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Sean William Scott

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Gays In Geek Media: An Update 

Gamasutra checks in with yet another Bully inspired article on gay characters in video games. It's largely the same material that has been covered in a variety of places now. What I find most interesting about these articles is the de rigeur quote from a white heterosexual male working in the video game industry who insists that, nope, there's no sexism, racism or homophobia in our industry. The naivete in which these commentators insist that, no, honestly, your average video game player would have no problem playing a game with a gay lead character is almost charming. If it wasn't reeking of disingenuousness.

AfterElton looks at the de-gayed character from Heroes. Despite quite deliberate mentions of the character's sexuality in materials that were released in advance of the show, despite numerous examples of dialogue on the show that are clearly meant to indicate that the character is gay, someone decided that, no, the character must be straight. It was apparently a decision made by someone up the network chain of command, judging by the way people are seeking to avoid taking responsibility for the change.

Should that decision stand, and not be reversed by negative publicity pointing out the blatant homophobia of this change, it would be disappointing, but not surprising. Gay characters tend to be invisible to non-existent in science fiction, despite producers and writers talking a good game about "gender blind" universes, and the popularity of science fiction in the gay community. (Seriously, we all seem to be big geeks for it.) But, at the end of the day, there are no gay characters on Battlestar Galactica, no gay characters on Star Trek (apart from the occasional pandering lesbian tease), no gay characters in Star Wars. Even Captain Jack, on Doctor Who and Torchwood, would be better described as omni-sexual than gay.

Mostly I think I can chalk this up to writers and producers not being willing to challenge the prejudices of their audience. It's been my experience that the politics of most science-fiction fans ranges from the faux-libertarian to the reactionary. It sounds counter-intuitive, given the air of progressive politics that most sci-fi shows adopt. But when the point of most of the shows is to successfully maintain the status quo, through force, with an almost fetishistic devotion to weaponry and warfare, well...Besides, being a "liberal" or a "progressive" is by no means the same thing as not being homophobic. Some of the most homophobic people I've known are quite enthusiastically liberal. Phil Ochs sang Love Me, I'm A Liberal for a reason, after all.

So, Alex Ross made some very stupid statements about Obsidian which have been widely viewed as homophobic. And, well, yeah, they are. There are only two writers who have been using Obsidian in any notable roles. Geoff Johns made him a villain and Marc Andreyko outed him. And since Ross apparently approves of Johns handling of the character the only "molestation" he can be referring to is Andreyko's use of the character. But the thing is, I seriously doubt that Ross meant to say that making Obsidian gay was bad. Ross always strikes me as a particularly good example of fanboy entitlement at work, played out in spectacular fashion because his work is popular. The root of fanboy entitlement is wanting superhero books to be exactly the same way they were when they started reading comics, and much of Ross's professional career has been devoted to preserving a particular early-80s attitude in comics. So, my money on what Ross meant was that "Andreyko isn't writing Obsidian the way Roy Thomas would have, and I disapprove of that." And it simply never occurred to him that there was another meaning to what he was saying.

Far more bothersome, to me anyway, was DC recently soliciting a Grifter and Midnighter mini-series written by Chuck Dixon. Dixon has in the past made no secret of his disapproval of gay characters in comics, and he's quite outspokenly conservative. And, despite protestations by his fans, he can't keep his politics out of his comics work. Look no further than the anti-abortion messages in his Robin run for one example. Despite being quite certain that I will never, under any circumstances, spend money to support this project, I'm almost curious to see how it turns out. I have this half-formed notion of seeing Dixon transform Midnighter into a mincing, limp-wristed, lisping pedophile, but I doubt even DC would allow that sort of nonsense to go through. No, it'll probably be a more subtle contrast between the macho, manly, rock-solid and God-fearing heterosexual conservatism of Grifter versus the ineffective, effeminate, ineffectual faggoty liberalism of Midnighter. Sort of a "Fox News" approach to comics scripting, if you will.


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