Sunday, December 16, 2007

Spider-Man: Gay Metaphor?

Blog @ Newsarama points out a thread on Brian Michael Bendis board where Gail Simone gives her two cents on Peter Parker's sexuality:

"He's awesomely gay."

Thus begins a thread where the sexualities of various superheroes are discussed.

Never did pick up a gay metaphor about Spidey...I always thought he was more the "Charlie Brown" of the Marvel Universe. Couldn't do anything right. Killed his Christmas tree. Thought his 80-year-old aunt was more worth saving than his entire marriage and future family life. You know.

Though as an aside, in these sorts of humorous debates about "who's gay?" -- is there not some offensive stuff in them? I mean, not from Gail -- but from other posters on the thread, saying that you can "tell" a character is gay because of his "limp web shooting wrists" or his association with rainbows. Limp wrists, ejaculating "web fluid" in men's faces, etc. Is that offensive at all? If the corresponding cliches were thrown about to refer to some other group, wouldn't it be considered offensive?

I dunno, I'm just asking. I mean, geez: I posted that cartoon from Scans Daily the other day with that supposed "Jughead is gay" cartoon. But seems like using cliches about homosexuals is the last "acceptable" thing in the media...that, and stereotypes about Middle Easterners and Asians. Oh, and of course it is totally okay to bash Christians in popular culture, because, well, the Crusades and Pat Robertson.

Remember when Jack Tripper used to do that "gay" routine in Three's Company?

I suppose that was very funny when I was six and the world was thirty years younger.


  1. ULTIMATE spider-man sure does jizz web fluid in people's faces while wearing torn t-shirts & underwear. so uh...i can see that. anyhow, i'm with you; i don't see the gay thing for spidey. i DID really like the morphing of the x-subtext from race to sexual preference...but then they dropped that &...what the fuck. marvel. fucking no more mutants, then civil war. WE HATE LITERARY METAPHOR! WE ONLY LIKE TO SLAP YOU IN THE FACE WITH AWKWARD ALLEGORY! ENJOY CIVIL WAR! YOU KEEP BUYING IT BECAUSE YOU ARE ALL IDIOTS! LOLZ.

    i really hate civil war.

    i really need to be taking a shower.

    i really need another mimosa.

  2. Never did pick up a gay metaphor about Spidey...I always thought he was more the "Charlie Brown" of the Marvel Universe.

    But, he isn't:

    Charlie Brown is a loser, but he isn't a quitter.

    Spider-Man, on the other hand ...

  3. Well, Spidey shouldn't really be singled out for allegations of gaysexualism. Most superheroes are losers in love for the sake of drama, so you have Batman, Superman - anyone with a secret identity - unable to share their 'deepest secret' with women for fear they won't understand. Batman has had a string of public affairs with women, and yet his closest friends are all male, usually quite young and emotionally vulnerable, so I'd say he's more a candidate for scrutiny than a guy whose marriage lasted for years and was so safe that the editors of his book eventually had to resort to waving a magic wand to undo it.

    I didn't like Civil War either, but it sold well and we can expect more of the same in the future.

  4. Years ago, when most people didn't know one of my best friends was gay, our metaphor for it was Uncle Martin, from My Favorite Martian. Later on, the metaphor shifted, because really the only person that didn't know was his mother. It became "Aunt May doesn't know you're Spider-Man."

  5. You know how you can tell someone is gay? He spends a lot of time wondering if his favorite superhero is gay.

  6. As big a fan as I am normally of Simone's, I take exception to this. It reminds me of the whole Lupin thing in the Harry Potter fandom. It seems to me to show a reductive view of male psychology/sexuality that says "either you're a grunting violent macho ape, or you must be some kind of fag. There are no other options."

  7. Jack: I think she was just messing around for subtext, you know how fans do. I wouldn't place too much weight on it.

    Fun thread- but it was really weird seeing some of my favourite creators ribbing on each other like that. Like all my kindly uncles and aunts cracking each other in the face with baseball bats. Is why I don't read too many comics forums, I guess. I know they're kidding, but they gets *nasty.* ^_^

  8. jack-- a good point? i'm with you. but then...THERE WERE NO GAY CHARACTERS until the dumbledydore outting. crypto-gay? GREAT! LIKE IT ISN"T EVEN HAPPENING!

  9. The way they kept going with the gay jokes on that thread reminded me of a vaguely remembered quote from a Western movie (it may have been John Wayne in "The Searchers"). It went something like this:
    An Apache will ride a horse until it drops dead. And then a Comanche comes, gets on that horse and rides it for a further fifty miles. And then he eats the horse.

  10. The secret identity element can be a metaphor for lots of things. For a while i've thought that the "coming out" story, while in its literal sense is specific to the gay experience, can also be a fairly broad metaphor. That is, insofar as it's about being true to yourself vs. conforming to others' expectations. Maybe you choose a different career than what you were driven towards, maybe you have to end a relationship, maybe you join a different religion, adopt different political views, etc. I've often found "coming out" stories in movies/TV touching, even though it's not literally similar to my life, but metaphorically, and to an extent emotionally, it resonates.

  11. And...Yeah, those jokes are offensive. Jack Norris hits the nail on the head. That's a good point about Three's Company, too. I wonder if, a couple decades from now, we won't look back at Will And Grace the same way we do Amos And Andy now.

  12. Will and Grace was a total castration of gays in tv. It was like ok for Will and Jack to be gay as long as they were never sexualized and their sexuality was always the punchline, never a serious love or relationship more than hugging at hello.

    And Spiderman isn't gay. I've wondered about some heroes in my day, but never Spiderman.

    Johnny Storm is way gayer.

  13. Citizen: Thank you Spider-Man! You save me from that falling building!

    Spider-Man: I'm gay. Please, it is more important that you realize this than anything else I do.

    Citizen: ... You pulled me out before all the rocks smashed me and taxi cab on fire flying through the air landed on all of us. I can't believe it!

    Spider-Man: I'm gay. I shoot criminals in the face with sticky web fluid because there's no time to whip my spider-dong out during a fight.

    Citizen: ... Thank you again for saving my baby and me from certain death. I can't believe how lucky we were you were here to save us.

    Spider-Man: I'm gay. I am leaving my patient, understanding, trusing wife whom I have known all my life. Not because I want to save my 900 year old crusty aunt in an out-of-character deal with the devil, but because I am gay. I like men.

    Citizen: ... Spider-Man, I'm sorry. I don't understand what you being gay has to do with anything.

    Spider-Man: I'm gay. It's important people know my sexuality. I want people to know of this because that is what I want everyone to say first when they think of me. Not Spider-Man: Hero or Spider-Man: Good Guy. Spider-Man: Gay. After a few years of being newly gay, maybe I can find other gay heroes and be a member on a gay team and fight gay criminals.

    Citizen: ... Well..thanks again, I guess. Good luck...with all stuff. I better be going. My baby is hungry.

    Spider-Man: I'm gay. Might I suggest that Gay Diner down the street? It's owned by Tom. He's gay. So is the cook. The bus boys, and Alice behind the counter. She's gay too. I wanted to let you know that they were gay, because you know, it's really important to what they do.

    Citizen: ... Uh. Thanks. Bye.

  14. Spider-Man: Not Bi. Gay.

  15. mister grimm, im not sure if your sarcasm is to be funny or if it is to be offensive.

    coming out isn't about it being the most important part of your life, it's admitting who you are and being proud of who you are, and saying fuck you to people who laud it as anything other than a natural state of being.

    i am many things, INCLUDING a gay man, and i make no reservations or apologies. I don't want people to "accept" me because there is nothing to accept, I just am the way I am and I don't think anyone deserves to have an opinion on being gay because it's not a fucking question or topic. It just is.

  16. Spider-Man can sew and repair his own costume.


    Wolverine spends all his time stabbing folk with not one, but six unbreakable phallic symbols that slide out of his fists.

    So frustrated.

    But its just fan subtext-assignment, Grimm. Just chill.

  17. Sammy, I agree with you 100%.

    My post was just to show that making a popular character gay for ratings only. or to make some sort of quota..well it just lacks substance and it is irresponsible to treat gayness as a fad or a new flavor of the month. This was the point I was trying to make. If you found it offensive, that’s good. I wanted people to see how asinine it is to make a character gay just so he creates controversy and money for a company. I liked how you said that it wasn’t a question or topic, it just simply is.

    One of my favorite comics is the Authority. I freakin love that book. As far as Apollo and Midnighter being gay, I think nothing of it. What I see is two people who genualy care for eachother and who protect eachother and who are 180 degress different when they are alone in respect to when they are doing what make them superheroes. It is done in a manner where the gay/straight relationship completely gets skipped in my mind. It could be perhaps that the characters were gay to begin and showed signs of being gay, and with that I have no trouble wraping my mind around the fact that they are gay. I even think it’s sweet how Apollo teases the Midnighter.

    I hope that makes sense. I have a hard time putting these kind of thoughts into a clean packagae for everyone. I can empathize, tolerate, accept “gay” only so far because I can never completely understand and see it the way you can and do. Just like I can’t completely understand and see what it’s like to be Chinese or Swiss or a woman or an astronaut.

    “He’s awesomely gay.” What? What does that even mean?

  18. thanks, like I said I wasn't sure, and it did make me laugh when thinking of it in that context, just wanted to make sure was all.

    And yeah it's just as hard for me to understand why ANYONE would want to play with or touch or even look at a vagina. It absolutely revolts me to think of it (no offense ladies I loves you lots with the exception of your nether regions).

    As I always say, beware of the vagina it has teeth and it will bite you

  19. Mister Grimm -
    Well, that it may be a valid point you tried to make, but since it was a point that did not have much to do with the matter at hand, this was liable to cause misunderstandings. The gay Spider-Man discussion was not the result of a faceless corporation cynically turning an established character gay in order to generate controversy and money, but merely one of these countless "who's gay?" discussions many fans (and most professionals are also fans) like to engage in. Actually, it grew out of an even more tiresome fan pursuit, the "my pet hero (Wonder Woman) could beat all your favourite heroes (the New Avengers). And right from the start tongues were very firmly in cheek. The way I read it, "awesomely gay" means "this statement not to be taken seriously". And to put things in to perspective, Gail Simone topped "Spider-Man is awesomely gay" with "Wolverine is a virgin" ...

  20. But seriously... Wolverine is a virgin, right? Otherwise why does he have a clone daughter?

    And that cigar he used to smoke is just an unresolved oral fixation.

    But he stopped smoking it, so maybe he's not a virgin after all. Maybe he's gay...

  21. I have no opinion on this subject one way or another, except--

    @Jack-- to be fair, some of us read Lupin as gay because lycanthropy has long been used as a metaphor for homosexuality, and in the 19th century "men of moonlight" was a euphemism for gay men. We're not all crazy yaoi fangirls trying to claim every soft, submissive uke we can find! (I still feel justified in calling him an uke. Because Tonks was totally on top.)