Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A HOST OF GAY IMAGES


OF SOAPS AND COMICS

When I first mentioned the new lesbian Batwoman in Detective Comics, I mentioned how there had been a very sympathetic lesbian character, a cop, in Superman some years back. Well her name was Maggie Sawyer and she's now captain of the Major Crimes Unit. Guess who shows up in only the third installment of the new Batwoman series (Detective 856)? Our gal Batwoman, dressed in a tuxedo and with an odd make up job [definitely a "lipstick lesbian"] runs into Maggie at a fundraising gala in Gotham -- or is it Metropolis? Anyway, Maggie, too, is dressed in a tuxedo. Somehow Maggie [who used to have a lover] immediately surmises that Kate/Batwoman is a lesbian and asks her for a dance [see photo].

Frankly, I find this all just a little too precious -- and self-conscious, for lack of a better word. I don't think a tuxedo on a woman is necessarily a code for "lesbian." [Generally whenever I see woman in tuxes they tend to be orchestra conductors, but that doesn't mean they're gay.] The whole business with Kate and Maggie is just a little too cute.

I have no idea of the orientation of the writer Greg Rucka. Rucka writes in today's typical comics style, meaning he takes up right where the last installment left off, there's no synopsis to remind you of who the various players are, and you're left to fend for yourself. Rucka does try to maintain a certain level of characterization, but I'm not certain he has any real idea of how to deal with Batwoman's lesbianism.

But then I confess that I had no idea that the new female Question -- who has a back up strip in Detective -- was also a lesbian and had just broken up with Batwoman. [We saw the break up in the Batwoman strip.] I was told this by a comics fan at my favorite bar. This back story about The Question may have been revealed in another comic at some point, but it certainly wasn't made known in the story itself.

Moving from the comics to the soaps:

I wrote a while back about the actor who quit The Young and the Restless in a huff because he didn't want to play a gay role ["Adam"] and kiss another actor. Big mistake. The "kiss" -- when it came -- was off-camera so we never got to see anyone lock lips. There was no actual softcore or after-glow sex scene, either. We just saw the two men buttoning up their shirts when it was over. Adam insists that it was a one time thing, but neither Rafe, the man he slept with [basically to use him, but still ...], or Adam's girlfriend, are convinced -- in fact, she broke up with Adam when she found out. Adam's father, Victor, told him he was okay with his being gay and Adam really didn't say anything, although he probably still identifies as straight. Adam is a fairly loathsome character, being nasty and under-handed to his father's new wife, Ashley, who has done nothing but be kind to him. Rafe, on the other hand, is a much more positive character, and is openly gay.

The Young and the Restless also introduced another gay character named Phillip Chancellor. Actually the character -- and the actor -- were on the show twenty years ago when Philip was killed off. Now the story is -- and this could only happen in the soaps -- that Phillip faked his death because he couldn't deal with being a Chancellor [with all the expectations that went with it] and with being gay. I've heard of some weird reactions to being in the closet, but faking your own death! Phillip is played by an openly gay actor, Thom Bierdz -- who played the role twenty years ago as well -- but he seems to do little else but wander around trying to bond with his son and ex-wife and apologize to the family members who were shocked that he never gave them a chance to accept him for who he is. A nice-looking man, he seems never to have had a long-time relationship, doesn't seem that happy being gay, and certainly has zero gay identity. If this is Y&R's idea of a positive gay character, all I can say is that they've got to be kidding. Hopefully Phillip will lose that hang dog expression and be given an actual storyline or two. It would also be interesting if Adam comes to accept that he's attracted to men.

The gay characters are much better handled on As the World Turns, as I wrote about a while back. Luke and Noah remain a positive and interesting gay couple, but it's obvious -- this being a soap opera, after all -- that their commitment will be tested in future episodes. The show has introduced a cute professor who is helping Noah work on his screenplay. [In a completely absurd development, Noah had to fly to Hollywood on the day of Luke's father's funeral to meet with -- get this! -- Jude Law about his screenplay. Right. A college kid with no agent and Jude Law. Law himself did not appear on the show, but of course no one expected he would.] Luke seems to be getting a bit jealous of all the time Noah spends with the professor.

Stay tuned!

3 comments:

Margaret said...

Maggie Sawyer relocated from Metropolis to Gotham City several years ago. She was fairly prominently featured for several years in the excellent but now-cancelled comics series "Gotham Central" (a police drama about Gotham cops, with occasional appearances by Batman and various Bat-villains), where she was the captain of one of the two shifts (day and night) of detectives the strip followed. Judging by her recent dancefloor conversation with Kate Kane/Batwoman, Maggie was apparently carrying on a long-distance relationship with her Metropolis girlfriend from the time she moved to Gotham up until shortly before the latest issue of "Batwoman/Detective." Why the girlfriend, who I believe was a journalist (not at the *Daily Planet*), apparently never explored the option of moving to Gotham along with Maggie I don't know. (Well, Gotham apparently has a worse reputation within the DCU as a horrendous cesspool of gruesome crime than New York City did in the 1970's in real life, so I suppose that might account for it.)

I don't really recall "Gotham Central" writers Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka providing any particularly compelling explanation for Maggie's own decision to step down from the post of sole head of the Metropolis SCU to move hundreds of miles away, presumably taking some kind of status and pay cut in the process, in order to become one of at least two captains in a single Gotham precinct, either.
Behind the scenes, this presumably happened because Brubaker and Rucka wanted to write cop stories on a regular basis that involved a character like Maggie, who by that time had become rather underutilized in the Superman books. So instead of reinventing the wheel, they got permission from the editors to use Maggie herself. But it is also frequently noted that a disproportionate number of the relatively few out lesbians in the DC universe are based in Gotham. The most notable pre-Batwoman native-to-Gotham examples cited are usually Renee Montoya (formerly a GCPD homicide detective who also appeared regularly in "Gotham Central," now The Question) and Holly Robinson, who was Catwoman's unofficial (and uncostumed) teenage sidekick for several years before the recent cancellation of the Catwoman title. Holly's girlfriend Karon, a mild-mannered but slightly punk-looking girl who worked at a delicatessen, also appeared in "Catwoman" fairly often, at least back when Ed Brubaker was writing it.

trypr said...

Hmm, well it didn't strike me as at all precious: I think Kate got there a panel ahead of me though. I was all "yes!".

There were good reasons for both characters to be there. Maggie is someone I have a tough time imagining in a cocktail dress and Kate is the type to go Greta Garbo just to annoy her stepmother, it seems. So Kate's motives for attending aren't exactly pure, but she's single and so is Maggie evidently.

Perhaps Maggie already knows a bit about Kate from interacting with Gotham high society, or vice-versa. Perhaps she sees a very hot and certainly dykish lady in a suit and figures she'll take a chance: you never know unless you're brave enough to find out, after all.

They do the dance, metaphorically, and between the body language and conversation they clock each other. Kate spells it out, maybe a little unnecessarily, but it's a formal environment. They move past it quickly and we get a dashing, classically romantic scene.

I liked it ^^

Bill Samuels said...

Many thanks for your comments!

Margaret, I sppreciate all the info on Maggie Sawyer. I enjoyed seeing the relationship between her and her lover back in Superman and it's a shame that it's just been shunted aside without explanation. Comics are like soap operas in that characters are moved about mercilessly -- often senselessly -- for the sake of a story or series.Thanks also for the rundown on the other gay ladies in the DC Universe.

Trypr, I appreciate a different point of view on the tux-dancing scene with Maggie and Batwoman. I admit you make very good points --
both about the romantic nature of the scene and about how you sometimes just have to "take a chance." I certainly didn't find the sequence homophobic in any way, and you've helped me to look at in in a different light.

Again, thanks to both of you for your comments! Bill