Homophobia is unique among the many flavors of bigotry, because we’re still at the stage (in the US anyway) where the hatred, discrimination and subjugation of homosexuals is granted the protected status of “personal belief system” and must be given as much weight, consideration and media coverage as calls for equality. Bigots say and do heinous things, then excuse their behavior by claiming religious freedom. Timid politicians, schools and corporations then look the other way, lending tacit support to the idea that some bigotry is okay if, you know, that’s what you believe.
When DC Comics announced last week that they hired anti-gay activist Orson Scott Card to be a contributing writer on a new Adventures of Superman digital anthology, the internet pretty much did a collective spit-take and said, “Wait. What?” DC offered a very tepid response to the controversy on Wednesday, stating, “As content creators we steadfastly support freedom of expression. However, the personal views of individuals associated with DC Comics are just that—personal views—and not those of the company itself.” Which goes right back to what I said above. Bigotry against gays is, after all, freedom of expression, and it’s the last bigotry that companies like DC are comfortable defending. DC’s response may be an accurate reflection of the current political climate and the bizarre protection we afford homophobes, sure, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating or cowardly.
I try to avoid comparing homophobia to racism, because it always seems to create more problems than it solves. However, can you imagine DC defending a vocal racist with the lame “freedom of expression” defense? Again, homophobia enjoys a free pass that other forms of bigotry do not. DC is obviously hoping to capitalize on the upcoming film adaptation of Card’s Ender’s Game by having his name on a DC book. Maybe they even anticipated the controversy and buzz this choice has created. Maybe they saw an opportunity to mobilize an army of Card’s supporters to buy the book to show their approval of his beliefs. Admittedly, that’s a very cynical view of things, and probably shows more forethought than DC has ever demonstrated before, but I’ve found that no matter how cynical I am, the truth is usually always worse.
Traditionally, DC tends to take the “one step forward, two steps back” approach when it comes to the LGBTQ community. Add gay characters; erase them from continuity. Make Earth 2‘s Green Lantern gay; fire pro-LGBTQ writer Gail Simone (thankfully only temporarily). For whatever reason, DC is standing by Card, their hiring decision and his right to be a bigot. That is their right. That is his right. Similarly, it’s my right not to buy the book. And it’s my right to encourage my readers and friends not to buy the book.
Even if DC had announced he’d be writing a Joker or Lex Luthor title, I think the reaction would have been the same, if only because Card is so vocal and active in his bigotry. (He is a board member of the National Organization of Marriage, after all. I mean, there are bigots who sit on their couches and complain about Spongebob Squarepants, and then there are bigots who go to meetings, organize potlucks and write essays from hell.) Still, there’s something particularly sinister about DC putting the Man of Steel in the hands of such a rabid homophobe. Namely, Superman is better than that and deserves better than that.
Superman represents our potential for good. He is selfless, noble and just. He does the right thing, even if he must stand alone. Superman doesn’t discriminate. He doesn’t ask about sexual orientation before he saves someone. I’ve never seen him bust up a gay wedding, and I’ve never seen him campaign to deny equal rights to anyone. Simply put, Superman is not a bigot and should not be written by one.
It gets complicated, though, doesn’t it? If Card had kept his anti-gay views to himself, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. He’d be just another comic book writer. In September of 2012, a CBS News/New York Times poll revealed 51% of Americans supported marriage equality; 41% opposed; and the rest were undecided. Those 41% aren’t all on an island somewhere, plotting against the LGBTQ community from afar. They’re everywhere; they walk among us. They’re our neighbors, classmates, coworkers. They’re business owners, service providers and creators. They’re actors, doctors, teachers and writers.
Is Card the first homophobe to write for Superman? Probably not. Is he the only homophobe employed by DC Comics or in the comics industry in general? Oh ho, definitely not. As time goes on, the haters will do what sexists, racists and bigots of all kinds have always done when they are left behind by the progression of society: retreat quietly and look for more subversive ways to undermine equality. For now, they’re waving their signs, holding their press conferences and getting a lot of attention on cable news shows. For every bigot with a platform, though, there are more and more opposing voices. That is hopeful.
Some good might come out of this, too. Other companies may weigh their decisions to hire anti-gay activists a little more carefully in the future. Plus, with the heightened attention on this book, DC’s editors will hopefully keep any potential anti-gay rhetoric or subtext in check.
Finally, I have a suggestion for a little freedom of expression of our own. Instead of just boycotting Card’s Superman book, why not buy a book featuring a gay character, instead? When the book is released, take your $2.99 and pick up Earth 2, Batwoman, Teen Titans, or take your money outside DC and get X-Factor, Avengers Academy, Astonishing X-Men or Archie’s Kevin Keller. Then, don’t stop there. Keep buying those titles and recommend them to your friends and tell them why.
DC’s decision to stand by their bigot is an insult to the LGBTQ community and everyone who supports equality for all. In time, though, I’m sure DC will take a page from their own comics and retcon their corporate bio to erase this particularly shameful moment. A relaunch of their own belief system can’t come soon enough.
Click here to sign the petition to let DC know where you stand. You can also contact DC via their website and let them know (in a polite and respectful manner) that bigotry of any kind is not okay.