If the Marvel or DC Universe is as expansive as it seems with numerous superheroes, super villains and sidekicks, it is a shame that we have never stumbled upon a major character who is even remotely queer, same goes for any and every big production house to-day. In the 21st century where homosexuality is not as covert an issue as it used to be, when so many people of the LGBTQ+ community have finally gained enough courage to speak up about their rights – the fear of getting beaten, killed, burnt, maimed is still there, but it is not stopping them anymore – should popular media not support their unrelenting efforts? Should they not, by bringing forth a queer superhero, encourage others to keep fighting their battles and send the message loud and clear to the world that the queer people are not weak, nor pathetic, their sexuality does not in fact change them? Representation is important and popular culture should pay heed to the fact that the audience irrespective of race, colour, creed and sexual orientation wants to see itself represented in it. In a heteronormative world, where there shall always be three words to describe a complex, well-written superhero: white, male, straight, this is perhaps a tad too much to ask.
But that does not explain why the Star Wars franchise which includes the far reaches of outer space, every galaxy in the creation, fails to bring home a gay character. They do not expect us to believe that there is no gay alien, no transgender Wookie, no lesbian Jedi plotting to avenge a Sith lord. If characters like Deadpool, Dean Winchester, Barney Stinson or James Bond are so sexually experimental, why would they limit it to only one gender? The scope of creating complex queer characters, whose sole purpose in life is not struggling against homophobia,who are not there just to evoke laughter, is right there! Is popular media not seeing it, or are the decision makers up there simply dodging past it?
The big name studios are coming clean about why they cannot put a gay character as the lead of their blockbuster — it is simply out of the fear of the production not earning as much money as it should. A movie having gay leads, no matter how well-made, cannot sell in countries like Russia, China where homosexuality is severely punished. This, though, should not be accepted as an excuse, it is only Capitalism and homophobia meeting at point blank. Another excuse of not including gay characters in mainstream hits is the unavailability of actors willing to play the role. In recent times, Bollywood producer and director Karan Johar has opened up about his hard time in the casting couch trying to find an actor for the role of Rahul in the hit movie Kapoor & Sons. Some of the most sought-out Bollywood actors like, Hrittick Roshan, Farhan Akhtar and Shahid Kapoor allegedly gave up the role of Rahul, a multifaceted, full-fledged character, only because of the said character’s sexuality. Do they realize that their own heterosexuality and masculinity will not be diminished if they play a gay character on screen?Supporting gay rights or playing gay roles do not make you gay, it only proves that you are a sensible human being or a competent actor, congratulations!
As the television audience becomes more fractured, and consumers access content in different ways over a myriad of devices, it has allowed programming that would have once been considered too niche to get a green light, to thrive. The small screen does have lead characters that are queer, as measly as the number is — Professor Annalise Keating and her apprentice Connor Walsh in ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, Da Vinci in Da Vinci’s Demons, Mickey Milkovich in Shameless. CW hit Supernatural shows the God Almighty as bisexual, though He is not really the lead character in the show, thank you Supernatural for making the ‘God hates Gay’ campaigners run for their money. If the film industry eventually cracks along similar fault lines, one benefit could be the rise of more diverse kinds of characters, both people of color and LGBT figures.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens has broken through the fabric of typecasting in Hollywood, shedding its own history in casual sexism, it has introduced a dynamic duo of a powerful female Jedi and a heroic black storm trooper. The director, JJ Abrams promises to introduce an important gay character in the next part of the trilogy,
“When I talk about inclusivity it’s not excluding gay characters. It’s about inclusivity. So of course. To me the fun of Star Wars is exploring the possibilities, so it seems insanely narrow minded to say that there wouldn’t be a homosexual character in that world.”
Now the debatable question is – is the queer character going to be one of the leads (Poe or/and Finn as the fans like to speculate) or just some minor character only there to bait and switch the LGBTQ+ viewers, much like Sherlock has done with the relationship between John-Sherlock or Marvel with Steve-Bucky?
Written by: Sushrita Acharjee