The recent announcement from DC Comics that they would be “rebooting” the original Green Lantern as a gay man wasn’t really that surprising. I mean, it certainly got them some attention, and some people think it’s a big deal. But as a cultural happening, it’s not the high-megaton bombshell it would’ve been 20 or 30 years ago.
Because for at least that long, masculinity has been under all-out assault in our culture. Masculine traits like aggressiveness, risk-taking, and competitiveness are considered affronts to polite society, like breaking wind in public. Or else they’re diagnosed as out-and-out psychological disorders demanding medication and therapy.
The surprising thing is that it’s taken this long to get around to comic books. The attack began on all the other institutions that instill masculine traits a long time ago. The education system is designed to favor girls over boys at every level, from the first time they’re dropped off at the Sharing and Caring Day Care until they receive their PhDs in Marxist Lesbian Literature. Sports no longer teach boys the value of competitiveness or how to cope with winning and losing, because everybody plays and nobody wins or loses because we don’t keep score. The Boy Scouts have been pushed to the margins of the culture and continue to be the target of homosexual activists who think that it would greatly benefit the development of young boys for them to spend more time with grown gay men. Who needs to know how to tie fifteen kinds of knots when you can sing the whole Judy Garland songbook by heart?
In their own way, comic books have as much influence over the development of boys as the hated and reviled Barbie doll has on girls. Boys want to be heroes–they want to rescue the damsels and thump the bad guys–and, traditionally, comic books gave them positive reinforcement for their noblest aspirations. Comics gave them a platform for their daydreams like Barbie did for girls.
But it turns out that Barbie was bad because she gave girls an unhealthy body image and sense of self worth (by the way, Barbie’s proportions have got nothing on most super heroes; try living up to Captain America’s shoulders sometime). And it turns out that comic books are maybe a little too old-fashioned–not inclusive enough for all the rich variety of human experience. So, both Marvel and DC are going to start serving up their heroes with a heaping helping of homosexuality. And another cultural institution that used to carry the torch of masculinity goes by the boards.
And if you say that just because a super hero is gay doesn’t mean he can’t be masculine, I would say this: If your definition of “masculine” is so broad that it still applies to a dude kissing another dude, then your definition doesn’t mean anything at all. Unfortunately, meaningless is just what the would “masculine” is becoming.