Should gay characters in movies, TV shows, comic books and video games be a big deal? No, it shouldn’t, but unfortunately it is still a reality. We may be living in the 21st century, and even have a Supreme Court ruling that it’s legal for same sex couples to marry, but that doesn’t change that fact we have a long way to go.
Issues We Still Face
These are the issues we still face in the 21st century and why it’s important for proper representation in mainstream entertainment.
Last year NC Senator Buck Newton (and last years GOP candidate for NC Attorney General) was recorded saying “Keep our state straight” while defending NC’s discriminatory HB2 law that targeted transgender people (Source: Washington Post).
In 2015 a hardware store owner in Grainger County TN, Jeff Amyx, posted signs banning gay people and later bragged about selling out of homophobic paraphernalia. (Source: Channel 6 WATE)
We have to worry about being beaten and killed (especially transwomen) just for being who they are. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported 109 incidents of hate crimes against LGBT a month after the election. (Source: SPLC).
As of March 22, eight African-American trans-women were murdered in 2017. Last year saw the death of twenty-seven transgender people, most of which were women of color. (Source: The Advocate)
Kids who come out to their parents still have to worry about rejection. LGBT are often thrown out or run away as a result and make up 40% of homeless youth. (Source: Nationalhomeless.org)
Some may attempt suicide as result of family or school pressure. LGBT youth are 4 times more likely than straight youth to attempt suicide. (Source: Trevor Project)
Many states have tried to pass laws similar to NC’s HB2. Just recently three people, including licensed therapist and minster Donald Welch, tried to appeal California’s ban on harmful Conversion Therapy Ban, thankfully the Supreme Court refused to hear it. (Source: Bloomberg)
Some states are always trying to find ways of preventing same-sex marriage (despite the Supreme Court ruling). For example, Tennessee trying to pass the “Natural Marriage” act. (source: The Tennessean)
There are also religious leaders like Kevin Swanson. In November 2015, he held his “National Religious Liberties Conference” which was attended by GOP presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, and Bobby Jindal. At this conference he quoted the Bible as justification for killing gay people, though he would give them time to “repent”. (Source: The Advocate)
LGBT in Mainstream Entertainment
In the last two years we have had characters introduced in comics or TV, or comments from directors like James Gunn, that have shown why it is still a big deal that we have proper representation of LGBT in mainstream entertainment as they were met with ignorant comments.
Last year as part of DC Comics Rebirth, Aqualad (not the original Garth who is now Tempest) was brought back after a long absence. First introduced in DC’s Brightest Day in 2010, he disappeared as DC initiated their New 52 which rebooted their entire universe. He would later be seen in the popular Young Justice cartoon series where he got more character development.
When Jackson Hyde (Atlantean Name Kaldur’ahm) first reappears in Rebirth #1 last May, it is revealed he is gay and his Mother isn’t very accepting (this differs from Young Justice as it considered a different universe). Aqualad appears again this past March in Teen Titans #6 looking more like the Young Justice version and also showing his boyfriend.
A lot of straight fanboys weren’t too happy as these Facebook comments on an article from Comic Book Resources this past March show:
One states “We’re not in the 1980s”, we aren’t but teens still have to deal with rejection like this.
Another even more ignorant comment uses the whole religious “abomination” argument.
Last November in an interview with Huffington Post The Walking Dead actor Tom Payne said he’d like his character Jesus (Paul “Jesus” Rovia) to be gay like his comic book counterpart. Yet again, fanboys were in an uproar.
Even when the comic book character (who’s last name is Monroe) came out, it didn’t go over well with some readers with one stating on a fan site:
“I don’t see what’s the appeal to making Jesus gay. The guy was one of the most badass characters in the comics and now he’s just going to be reduced to being a feminine weirdo.”
As if being gay precludes a character from being a bad ass. This was the same ignorant comment some fans of the show made.
This past March in the episode “The Other Side”, which aired on the 19th, Jesus officially came out in a conversation with Maggie when he mentions his boyfriends.
Jesus “When I was first here, I was never here. I always found it hard getting close to anyone: neighbors, friends, boyfriends.”
This season of Supergirl introduced police officer Maggie Sawyer (who, in the comics, is dating Batwoman) she meets Kara’s (Supergirl) sister Alex Danvers. Alex realizes she is in love with Maggie after spending her whole life thinking she was only into men. She goes through the struggles of coming out to her family and dealing with a new relationship she never thought possible.
Yet again this brings out the haters speaking of “agendas”. The only “agenda” is showing others we are just regular people going through relationships. Here is one comment about last week’s episode that illustrates this point:
This past April, Doctor Who came back after a year long hiatus. The first episode “The Pilot” introduces Bill Potts, the first gay companion (Captain Jack was more omni-sexual). Bill’s pursuit of her crush on a girl named Heather leads to her meeting with the Doctor. Some fans weren’t happy about a gay character. This comment is the perfect example, love how he refers to “loyal” fans. I have been a fan since like 4 years old back with Tom Baker was the Doctor. He also uses the tired “I’m not homophobic but..” argument.
This past week’s episode Bill comes out to her a male flatmate who has a crush on her, in a very nonchalant manner. Unfortunately not everyone can come out this way as other shows illustrate. This tweet about it was probably well intentioned but still ignorant. Some people have to go through “the song and dance” to come out especially if they are dealing with religious parents or depending on where they live.
A few weeks ago, James Gunn (Writer and Director of the Guardians of The Galaxy movies) made a simple comment about gay people already existing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in an interview with The Guardian. Here is a relevant part of the conversation (full interview here: The Guardian):
“You know, somebody asked me will there by any gay characters in Marvel movies, and what I meant was there’s a lot of characters in the MCU and very few of them have we delved into what their sexualities are – whether it’s gay or straight or bisexual…”
“We don’t really know. So, I imagine there are probably gay characters in the Marvel Universe, you know. We just don’t know who they are yet.”
Here is one response:
The comment totally ignores that fact that a lot of gay people actually read comics and that there are gay comic characters like Northstar who came out in the 80’s.
A Big Deal
It’s not just important for members of the LGBT to see themselves represented, it’s also important for others to realize we are people with everyday struggles and deal with relationships just like everyone else and are apart of society. Until we no longer have to worry about being beaten and killed, parents teaching their children to hate others or themselves for being gay, have our rights restricted, be able to walk down the street and hold hands with the people we love without someone losing their mind, or we don’t have to worry about people using their religion to justify their bigotry, it will be a big deal.
I didn’t really address transgender representation as that really needs it’s own article, as it is more complicated as their representation is even worse and there are few well known transgender actors/actresses, Candis Cayne being one of them.