Friday, November 30, 2012

James Gunn's "Superhero Sex" post

Over at Unleash the Fanboy, I've written a post on the controversy surrounding director James Gunn's "superhero sex" blog post. Here's a sample:

From that title alone, two things should be immediately apparent: The first is that Gunn has a broad, absurd sense of humor. The second is that this is a poll that is so completely unmoored from reality that it is no way meant to be -- nor could it be -- taken seriously. Superheroes are fictional characters. They are not real people. Actual, living, breathing human beings -- such as those who presumably took part in this completely unserious and over-the-top bizarre poll -- cannot, by definition, have sex with them. Because they are not real.

I repeat, because some people have trouble understanding this point: Superheroes are not real people.
Gunn's post isn't about Olivia Munn or Megan Fox. It's not about cosplayers. These are fictional characters about which he's waxing sleazy. And not even fictional characters, really -- they're Intellectual Property that big corporations use to make billions of dollars by exploiting passionate fandom. And sometimes, the fans who have spent entire lifetimes following the adventures of these characters have trouble understanding that they aren't in fact flesh and blood real people, but fictional characters. Case in point, this post from The Mary Sue, titled "SO HERE'S THE SLUT-SHAMING, HOMOPHOBIC POST ON SUPERHEROES BY… THE DIRECTOR OF GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY," which contains the following paragraph:
The screenshot at the top of this post is the entirety of what he has to say about Batwoman, which is both a reference to the idea that lesbians just need a good (read: streotypically masculine) man to have sex with them and they’ll be “cured” of their homosexuality, a delusion at the heart of an innumerable number of rapes; and a dig at Nightwing, one of the few male characters in comics who has actually gotten away with being drawn for the female gaze. Apparently, having been depicted as a female sex fantasy occasionally (and still with nowhere near the frequency that any given female character is drawn for the male gaze) instead of a male power fantasy literally makes him a woman.
Look at what the author of the post, Susana Polo, writes there. She states that Nightwing is a "character" who is "drawn" in a specific way, but in the next sentence claims that Gunn's sophomoric joke "literally makes him a woman."

Nightwing isn't a human being. He doesn't literally exist. He can't be made literally a woman. He can't be made "literally" anything. He doesn't exist in reality. Gunn's post isn't an "insult" of Nightwing, because Nightwing can't be insulted. He is a fictional character.

But look at Gunn's original post regarding Batwoman, pasted above. He starts out with an observation about the constituency that voted for Batwoman as one of "The 50 Superheroes You Most Want to Have Sex With." The actual people who voted for this were voting for the Intellectual Property they most wanted to have sex with. Batwoman is a lesbian fictional character. Gunn notes that mostly (actual) men voted for her. It's probably a safe assumption that most of those men who voted for Batwoman are straight men (although I'm not entirely sure what would be the sexual orientation of an actual human being who desires to "have sex with" fictional characters -- "Fictionsexuals"?). Then, in the very next sentence, he feigns ignorance by subtly noting the absurdity of the idea -- what are these straight men thinking, exactly? He claims he doesn't know. In the third sentence he makes an ironic, over-the-top joke that shows in fact he does know what they're thinking, and it's ludicrous: "I don't know what they're thinking, but I know I'd like to write a story about Iron Man 'turning' her." This sentence is also a subtle dig at "crossover" comics, which invariably follow the same pattern: the heroes meet, there's some misunderstanding, they fight, and then they join forces. In this case, the joining forces would involve getting Batwoman to "cross over." But, given the fact that Iron Man and Batwoman are both pieces of Intellectual Property owned by two different and competing corporations, that's not very likely, is it? I'd say it's about as likely as "turning" a lesbian "straight."

Batwoman isn't real. She is Intellectual Property. She's only as lesbian as the writers in charge of her "adventures" make her.

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