Who’d have thought the unveiling of a lesbian Batwoman would be such a big story for mainstream media?
Some of the interest can be chalked up to mistaken identity and a blurring of the Batman Family cast: It’s clear that more than a few journalists and commentators think DC Comics is talking about Batgirl — who, as portrayed on TV by Yvonne Craig, was the object of so many adolescent crushes in the 1960s.
Similarly, the “Bat” prefix, which looms large in popular culture, bears some of the responsiblity. That Batwoman barely appeared anywhere in the past couple of decades doesn’t matter; she has Bat- in front of her name! Had DC announced that, say, a new Black Canary or Huntress is a lesbian, discussion would’ve barely moved beyond the message boards.
Now take that confusion and passing familiarity with the Bat-brand, add the one-two combination of comics — superhero comics, at least — being viewed as children’s fare, and the titillation factor of gay and lesbian topics, and you have an entertainment story with legs.
Consider “lesbian Batwoman” as this season’s Brokeback Mountain, only on a smaller stage. I’m just surprised we haven’t seen any “Brokeback Gotham” headlines yet.
The TV segment, by the hilarious Jeanne Moos, features an interview with DC Comics Executive Editor Dan DiDio, as well as person-on-the-street opinions.
The link from the website — “Watch lesbian Batwoman trigger sidewalk argument” — is pretty accurate: A man who expresses his disapproval of homosexuality is confronted by a woman in a large hat, with Moos caught in the middle.
The website article is more straightforward, getting reaction from Joe Palmer, who operates the Gay League website, and blogger John Schroeder. CNN also points out that Batwoman isn’t exactly the first homosexual superhero:
Marvel’s Rawhide Kid introduced a gay cowboy in 2002, years before the movie Brokeback Mountain came out. DC’s The Authority series features a gay superpower couple.Palmer said he likes the way Marvel’s Young Avengers has handled the relationship between teen spellcaster Wiccan and his shapeshifting boyfriend the Hulkling.
“They’ve been revealed to be a gay couple as well and it’s handled extremely well, just matter of factly, and no big sensation made over the fact that they’re gay and a couple as well,” he said.
DiDio, too, is interviewed: “This isn’t about a lesbian superhero. It’s about a superhero, who also happens to be gay.”
Reaction, context and an online petition
E! Online takes a similar approach, gauging reaction and providing a little context.
In journalism school, they call this the second-day angle, which means the “lesbian Batwoman” story may have turned a corner. We could start seeing a trickle of broader feature articles about the history or depiction of gays and lesbians in comics. Maybe.
Anyway, back to E! Online, which has quotes from Gay League’s Palmer, The Comics Journal‘s Michael Dean, and Alonso Duralde, who wrote the “How Gay Is Superman?” cover story for The Advocate. (“For the record,” E! notes, “Duralde, who wrote the cover story, doesn’t think Superman ‘has ever been remotely gay-ish — I think he’s a square’.”)
The website also checks in on message-board response, and discovers one of those ubiquitous online petitions:
In the case of at least online petition, however, the new Batwoman’s dating preferences seem very much the issue: “DC, YOU’RE MAKING A HUGE MISTAKE!!!!! HOW MANY LESBIANS DO YOU REALLY THINK WILL PURCHASE OVER STRAIGHT PEOPLE??? STRAIGHT OUT WAY [sic] LESBIANS!!!”
The appeal, on petitionspot.com, had eight names attached to it as of Friday.
As of this morning, the petition — or, rather, “PETETITION” — was up to 19 names.