Friday, December 18, 2009

The DC Lesbian

The comics code was something that in many peoples minds stifled the comic book industry for decades; moral ambiguity was impossible, mature subject matter was strictly taboo and sexuality was banned outright. Of all these things I personally found the third the most frustrating, as the human condition is pretty much defined by sex and sexuality. You don't need moral ambiguity to tell good stories, and mature subject matter is usually mature in name only. Sex on the other hand, well, one of the major (and pretty much only) story arcs in Superman was his relationship with Lois Lane. When nothing else is possible, nookie provides characterization.

When the comics code finally went to the wayside, an interesting phenomenon happened; sex suddenly appeared everywhere. Everybody was banging everybody else, and all that repressed sexuality that mainstream comics had pent up suddenly exploded in a giant orgy. Only problem was, it was generally weak as hell and existed for sales and titilation over characterization. Probobaly the only positive thing to come out of this sexual revolution was that homosexuality suddenly became a relatively common occurance. Northstar, from Marvel's Alpha Flight was the first openly gay superhero and many others followed suit, although pretty much every single one was a secondary character or alternate universe version, watering down their impact.

DC on the other hand did something very different; namely LESBIANS! LOTS AND LOTS OF LESBIANS! Oh, there are a couple gay men, but the disparity between the two groups is astronimical. For instance, when a female character in the DC universe comes out, it's almost as if there's a rainbow coloured power ring that flies up to them and says "Amazing Chick, you have shown great ability in eating pussy. Will you join the lesbian league?" Then teleports her off to another lesbian so they can have a relationship. Meanwhile, a gay man is more than likely going to be a bachelor his whole life, as the odds of him even getting a KISS is slim to none. In fact, that's the last I'm going to talk about gay men in DC, because that's about as much effort as DC has put into it.

The lesbians however, oh boy. Truth be told there hasn't been that much more effort, there's a nice shiny formula for lesbians in the DC universe: Character A comes out. Character A begins relationship with Character B. Character X (X being the more high strung character) becomes insanely co-dependent and must be by character Y (The other one) at ALL times, usually in cheesecake poses as they reunite again. And again. And again. Finally something happens that ends the relationship, either Character Y's death or sudden realization about how insane this relationship is, thus leaving Character X. Character X goes into a spiral of self-pity and destruction which we have to hear about CONSTANTLY. If Character X is still selling comics after this complete, begin process again with character C. If the character is not selling books, shove them into the background only to pop up now again to mope some more about how Character Y is gone.

Honestly I haven't seen this formula strayed from at ALL. It is frustrating, insulting and has not worked once. Probably the biggest tragedy of this formula was Reneee Montoya, who was considered one of the best non-meta characters in the Batman mythos. She was tough, capable, honest and responsible and brought a new energy to the Gotham Police that had for the longest time been focussed entirely on Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock. When she came out as a lesbian, I was stoked. Finally there would be a character whose sexuality added to the rich tapestry of a character instead of defining them. Ah the foolishness of youth. Almost immediately the reliable Renee Montoya became another victim of the DC Lesbian formula and after her run in 52 (which to be fair was very good and ALMOST redeemed her, especially making her the new Question) was very quickly pushed back into the background. The last attempt to make some money off of her was the awful Books of Blood miniseries which proceeded to destroy the last vestiges of Renee Montoya and created yet another generic DC Lesbian.

I think in the grand scheme of things this frustration comes not just from the poor handling of homosexuality in general but sexuality as a whole. I don't care if a character is gay, straight, bi, trans, whatever, what I want is honest treatment of that character. Let things happen naturally, and let the characters define their actions, not editorial mandates. Peter Parker going off to a nightclub and tongue-fencing a bimbo on the dance floor right after One Day More is not honest characterization. Obviously you have to be prepared for some high-emotion drama, this is entertainment after all, but there has to be more than lip service played to emotions and feelings; they're what make characters come alive.

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