The world has come a long way in the acceptance of others. In the majority of the western hemisphere and Europe, homosexuals are allowed to marry or at the very least, have civil unions. Many are given rights against discrimination. Even in countries without any laws to help homosexuals, populations are becoming more and more progressive towards other sexualities and gender identifications.
So, why does Hollywood persist in being squeamish?
Just look at Daryl Dixon, Hercules, Deadpool, Peggy Carter, Darren Young and others to see how their sexuality is either ignored or changed into heterosexual for their larger audience.
Daryl Dixon is the most beloved character on The Walking Dead. He’s attractive, protective and good with a with a crossbow. He was also supposed to be homosexual. Frank Darabont developed The Walking Dead for television and he had discussed the possibility with Norman Reedus after completing the first season. Reedus later remember Darabont asking him, “I’ve got an idea for Daryl. He’s gay. Would you be interested in that?” Darabont further clarified, “Well, he’s prison gay-like, you’ll catch him looking at a member of the same sex, but if you mention it to him, he’ll just stab you and be like what the f*ck? He will never admit it.”
Reedus said he agreed to it but Darabont was fired from the show before the second season production began. Of course, a closeted homosexual isn’t as helpful to improving relations as someone who’s dealing with being open about their sexuality but it’s better than nothing. Daryl as a closeted gay is a situation faced by many men. If the subject of Daryl being gay is even discussed in some circles, the reaction is vitriolic. “What? Daryl? No, he can’t be gay. He’s a good ol’ boy.” It doesn’t sound very encouraging for men who would be considered “manly” to want to come out, does it? If Daryl was going through the same pain they were; ignoring who he really was…maybe they wouldn’t have to feel so alone.
Instead, Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead announced, “I do have to clear something up, though: in the letter column of the comic book that I do, I mentioned that there was a possibility early on about making Daryl Dixon’s character gay. It caused quite a hubbub online and I just wanted to clarify that the possibility is there and that I would have been fine with it, the network would have been fine with it, but we ultimately didn’t do that. I can make it official: Daryl Dixon is straight.”
Hercules is considered one of the foremost examples of masculinity. However, despite what films have shown, the Greek demigod was bisexual. His male lovers were greater than that of Apollo and Plutarch described the number as beyond counting. Even in various Marvel continuities, Hercules had relationships with Hylas, Northstar and Wolverine. However, in the new comic book series from Dan Abnett and Luke Ross, Marvel stated that Hercules was straight. Is this a crossover with Disney’s 1996 Hercules?
Later, Axel Alonso, the Editor-In-Chief, who made that statement joked about the shock it caused on Twitter using a Photoshopped version of Bobby Drake’s coming out but in reverse. but how many of Marvel’s LGBTQA comic book heroes are currently in happily committed relationships?
On one hand, the most important part of a superhero book would appear to be where they save people. On the other hand, why can’t America Chavez be allowed a girlfriend? Why can’t Loki fully demonstrate his pansexual nature? Will any reference even be made to Hulkling and Wiccan being in a relationship in the New Avengers starting this October from Marvel?
Gerry Duggan writes the majority of Deadpool comics for the past several years. His opinions on Deadpool are the equivalent of commandments by God. When asked about Deadpool being bisexual, he commented, “I consider DP to be ready and willing to do anything with a pulse…I’ll keep everyone up to date on his omnisexual exploits.” Oh yes, he’s not bisexual as written for Marvel, he’s omnisexual.
Then, Rhett Reese, the director of the next Deadpool film, was questioned on Twitter about whether Deadpool would be “100% straight” in the film and he replied, “Yes”. When faced with canon evidence of Deadpool’s omnisexuality, he backpedaled about one wheel turn and said, “it’s always evolving, as is the character, so we will see!” The trailer gives no indication that Deadpool will be anything but straight just like Reese’s original answer.
In a previous column, it was discussed how Victoria Hand and Isabelle Hartley were lesbians in the comics but no mention was made of their sexuality in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Now, there’s Peggy Carter, the star of her own television series, Agent Carter. Most have considered Carter being paired with females, like Angie Martinelli, to be strictly the imagination of fans. This changed in June at Miami’s SuperCon. Hayley Atwell was asked of her character, “Do you think Peggy Carter would identify as bisexual?”
The actress replied, “I don’t see why not, she’s a modern day woman.” Atwell had already Tweeted on April 25, “I hope so” when asked whether Peggy would date Angie. In July, at the official Marvel SDCC panel, she claimed to be still be learning “shipping” and how wonderful it was for two women to be friends without talking about men. A couple of weeks later at another convention, Atwell was back to encouraging Cartinelli, saying, “I would love it and so would Lyndsy. We are absolutely, 100 percent, up for that. If it doesn’t get written in, we’ll do something for the fans because Lyndsy and I are very supportive of that. We’ll dubsmash it! We’ll just like make out and dubsmash it to some kind of cool, sexy song.”
The world was a very different place in 1964 when Pussy Galore was changed from being a lesbian in the Ian Fleming novel to a heterosexual in the film adaptation of Goldfinger. The change was accepted. Now, things can be different. Changes don’t have to accepted when it ruins part of what makes that character important.
Television, film and comic books aren’t the only place where homosexual erasure is happening. In 2013, WWE wrestler Darren Young announced that he was gay. It was the first Coming Out that WWE had ever had for a current wrestler. Still, his sexual orientation had no bearing on any of the show’s scripts and the Chief Brand Officer, Stephanie McMahon explained a few weeks ago that “Darren Young was the first WWE superstar to really come out as being homosexual, but his character in the show is not. At least, we haven’t done anything with it either way — just yet…It could very well pop up in WWE because we are all about what’s relevant, and what’s pop culture, and what people want to see. So if there is an opportunity, we might just take it.”
This is the same company that took advantage of homophobia in 1980s and 1990s to produce heels that were effeminate or seemed to be gay for the hero to attack. Adorable Adrian Adonis, Goldust and Ravishing Rick Rude all preyed on male fears of what homosexuals are like or in the case of Rude, having to encounter a sexy man too close for comfort. Then, in 2002, they tricked GLAAD into supporting them by having a fake homosexual couple whose gimmick ended when they announced they were straight on the air.
Why does it feel like entertainment is regressing? Maybe it is…maybe the new global economy is to blame.
Let’s take a look at Furious 7 as an example. It made $351 million dollars in North America which sounds impressive except it made $1.5 billion worldwide, 77% of its total gross. Its opening weekend in the United States was 147 million dollars while in China it opened to 182 million dollars. The other biggest openings were the United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia and Russia. While Furious 7‘s success can be seen as a win for a multi-racial cast, there aren’t any different sexual orientations in the film. This isn’t happenstance. This is planning because what China and Russia have in common is legal homophobia. In China, homosexuality among couples was illegal until 1997 and they don’t recognize any partnership except between “one husband and one wife”. Russia didn’t declassify homosexuality as a mental illness until 1999 and in 2013, President Putin signed a law banning “promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships” which means any film containing such images could be banned from that country. Even Australia refuses to legalize same-sex marriage, only allowing civil unions. Darren Young is removed from wrestling matches in other countries if WWE feels that culture is “unsafe” for him.
Still, if China can get different versions of Iron Man 3 and Transformers: Age of Extinction, why can’t we get versions just for progressive countries where Peggy Carter is bisexual, Hercules has a boyfriend and Darren Young is cheered on by a husband?
When Kirkman denied that Daryl Dixon was homosexual, he also mentioned, “We play Daryl Dixon as being somewhat asexual on the show.”
Now, if Daryl was outed as Asexual, this could be awesome, too. Asexuality is still unknown to many and misunderstood by most. To have a popular character be Asexual would be just as helpful as a closeted gay in allowing others to recognize their own experience and perhaps come to terms with their own sexuality.
Are you seeing Straight Outta Compton this weekend?
Next week, will be a review of Straight Outta Compton!