His point really struck a chord with me and for days I couldn't shake it and for the life of me I didn't understand why. I then realized it's related to something I've been discussing for years. To take his point even further, one of the biggest obstacles in the progressive struggle is that people often conflate visibility for equality and progress.
Said chord was struck even further for me last night when I received an email from a friend of mine regarding a story she's writing. But I'll get to that shortly.
First let's talk about the impending return of that fustercluck known as the Rawhide Kid.
I remember when the original miniseries came out. I was immensely excited and I gave kudos to Marvel for being progressive and showing diversity in its universe. I saw this as an opportunity for the comic book company to present a compelling three-dimensional LGBTQ character to an audience who may have little contact with us. This would be an invaluable opportunity to once again prove that heroes come in
all ages, races and orientations. I was beyond ecstatic about the decision.
So you can imagine my horror when I actually read the comic. Practically every derogatory stereotype imaginable was included. That series was a gay minstrel show and it was a slap to the face and a fist to the gut. And then to top it all off, Marvel later retconned RK as a heterosexual (THANK GOD!), which indicates to me it was a publicity stunt that didn't pay off the way they were hoping.
Of course too often people think myself and other self-respecting LGBTQs should be grateful for even having a queer superhero at all, no matter how atrocious they are. The arguments they make are akin to the ones that are made to POCs when we discuss the horrors of racism.
"But slavery is over and you have a black president and the BET network. WUT MOAR DO U PEEPUL WANT?!!!!"
One of the biggest issues (among many) I have with Northstar is that he's essentially the punchline to every homophobic joke. Like the Rawhide Kid, he has no redeeming qualities and plays to every negative stereotype and gets praised for being such a progressive character. But too often the biggest pushback I get doesn't come from the homophobes but rather so-called allies, straight women who see nothing wrong with objectifying LGBTs and reducing us to deplorable stereotypes for their fangirl fantasies.
And to be clear I'm not talking about fangirls who enjoy slash, have a genuine love for the gays and still respect and celebrate us as three-dimensional human beings. They're awesome. The ones I'm referring to are the ones who don't respect us at all and see us as nothing more than a fetish for their heterosexual privilege. Look up Queerfail if you don't know what I'm talking about.
To go back to my friend's email. My friend is working a novel which features two characters. Close as brothers, this story is not only well-written but it kicks ass because the assertive stoic dominant alpha character just happens to be a gay male and the sweet sensitive clumsy one just happened to be the straight guy.
Well the feedback she's been receiving from (heterosexual) female readers is that they don't approve of the story because they don't feel the gay character is authentic ie he doesn't adhere to stereotypes and ergo isn't realistic. Because realistic and compelling characters make for difficult objectification and fetishes. A number of the male readers have complained that they are sick of seeing gay characters everywhere. Makes sense, considering we all know that women and gays are ruining fandom.
Visibility is not progress. If it were then Queer Eye and Will & Grace would be trailblazing television. It's not just enough to put an LGBTQ, a POC, or any other minority on tripe. You actually have to handle those characters and their stories with the same respectability and care as you would your cis-gendered heterosexual caucasian male protagonists.
So for those who still don't understand the difference between visibility and equality let me break this down for you:
An omnisexual action hero from the 51st century who headlines his own series = THE SHIT!!!!!
One of the best comics out today featuring a compelling redheaded lesbian superheroine as its protagonist = THE SHIT!
An effeminate gay black man who serves AIDS burgers with a side of whoopass to three homophobic rednecks = THE SHIT!
A Jewish Wiccan lesbian character who evolves from sidekick to powerhouse and arguably embodies the theme of empowerment more than the titular heroine = THE SHIT!
A dark anti-hero that happens to be an unapologetic gay man who is not only one of the most powerful characters in his universe but one of the few hardcore badasses in comics who can call Wolverine, Punisher and Batman a bunch of punks = THE SHIT! with a major OH HELL YES!!!!!!!
A skrull who takes form as a POC (and thus proving that white is not the default race) and refuses to be boxed in by the traditional gender binary = THE SHIT!
A lesbian Latina detective who evolves from minor recurring character to one of the major characters in a company-wide event and further evolves by taking a superhero mantle and making it her own = THE SHIT!
Placing walking queer minstrel shows in their very comics as a publicity stunt and expecting LGBT comic fans to act as if they're doing us a favor = THE SUCK!!!!
Having one of the most prominent gay superheroes personify every homophobic stereotype to qualify homophobia = THE FAIL!!!
Mutilating and sodomizing a promising new superhero (who happened to be gay) who could've easily carried his own title = OH HALE NO!!!!!
Two complex and engaging characters who happen to openly gay and in a loving relationship who can still kick ass and take names, and are fun and unique and role models for LGBTQs = THE SHIT!!!!!!!
And to the comic book industry, I just have this to say: Your game, do step it up!!!!!