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Superman Gay?


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enough of an issue for Singer to defend him

 

Superman ain’t gay, he’s queer

Ethan Jacobs

ejacobs@baywindows.com

 

 

 

From the spandex tights to his package of steel, Superman is no heterosexual

 

 

 

In 2005 the great American cowboy went gay. Thanks to Brokeback Mountain, that almighty icon of maleness — brought to life by John Wayne and Clint Eastwood — would forever be linked to the image of Jack and Ennis finding new ways to pass the time in a tent. This year, the advance buzz on Superman Returns, which focused on whether or not the Man of Steel was bent, sent Warner Bros. execs into a full-on foaming-at-the-mouth panic that Superman was getting brokebacked. How else to explain Superman Returns director Bryan Singer’s June 9 statement reassuring the public that Superman is absolutely 100 percent heterosexual?

 

 

Superman, Singer said, “is perhaps the most heterosexual character in any movie I’ve ever made … I don’t think he’s ever been gay.”

 

 

It’s easy to understand why Singer and studio execs were worried. Although Brokeback Mountain was a critical and commercial success, collecting three Oscar Awards and more than $83 million at the box office, none of it was expected. But if Superman Returns isn’t a blockbuster, the movie will be seen as a failure. And the only way the movie is going to rake in the big bucks is if millions of teenage boys flock to the movie. Maybe America’s hormone-addled teenagers wouldn’t care if Superman is gay. But why take that chance?

 

 

In the run-up to the film’s opening, gossip columns speculated on the sexuality of actor Brandon Routh, who plays Superman, and there was so much attention paid to the size of Superman’s bulge that it even got coverage in Newsweek. (“There was more discussion about Superman’s ‘package’ than anything else on the suit,” costume designer Louise Mingenbach told the magazine. “Was it too big? Was it not big enough? Was it too pointy? Too round? It was somebody’s job for about a month just working on codpiece shapes. It was crazy.”) But the clincher was a May cover story in the Advocate titled “How Gay is Superman?” The article, penned by Alonso Duralde, didn’t out the Man of Steel, but it looked at why superheroes hold such an appeal for gay and lesbian people. The story prompted a wave of gay Superman stories in the media: the Los Angeles Times published a piece questioning the impact of the gay buzz around the movie on the straight male audience; conservative blogger Matt Drudge posted a headline to the Drudge Report that asked “Can a gay ‘Superman’ leap tall buildings?”; and gossip blog Defamer kept an exhaustive list of everything gay about the new movie, from Superman appearing on cartons of Tropicana Fruit Punch to the size of the bulge on the tie-in action figure (so big, Defamer mused, that it might impact the “normal psychological development” of the 5 year-olds who played with it).

 

 

It’s unlikely that Singer’s statement had much effect on the gay buzz, other than to call into question the sexuality of all the characters in Singer’s other films (If Wolverine is gayer than Superman, is Keyser Soze gayer than Wolverine?). Meanwhile, now that the film has hit theaters we can all see for ourselves that accounts of Superman’s homosexuality have been greatly exaggerated. The new Jimmy Olsen seems head-over-heels in love with Clark Kent, and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor has his queenier moments as he exchanges catty banter with his sidekick, Kitty, played by indie icon Parker Posey. But Superman? Yes, Brandon Routh is easy on the eyes, and, yes, Clark Kent’s wardrobe has been Queer Eyed, but there’s no way this Superman is gay.

 

 

Still, the fact that the gay Superman rumors took off so quickly suggests that, contrary to what Singer says, there’s something more than a little queer about Superman. You don’t have to be Carson Kressley to sense there’s something fruity about a grown man who wears skintight spandex, but it goes deeper than that. Let’s start with Superman’s relationship with Lex Luther.

 

 

Since his first appearance in Action Comics back in 1938 through his portrayal in TV shows and movies, one constant in the character has been his affection for those with the initials LL. There was his childhood sweetheart Lana Lang, his college girlfriend/mermaid Lori Lemaris, Kryptonian actress Lyla Lerrol and, of course, his lifelong love, Lois Lane. So what are we to make of the name of his archenemy — Lex Luther?

 

 

The first episode of Smallville, a TV show chronicling Superman’s teen years, features a lip-lock between the two, as Clark performed mouth-to-mouth on Lex after rescuing him from drowning. It doesn’t need to be pointed out, though I’ll do it anyway, that in most action series, the male lead would save his CPR skills for good-looking damsels in distress, but not on Smallville, where the relationship between Clark and Lex has been gayed up.

 

 

In that first season many viewers picked up on the gay vibe between Clark and Lex. The snarky TV recap website Television Without Pity tracked every longing stare and lingering glance between the two, and fans on the site’s message boards created a drinking game (found at http://gayles.tig-tv.com/drinking_game.html) that invites players to toss back when Lex flirts with someone other than Clark and when 15 minutes pass without any detectable homoeroticism. And the show has served as fodder for slash writers, a genre of fan fiction that puts male characters from television and other media into gay couplings. One Smallville fan fiction site, the Smallville Slash Archive (http://smallville.slashdom.com) houses more than 3500 individual stories featuring romantic and/or sexual relations between Clark and Lex.

 

 

Staunch defenders of Superman’s heterosexuality like Singer would rightly point out that these thousands of slash stories have nothing to do with the official Superman canon, and they would be right. But the fans aren’t the only ones to imagine a gay Superman. DC Comics, the publishers of the Superman comics, has done the same thing. In 1999 DC launched what became a wildly successful superhero comic called The Authority, set in a different universe from Superman. Among the regular characters in The Authority were Apollo and the Midnighter, characters who were clearly modeled after Superman and Batman respectively. The wrinkle: Apollo and Midnighter were gay lovers, and eventually the characters tied the knot in a commitment ceremony and adopted a baby daughter. The series not only proved to be a commercial success, but it also garnered several GLAAD Media Award nominations. It’s hard to take claims of Superman’s unerring heterosexuality seriously when his own publisher is mass marketing its own Superman slash fiction.

 

 

One also gets the impression that through the years there have been gay people working behind the scenes at DC Comics helping Superman drop more than his share of hairpins. The website Superdickery.com, an online archive of quirky and bizarre vintage comic book art, includes a gallery of homoerotic images, featuring more than a few Superman comic covers that seem a little, or maybe a lot, gay. A browse through the site uncovers images of an adult Superman being spanked by his Kryptonian father, Jor-El, and another of the teenage Superboy being spanked by his adoptive father Pa Kent; of Superman, Batman and Robin riding on a battleship and straddling cannons suggestively between their legs; of Robin beckoning Superman and Batman to join him and about a dozen half-naked boys for a frolic in a pond; and of a cowboy roping Superman like a steer and riding him through the sky (Holy Brokeback Mountain, Batman!).

 

 

Is the Man of Steel family? Well, don’t expect him to dump Lois and run off with Lex anytime soon, at least outside the world of fan fiction. But if you look at the whole picture, the man in tights with the famous bulge is pretty darn queer. Don’t let Brian Singer tell you differently.

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I'd be more concerned about the bat cave.

 

 

Yep, Batman and Robin in the batcave. That concerns me. I always had my doubts about Alfred too.

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