This "Give X Character A Boyfriend / Girlfriend" Shit Needs to Stop (A Writer's Rant)



You know, though I know that my boy Thanos wins in the end (because he deserves it, dammit), I sat on Iron Man’s side when I watched “Captain America: Civil War”. I did this for a number of reasons: first, his team is cooler (Black Panther, Spidey, Black Widow?); secondly, his side of the issue made more sense to me; thirdly, I don’t really like Cap as a character all that much. I find it hard to identify with him and his perfect hairless face, but there is something we have in common: we both hate bullies.

And bullies are the reason why I felt I needed to write this rant despite having neglected this site for a while. Since we’re on it, I’ll tell you that I define bully as someone who tries to impose his/her will on someone who has no means to defend themselves. This may come in the form of a big jock giving a wedgie to a small nerd, a bunch of nerds hacking into a jock's Facebook, or a large community spamming an artist.

That being said, let's get to the point. So lately there’s been a bunch of quote-unquote “campaigns” (I realize the redundancy of writing ‘quote unquote’, but I liked the emphasis) on social media from LGBT communities pushing for certain popular characters to get a boyfriend/girlfriend of the same sex. The most popular cases have been Elsa from “Frozen”, and more recently Captain America. This is fucking preposterous for a number of reasons, but let me backtrack a little before explaining.

I’m a writer of fiction—and if being a hugely successful author is a credential you need for my rant to have any credence then stop reading right now—so this is a particularly bothersome subject for me. Writing is hard. Writing long-form material is harder (quote me on this if you want; it fucking is). It requires careful planning on everything from plotlines to characterizations. It’s a whole art from that requires inspiration drawn from the ether. Of course, there is elasticity to this art form, particularly when it comes to writing characters, because people change as they grow older and hopefully wiser, but there are elements to certain characters which are intrinsic. Their sexuality, usually, is one of these elements.

I’m gonna use my own art as an example here. I’m in the middle of writing a young adult trilogy called “The Armor of God” (books 1 and 2available now!). In this novel, there is a character called Lucius Barnes. He’s a 6’3’’ black army sergeant built like a brick shithouse. About halfway through the book, in passing, he mentions his husband Luke, and throughout the second half of the first book, you notice that Barnes and Luke have a perfectly healthy and wholesome marriage. Not a single character bats an eye at this.

Of course this wasn’t meant to be gratuitous, much less pandering. It was an exercise in both character and relationship building, and just as importantly, world building. I guess in a narrative where the world has been devastated to the point that there’s only one city left, and its inhabitants are pretty much waiting for extinction, telling people whom they can love or marry is even more absurd.

Two of my biggest influences as a writer are Joss Whedon, who is a notorious feminist, and Clive Barker, a gay man himself. My favorite novel of all time is “Imajica”, and in this novel the main character—a man—falls in love with a creature called Pie Oh Pah, a genderless shapeshifting alien. Oddly I always imagined Pie with mostly male characteristics, and throughout the epic narrative of “Imajica”, their heartbreaking love story never really rang untrue or bothersome. It’s how the character/s were written.

In many stories, and I’m tempted to say all of them when speaking about pop culture, sexuality isn’t really an issue and is therefore often ignored. Let's take the main cases here. Elsa wasn’t struggling with her sexuality; she was struggling with a magical power she had to contain until she decided to accept herself. Of course I can see why extremist members of the LGBT community want to see being non-straight as being a magical powerful creature in a world of normies, but if we’re getting going down this “it’s a metaphor!” road, someone tell me how it can’t also be a metaphor for her realizing she gets a kick out of violence? Or how it’s not a metaphor for her being a furry? I don’t think there’s been any outrage in the furry community wanting Elsa to have a busty tiger costume in “Frozen 2”.

The point of a metaphor is that you see in it what you want—you don’t push your interpretation and expect it to become canon. That’s the behavior of an entitled bully.

In the case of Cap, he was never fighting his inner conflict in wanting to fuck Bucky or someone else; he was kinda busy saving the goddamn world several times and, well, falling in love with women. Expecting that to change in the MCU version of Cap, at this point in his life, is absurd. Especially because they expect it to happen only because they want it to, not because that’s a logical step for a character that would enrich him in any way.

Is there a space for gay characters in Disney movies or the MCU? I think so. How come the push is for Elsa to get a girlfriend but not for Olaf to get a boyfriend? That would make more sense considering the first movie. Did you guys watch “Zootopia”? I’m 99% sure that Clawhauser was a flaming homosexual, and he was just precious. Gay characters definitely have a home in Disney and mainstream pop culture, but they should not be an afterthought (I’m paraphrasing a friend of mine here—a member of the LGBT community), or the product of bullying from the community. They should be gay because that’s who the character is.

Elsa’s self-discovery and self-acceptance was of her magical power, not her sexuality. Making her suddenly discover that, oh, by the way, she’s a lesbian, would be narratively redundant. She’s already gone through that arc, and she didn’t come out coming out.

So here’s the thing. If “The Armor of God” was more popular, and a group of people told me that Ezra needs to have a boyfriend, or that Erin needs to have a girlfriend in book 3, I’d tell them to shove their bullshit up their ass with the exact same string of vulgarities I would if someone else asked me to make Barnes straight. The character is the character is the character. Respect the artist’s vision; if they wanted the character to be non-straight, they would have made him non-straight.

There is a correct way of doing what these people want, though. I mentioned before that Joss Whedon was one of my biggest influences as a writer, and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is one of my favorite shows of all time (it would be still, if that little hairball “Game of Thrones” hadn’t been born). In Buffy’s fourth season, long-time main character and fan favorite Willow gets a girlfriend.

Oh wait, right, no, that’s not how it goes. How it goes is that Willow, a 19-year-old college student, goes through a slow process of self-discovery, meets a shy girl named Tara, and slowly they discover their sexuality (oddly enough, magic is used as a metaphor at the same time). Of course this was done in a very careful and respectful way, and was even foreshadowed in past seasons. This is how you do it; the arc is Willow’s sexuality, and magic is used as a metaphor. The arc is not Willow learns about magic and then a year later she comes out because #YOLO. It’s subtle, and enriches the character in great ways that go on for the entire duration of the show and the subsequent comic books (not with Tara though because lol).

Of course later they also use magic as a metaphor for drug use and dropped the ball, but the sixth season was pretty uneven. Boy, that’s going off topic, but I’m very passionate about Buffster.

So here’s the bottom line: asking Disney or Marvel to give Cap or Elsa a boyfriend/girlfriend is not only asking them to completely chang their established characters and their arcs, but also bullying. 

You know Disney and Marvel couldn’t say what I’m saying right now so their options are either pussy out and do it, or, hopefully, just ignore the quote-unquote "campaigns".

Though thinking about it, maybe they should bend the knee. Not because they think that making Elsa gay would be the correct step, or a sign of progress, but can you goddamn imagine the kind of money that move would make? A media shitshow and controversy before a long-awaited sequel, and the fact that no one will be able to say that the movie sucks in fear of being called homophobic?

Ka-fucking-ching.


So, like . . . write all the fan fiction you want, but don’t expect it to get validated as canon. It defeats the purpose of fan fiction.
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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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