WHERE ARE THE gay superheroes? The gay gunslingers, action heroes and adventurers? Where are the gay vampires, explorers, aliens and athletes?
It’s easy to wonder about the film industry’s lack of gay protagonists in the midst of summer blockbuster season. Every weekend for a few months, giant movies are being unleashed on the spectacle-starved masses, who are treated to a slew of explosions and car chases, along with a skimpy side dish of hetero romance. You’d be hard-pressed to find a gay or bisexual protagonist amongst the uber-straight ranks of Wolverine and his ilk. Even in the specialty market, the LGBTQ offerings are few and far between: a documentary like Before You Know It here, a small-scale drama such as Love is Strange there.
That the heroes of summer are all straight is no surprise: the big studios are most interested in targeting teenage boys, who love their stunts and are the most likely group to drive a box office to mammoth numbers. What’s more alarming is the lack of any sexual minority supporting characters.
Most movies (and TV shows, plays, etc.) about LGBTQ characters are about dealing with their sexual other-ness. There are lots of movies about a character coming out, and coming to terms with who he or she is. The other major camp is the LGBTQ romance, which often comes with the characters’ baggage of being comfortable with PDA, introducing their love interest to friends and family and other typical relationship hurdles that they might find more daunting than those in hetero relationships.
What I crave, and what I imagine others do, too, are characters of incidental sexuality. A great example is Aaron Yoo’s character, Thom, in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Thom is a character who is gay, but is also other things: musician, friend, comedic relief. The audience knows that Thom is gay, but it isn’t his defining trait. There are other things on his mind than anxiety about his place in society and the possibility of finding love.
This isn’t to say that anxiety and romance and all the other turbulent emotional dimensions of being a sexual minority shouldn’t be fodder for storytellers on the big screen. There are tons of great movies that focus on such experiences. But a character being gay, or lesbian, or transgender, or bisexual, is only a sliver of a fully formed character: it’s an important characteristic, perhaps even the most important for many, but there’s no reason to stop and solely focus on a character’s gender identity and sexual orientation.
While I don’t expect Hollywood to start reimagining its comic book money-makers as gay crusaders, or to have a lesbian superspy take on a world threat in some theoretical original blockbuster (if such a thing exists anymore), here’s to hoping that the huge casts of these multi-million dollar projects start to reflect a greater diversity of people. Maybe it can help pave the way for a transgender person to someday save the world.