As a medium for the minority, for the pimply faced lactose intolerant kid who also happens to be a mouth breather; as an inspiration for those who could not stand up for themselves; for the kids from the broken homes and the ones abused- science fiction, fantasy, and comic books have always been there for them. As role models, as beacons of hope in their sad forever alone and eating cheese puffs at four in the morning while watching reruns of Star Trek state, that there are people out there they could be like, and people out there who understand what it feels like to be left out. Unless of course, you’re gay. Then your ray of hope, your guiding force is RuPaul and Rosie O’Donnell. As genres and mediums that pride themselves on making the minorities of the world its sworn protectors, there has been a surprisingly scant amount of characters in these genres that really serve as any type of role model for teens and adults looking for solace in trying to identify with their sexual orientation, in figuring out who it is they are. But perhaps there is some hope for the future.
In the past few decades or so, there have been relatively few gay characters in these genres. Try counting them, go ahead. There is of course Willow and Tara from Buffy, Ianto and Captain Jack from Torchwood- but these have only been in the past decade. In the span of the entire Marvel universe, a company devoted to equal rights as a major theme in one of their largest titles, there has only been one openly gay character- Northstar. In fact if you’ll notice, despite being a metaphor for equal rights- no matter the genetic makeup of an individual Marvel’s lineup of minority characters is not quite as diverse as it could be. In the original X-Men, the only real minority were Cyclops and Jean, being gingers and all. As far as counting down the best gay characters in science fiction and fantasy, you’ll find that most are just repeats and are struggling to even get ten. In one countdown from another article the character in science fiction wasn’t a character at all, but just a gay guy on SyFy’s sad attempt at a reality show, Who Wants to Be Superhero? While a good effort, the “Parthenon’s” goal was to be a superhero who happens to be gay and a role model, as opposed to just being a “gay superhero”, it is kind of detracted since it was a real gay man pretending to be a superhero as opposed to a character.
However despite the lack of gay characters in the genre, the ones that are there tend to be a realistic approach into the discovering and explanations for most gay men and women. Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, having had a boyfriend in earlier seasons struggles with the realization that she is becoming attracted to a woman- the same process that thousands of American teenagers go through. In fact, the relationship of Willow and Tara is one of the few lesbian relationships on television, let alone fantasy that have merit aside from being the token gay couple. They are just two women in love; the fact that they are gay is an afterthought. Which is more than I can say for Lafayette of Trueblood who raises his LGBT flag quite high, and though initially starting out as not only a gay character, but the black gay character, has a development that changes him from the “gay character” to a character that happens to be gay. A similar thing happens with Dumbledore from Harry Potter, but his sexual orientation had not been revealed until after he died- which helps the idea that a person is more than just their sexual orientation.
In the comic book world, the beginning of the possibility of new characters who also happen to be gay is looking positive in the release of Northstar finally being able to wed his long-term partner Kyle Jinadu. DC has decided to reveal that they too will have a revelation coming with the new reboot, mainly the outing of one of their superheroes as being gay. Sure there had been Batwoman (not Batgirl), a lesbian character, but DC fans are bustling and wondering as to who it is will finally be revealed to be gay. Of course this is all in a friendly completion amongst the biggest names in comic books as to who can be more progressive. And to boost sales.
For the most parts, comics and science fiction had been a stagnant place for gay men and women, just like most other parts of entertainment there hadn’t really been a role model in the sense of people understanding an environment and social standing specific to them. Really, all Superman could do for a gay teen in the eighties was be part of his spank bank. After all, they weren’t designed to wear those spandex outfits because they were the best to fight crime in. However, as the first decade in the 21st century has ended it seems that science fiction, fantasy, and comics are finally giving more specific role models and helping an even wider range of people to get through some difficult portions of their lives. After all, Robin and Batman could be more than just spank bank material.
But my money is on The Flash.
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