Joe Corallo: Comics’ Queer Year?
If you celebrate Christmas, merry belated Christmas. And a happy early New Year.
Now that I got that out of the way, the New Year coming up has me reflecting on this past year. We’ve seen some interesting things diversity wise. We saw at least a couple of firsts in comics, we saw some steps forward as well as some steps backward, and overall we may have ended up not too far from where we started. But I do like to think we did get a little further than we did in 2014.
I don’t want to go over every little thing that happened in detail, as I’ve already covered most of those in my other columns the past few months. So here are just the highlights.
We saw an increase in bi visibility with DC Comics clarifying that Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman are all bisexual. We saw bi erasure with Constantine being portrayed as straight in his NBC series and Marvel’s Hercules being straight in his current iteration.
We’ve seen two different Icemans come out as gay over at Marvel, and Midnighter get his own series at DC as an openly gay superhero. We also saw Northstar and Batwoman fade into the background, and still haven’t heard too much from Rictor and Shatterstar, or Hulkling and Wiccan. I know Hulkling and Wiccan are in New Avengers, but that only came out toward the end of this year and they don’t have the same of attention they did in Young Avengers and the book has been met with mixed reviews.
We also saw the first trans woman get married in a mainstream comic without actually having a single active trans superhero.
One of the more interesting phenomena towards the end of this year has been fans projecting queer relationships into franchises where they just don’t exist. Yes, Marvel’s Jessica Jones did have a lesbian relationship in it, but it wasn’t with Jessica Jones. Despite that, some fans were projecting that notion on Jessica Jones, as seen in this opinion piece.
The most recent example of this, just making the cut off for this year, has been the outpouring of online hopes and rumors that in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the real love story is with Finn and Poe. Here is just one of the many pieces speculating that they will be lovers. Personally, this frustrates me.
There is absolutely no indication in the movie that this happens. Yes, they hug each other. They’re polite to each other. Hell, they even care about each other. None of that indicates a desire to have a sexual relationship.
Finn also makes it very clear he’s interested in Rey. He’s not only being protective of her from moments after he meets her, he lies to make himself sound more impressive to her, and he flat out asks her if she has a boyfriend. How does all of that somehow invalidate his clear interest in her? Yes, Finn could be bisexual. However, he doesn’t express any interest in anyone outside of Rey, including Poe.
It makes me wonder if some of the same people that watched this also watched Star Wars: A New Hope. Luke and Han have their disagreements, but they also compliment each other, hug, and clearly care about each more through the movie. Han even saves Luke’s life at the end of the A New Hope. How’s that for romance?
Yes, I know that the Han and Leia relationship wasn’t really fleshed out until The Empire Strikes Back. I get that. However, they did lay the groundwork in A New Hope. They lay it on you really think. Han even speculates about it with Luke. And I almost forgot the part where Han asks Luke to run away with him on the Millennium Falcon right before the Death Star trench run. When you think about it that way, nothing in The Force Awakens between Finn and Poe even comes close to the romantic implications between Han and Luke, huh?
All of this is indicative of at least two larger problems. The first of which I mentioned before when discussing Jessica Jones. Many people are absolutely starved for LGBTQ representation. Gay, straight, and everyone in between are looking for it. People are so starved for it, they’re inventing elaborate, implausible theories just to reach the level of representation they feel we should have. Sure, we can point to slash fiction as the start, or one of the starts, of the contemporary push for this. However, slash fiction was never the topic of discussion in the same way as the examples I’ve just mentioned.
The second part of this larger problem is the culture that’s been cultivated. Up until very recently, queer characters have had to be hidden in pop culture. Nothing too overt. The comics code authority didn’t even allow openly queer characters until the very end of the 80s. Characters like Mystique and Northstar could only have hints at their sexualities. Never anything open. Between rules and regulations like that, and TV and movies in many ways taking even longer to catch up, that we cultivated a culture that overanalyzes characters and their actions to unveil hidden queerness. Even though we no longer need to hide queerness to get stories out there, people still look long and hard to find any semblance of it around a story because we’ve been trained to and many of us are starved for it.
And even though we’re starved for it, publishers, networks, and movie studios are more often than not dragging their feet to put queerness out there. Don’t get me wrong, we’re way better off than we were even ten years ago. That said, the powers that be are still reluctant to change things too drastically. You would think Star Wars would be a natural place to explore queerness. Why would all of these different races and cultures that have never even met us mimic our heteronormative customs? Why would they have marriage? Why wouldn’t they have something else?
Science fiction has had this problem for a very long time. Star Wars didn’t cause this, but it could help end this if it wanted to. Though I think that many people are reading too deeply into Finn and Poe’s relationship, it does give me hope for the future of queer representation. My new hope is that all this clamoring for queer representation in a franchise like Star Wars will help move us all in that direction, and that our lack of queer diversity in comics and science fiction will soon be a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.