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Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Gay Old Time
I usually take anything I read in Lying in the Gutters with about a dozen jumbo, extra-large margarita's worth of salt, but something in the latest edition caught my eye, regarding Marvel's apparent policy on gay characters in comics:
"Well, understand that if we were to go with the gay Kid we would have had to label the books MAX and that's not what we wanted for this event."
With that, many inferred that Joe was saying that Marvel could not publish a series starring a gay character without it being labeled a MAX - the same label used for comics featuring extreme swearing, extreme violence and explicit nudity.
Something that's now been confirmed to me.
Joe Quesada explained to me that this was the act of a responsible publisher in the current marketplace, given a reactionary media, and widespread and increasingly vocal parental concerns.
Johnston attempts to put this in the context of the increasing Puritanism of American society. Which is nonsense, of course. First of all, Marvel doesn't exactly have a stellartrackrecord when it comes to their depictions of gay characters, and the last Rawhide Kid series was no exception. It was essentially an extended fag joke. We were meant to laugh at the Kid, not with him. And we laughed at him because he was a faggot, and thus only worthy of our contempt. He certainly couldn't be the hero, oh no. He was there to facilitate the heterosexual sheriff becoming a "real man."
And even that, an insulting gay caricature, is apparently too much for Marvel to headline outside of an adults only context. It's a crass statement to make to Marvel's gay fans, especially given the extreme violence of heterosexual sexual situations that regularly appear in non-adults only books published by Marvel. And it also makes them hypocrites, because how else do you explain the "no gay leads outside of MAX" stance with the reality of Young Avengers, a book featuring a teen gay couple that is not labeled as being for adults only. Or perhaps Marvel plans on having Wolverine guest-star in Young Avengers soon and solve the conundrum for them...
The GayProf has an excellent post up about gay porn, the fetishization of straight men in gay porn, and sexual violence in gay porn. It's a very, very good piece.
I'm fascinated by the relationship gay men have with porn. I don't want to over-generalize, but if often seems like we have a greater comfort level with porn than straight men do. Straight men often seem ashamed of porn, and keep their porn habits secret. Gay men feel much freer to discuss it and never seem shy about acknowledging their enjoyment of it.
Which is why it's so curious that so many of the images of gay men in porn are problematic. A great deal of gay porn centers around the fantasy of seducing straight men, of "straight" men secretly having sex with each other, and of straight men raping gay men. Trends in gay porn tend to be cyclical, and it wasn't that long ago that depictions of proud gay men and coming out narratives were de rigeur, and I'm sure they will be soon again. But I find it very telling that, in a period in which gay rights are under concentrated attack and disease rates are soaring, gay men look for erotic fulfillment in self-hating images.