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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE and HUMANITY ENHANCED.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Christos Gage replies to homophobic reader

This (at Bleeding Cool) is a lovely, polite, reasoned reply by Christos Gage to a reader who objected to the revelation that comic-book character Striker is gay. I must say that I would have been tempted to use much stronger language in Gage's position, but I think he handled it well.

11 comments:

GTChristie said...

The consumer stated several times that he is not homophobic and his objections actually were about venue, not depiction per se. The author's reply was a defense of venue, appropriate to the complaint.

So you're correct, this is a civilized exchange and anything other than this polite (even classy) response from the author would have been out of place.

Your statement that you would have used stronger language, not so much. You label the reader homophobic, so I presume this stronger language would have been more abrasive to the consumer and that would have been, in this case, a mistake.

Russell Blackford said...

Well, it would have been a mistake in context. I thought that was what I conveyed (by saying I woiuld have been tempted to use stronger language and that Gage handled it well). Not so sure, though, that the guy was not homophobic. I don't see how you can have those perceptions without being homophobic, even if you don't think you are.

qwe rty uio said...

I'm not buying the alleged non-homophobia either:
"I don't want to see those lifestyles portrayed among minors in mainstream super hero comics. In books where people lift tanks, wear capes and shoot heat beams out of their eyes, why would you insert alternate sexual lifestyles? It's like giving Little Orphan Annie AIDS."

This seems like a pretty odd level of discomfort with gay people for a supposed non-homophobe. The guy is polite. No-one said a homophobe had to be rude.

GTChristie said...

Well, qwerty, as I said, the complaint is about venue. The bit you quoted is talking about a genre in which there's a lot of unreality (capes, eyebeams etc), meant as fantasy, aimed at kids (of all ages) but suddenly there's this "dose of reality" -- thus the analogy to Little Orphan Annie, another fantasy figure, getting AIDS. It's a jolt. The consumer says several times he doesn't object to homosexuality per se, it's fine. He doesn't want it in his comic book because it's distracting and the only reason he can see for such a jarring distraction is, there's a pro-gay agenda in the story. No agendas, already, he says, I just want a comic book. If he wanted a social statement, he'd buy something with the appropriate theme. And if he wanted to see something with gay characters and storylines, he'd know where to go. You might label that homophobia, but I don't see it. I can label you homosexual even if you don't think you are, but if you say you're not, it behooves me to take you at your word. Pasting labels on people and then attacking that is what gets us into these dustups in the first place.

Sean Wright said...

@GTChristie,

It's clear that the reader is uncomfortable with homosexuality. He is ok with it when it's out of his sight.

It's perfectly okay for the other characters to be depicted carrying out "normal" sexual acts.

His aversion, his wanting to prevent teens from seeing this sort of material fits the commonly accepted definition of homophobia.

Yes we can label people anything we like but there appears to be a consensus on this one.

qwe rty uio said...

Yeah, what Sean said. I'm fairly open to people having various degrees of openness to explicitly sexual content in comics or anywhere else. Some people get squicked out by anything more sexual than a kiss in public. Whatever. But it still seems like a minimal prerequisite for non-homophobia is to be open to X in a gay context iff you're open to in in a straight one. So if it's okay for Spidey to kiss Jane upside down it should also be okay with John subbed in for Jane. I doubt very much the letter writer would agree.

Verbose Stoic said...

Well, the problem is that you can't compare the two that simply. Like it or not, in today's culture the heterosexual relation is not, in fact, a social or political issue, while the homosexual one is. Adding a heterosexual romance is simply adding in a standard trope, while adding in a homosexual one can be seen as promoting a specific political agenda or trying to generate controversy. Which is what the letter protests against: the pushing and raising of political and social issues either to increase book sales or to promote the political agenda of the writers. A good case can be made that such things don't belong in something that's aimed to be just entertainment and entertainment aimed at a fantasy-type world and an escape from those sorts of considerations.

That being said, it can be argued that comic books have indeed moved beyond simple entertainment and indeed do talk about these issues. Not having read that book myself, it can also be argued that this was a more natural progression of the story and not something done to generate controversy.

What I see happening is that the term "homophobe" is being used as a dismissive tactic; you don't have to read and think about what the person says in order to say that it's wrong and not worth listening to. I'm not sure how much I agree with his point, but it is one worth asking.

Svlad Cjelli said...

This was an X-Men off-shoot?

The franchise based squarely on minority-issues from a main premise onwards?

Verbose Stoic said...

Svald,

It's an Avengers offshoot that re-used an X-Men villainous organization in this storyline. So not quite the same direct link that underlies your comment. The Avengers has a much different tone; even wehn Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were on the team, mutant issues were downplayed a lot more than they were in X-Men. But that was quite a while ago ...

qwe rty uio said...

"Adding a heterosexual romance is simply adding in a standard trope, while adding in a homosexual one can be seen as promoting a specific political agenda or trying to generate controversy. Which is what the letter protests against: the pushing and raising of political and social issues either to increase book sales or to promote the political agenda of the writers. A good case can be made that such things don't belong in something that's aimed to be just entertainment and entertainment aimed at a fantasy-type world and an escape from those sorts of considerations."

There are a few problems with this:
- re. 'promoting a specific agenda', right, if you simply make it a particular "agenda" on a menu of choices, if you stipulate that there are no considerations of justice and rights impinging on the discussion, then by construction any depiction of gay characters is going to be a distraction from plot at best. It's hard to see why such a view should be taken.

- He's not just making the sociological observation that, as a matter of fact, depictions of gay characters arouse controversy. He's taking a particular position on that controversy, arguing that children and teens shouldn't be exposed to such depictions in comics. The mere fact that this is somewhat widely believed doesn't make it non-homophobic. Indeed, I'd say it's almost definitionally homophobic - teh ghey is not something the innocent should be exposed to.
- There would *be* no progress toward a world where either gay or straight romances can be standard "tropes" if you bought this. In a world where this sort of argument succeeded, portrayals of interracial relationships would still be taboo.

Svlad Cjelli said...

Verbose Stoic

Ah, I see. The superficial things I know about it rang the X-Men bell.