing of the times and the right side of history. It could even be a plotline, like a nerve gas from Scarecrow that turns everyone gay. Wait, that won’t work. Umm. What’s our Macguffin here? I know! The League of Justice could issue a really supportive proclamation based on this Haddaway song and then free up all the superheroes to finally be true to themselves.
Out of the Phone Booths and Into the Streets
Then, following a massive “coming out of the phone booth” celebration with some parades and balloons, the superheroes could go back to fighting crime, maybe even with better costumes. It’s really the only way. As Cheney-Rice said, “But the problem with the whole ‘leave things how they’ve always been’ logic ignores an insidious truth about racism and homophobia: They are, in fact, how things have always been.” (Except on the Isle of Lesbos, but that’s another story.)
The other option is to leave old white guys like Stan Lee and their views in charge. If we do that, this is the attitude we get: “I think the world has a place for gay superheroes, certainly,” [Lee] said. “But again, I don’t see any reason to change the sexual proclivities of a character once they’ve already been established. I have no problem with creating new, homosexual superheroes.”
No, we have to change so all the superheroes have a new sexual proclivity. It’s the only way to end the bad examples, heteronormativity, and triggering evidenced in that old joke I mentioned about Wonder Woman and Superman. If Superman were gay, that never would’ve happened.
My youth, and Julio’s time in America, may have been plagued by problematics, but that doesn’t mean we can’t save the next generation. Join with me now and sign the petition.