It’s been one of those weeks where the same issue – in this case, gay rights – got raised from a variety of sources. It’s an issue that I care about, but I weirdly also have little patience for thinking about it or discussing it, because in my mind, it should already be settled. It IS settled. It has been for a long time, whatever some idiots say, and we are suffering through the period where courts and laws must catch up to common sense. Oh, and full disclosure for those few who don’t know: I’m bisexual, and therefore a member of the only sexual orientation hated by gay and straight alike. :P
Anyway, the first source of discussion I noticed this week was a story about US retailer JC Penney. You may recall that a laughably misnamed interest group called the Million Mom March threatened to boycott JCP for hiring known lesbian Ellen DeGeneres as their spokesperson. JCP told them to cram it, correctly reading the general sentiment of the American public; and this week they went further, unveiling a rather sweet Father’s Day ad that shows a handsome pair of men spending time with their sons. I lauded JCP on Twitter for it and told them that if they had stores in Canada, I would shop there.
The second source of discussion was a CBC story about a college in nearby Moncton called Crandall University – formerly known as the Atlantic Baptist College. They are in a spot of hot water because of their policy not to hire (openly) gay people. They feel they have the right to do this due to their religious affiliation (name change notwithstanding) and have created a “morals clause” for employees that prohibits homosexuality. Meanwhile, they are partially funded by the tax dollars of my province. I think that ought to stop. Well, the bigotry should stop too obviously, but I am not going to waste my breath on people who believe in a magic man in the sky that sends us one place or another after we die. They can believe any crazy old things they like; just don’t expect me to fund it, and don’t expect public schools to hire your “graduates.”
The third source of discussion came from good old DC Comics, who has watched their New 52 Whoop-De-Doo relaunch lose steam and devolve into the same old. They decided a good way to get some publicity would be to introduce one of the newly revised characters as gay. I would like to believe that there is some good motivation behind it too, or at least some kind of desire to reflect the reality of the world today in their comics, but my gut reaction (again, immortalized on Twitter) was to scoff at them. Later today I wondered, was that fair of me? Why three cheers for JC Penney and an eye roll for DC?
In the end I suppose it’s because it is such a feeble gesture on DC’s part. For those who have the sense to avoid mainstream comics news, the gay character is the original Green Lantern, called Alan Scott. The character is many decades old; I first became aware of him as the “Golden Age” Green Lantern, a member of the Justice Society. As such, he was always of marginal interest to most of my generation and I would think even less to those that followed. JC Penney is all in; DC is extremely late to the party, and while I do think James Robinson is a good writer, I have to wonder what the depiction of a gay relationship in a superhero comic will be like.
It’s all well and good for Archie Comics to introduce a gay character and have him go to Riverdale High or whatever; Archie Comics are all about relationships, stunted as they may be. I have not yet had the pleasure of reading Mr. Keller’s adventures but I have heard good things and I hope that somewhere out there, gay little kids are enjoying the fact that one of them is on the comics page. When they get older, they can graduate to Alison Bechdel or Love and Rockets or Stuck Rubber Baby.
But DC? Or Marvel, for that matter? How do they depict normal human relationships, straight or gay? As obstacles that must be overcome in the life of a hero. As hostages to be dropped from the Brooklyn Bridge. I hope that won’t happen to Alan Scott’s partner. It doesn’t have to be that way, of course; the original Lee and Ditko Spider-Man tales were an extraordinary depiction of a young man balancing learning to be a superhero and coping with family and friends. Kurt Busiek did a good job of grounding his Astro City characters at times. But for the most part, the superhero’s loved one – especially romantic partner – winds up in the refrigerator. And in a world like that, the sexual orientation of a superhero is pretty irrelevant. It also leaves a bad aftertaste to see DC making a press release event out of it, and Marvel competing by having their token-gay-superhero-that-no-one-cares-about, Northstar, get married. It would have been much more interesting and classy for them to take the J.K. Rowling route, casually mentioning after the last Harry Potter book was published that Dumbledore was gay and so what if he was?
Anyway, those are my scattered thoughts, for what they are worth. Whatever their intentions, I hope that those who at least try to do the right thing, be they JC Penney or DC Comics, succeeds. And Crandall University, well; they can stop being hypocrites and accepting tax funds collected from the many New Brunswickers who are gay or believe in gay rights. They can fund their little college solely from the contributions of those who agree with their “morals.” I’m sure that will take them far.