Green Lantern comes out of the closet

I am in favor of gay rights. Yet, today’s news is, well, a bit goofy. Is it possible that Ellery is not the progressive, tolerant Dude that I have cultivated? First some background…

20 years ago, my business partner, Gerry, and I walked across Central Park. We were wearing blue jeans—and for some reason that I don’t recall, we were horsing around and slapping each other on the back. Suddenly, a news photographer popped in front of us and took our photo. He wasn’t carrying a snapshot camera, but a big, professional photo-journalist camera. He may have asked permission to publish the photo—I don’t recall. We certainly would have given consent. Our company was undergoing venture financing. I figured the investors would get a lift by seeing their new partners in a story about the first day of summer, park beautification, or whatever.

In brightest day, in darkest night—No evil shall escape my sight

But later, as we strolled toward a crowd on the far side of the park, we learned that this was Gay Pride Day. Overhead banners urged supporters to show their pride by wearing jeans (Don’t we all wear jeans?!). TV & news photographers zoomed in on men holding hands, butts or cuddling amongst the crowd. The next morning, Gerry and I were splashed across the front page of our nation’s newspapers. We were mortified! The caption didn’t identify us, but to our friends, colleagues and communities, we were presented as gay lovers. Outed…And we weren’t even members of the club!

I’m not gay and I doubt that Gerry is, either. At the time, I was beginning to turn away from five years of intolerance at college. As I matured, I not only mellowed, I came to abhor anti-gay activism. I became an advocate for ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, especially when it rears its head in law and public policy. Homophobia is not only callous and unfair, it arises from religious doctrine, a narrow minded perspective—or it indicates repressed homosexuality; that’s my favorite explanation.

Today, I am tolerant and progressive. I favor ratification of gay marriage (not just a “civil union”. That’s a whitewash). The time has come to recognize that this issue is more about personal freedom, expression and privacy—than about any legitimate right for a government to discriminate.

Is this necessary? Is Ellery a hypocrite?

But now, DC comics has revealed that Green Lantern likes to French kiss his mate and cuddle with him as they walk down a street in Hong Kong(?!) Is it necessary for the stewards of our super heroes to turn the comics into a political statement? I realize that Superman has Lois Lane and Batman flirts with Bat Girl (N.B. Even she has been recast as a lesbian!). I am 100% comfortable about gays in every walk of life. Not just tolerating their presence, mind you. I honestly think that they add a rich cultural dimension to the fabric of society. But I am just a bit troubled that DC is using the issue to push back into everyone’s face and begin the desensitizing process within the pages of a super hero comic.

Look at the collage of cartoon frames released today by DC Comics (from the upcoming June 2012 issue, Green Lantern, Earth 2).  Is this a distraction—or legitimate and non-political character development? Is it a reasonable part of the story line? To me, it seems like a subplot with an agenda. Even though the agenda is not offensive, I can’t quite justify it in this venue. I would be much more comfortable encountering it on the editorial pages, among my friends, and in books & films. Just, not within a DC comic. Does that make me a hypocrite? Honestly, I’m not sure. Tell me what you think?

Editors Note:
The title suggests that Green Lantern has “come out of the closet”. Actually, the new issue shows him to have been openly gay all along. Additionally, the character is not Hal Jordan from 60s and 70s, a member of the Justice League. He is Alan Scott, a retro character from the early comics of the 1940s.

4 thoughts on “Green Lantern comes out of the closet

  1. How interesting. What does your comment say about you? I couldn’t possibly say. Perhaps the gay comic story and its characters’ actions are just another sign of political correctness or some such. Perhaps it is a sign of wanting people to become more tolerant. Ceratinly the kids won’t care! I am interested and observing, not commenting.

  2. I enjoyed the Green Lantern piece and strongly agree in general.

    But, there is a question here, and Ellery is clearly asking readers to weigh in: A comic book illustration of two men kissing on the mouth is no more erotic then Superman kissing Lois Lane. So Ellery wonders, “Why do I feel uncomfortable with this panel? Does a gay rights advocate show hypocrisy, if he feels uncomfortable about a popular superhero who is suddenly revealed to be openly Gay?”.

    Responding to Ellery’s plea, let’s break down the piece into the key issues & assertions…

    HYPOCRISY
    Definition: The deliberate projection of a strong belief in conjunction with the deliberate contravention or undermining of that belief. You could also substitute “belief system” for “belief”. And yet, if actions or words fit the definition, I believe in not applying the label to a sincere mistake in judgment.

    To the specific question in the piece: No. Unbending and zealous ideological consistency can be sort of hypocritical. This sounds strange, but ideological purity can contravene the legitimate humanity which should be the goal of any discourse or policy. To put it another way, a dose of pragmatism is a good thing in my opinion, and self-questioning is a sign of strength rather than weakness. The attempt to project ideological perfection and the suppression of dissent are thus a weakness rather than a strength.

    General thoughts: If hypocrisy is a major dimension of your analysis in life, and you apply the term strictly and with ideological purity as a shining standard, then we are all hypocrites at least once in a while. At a guess, even Mother Theresa. But I dislike the frequent use of this term in public discourse. I think it is a symptom of a public discourse that is unfortunately too inflammatory and too adversarial. This poisonous style sells, which is a comment on the consumers of public discourse.

    Examples:
    I think Mitt Romney is a consummate opportunist. In one sense, this makes him a professional hypocrite. But because I don’t like the inflammatory style in public discourse, I would prefer to leave it at consummate opportunism. Throwing around the term hypocrite just encourages self-righteousness and polarization.

    I think John McCain more than likely made sincere mistakes in judgment, although people whose opinion I respect believe his “mistakes” were not entirely sincere. I feel that, in his case, only those who know him very well, or study him long and hard, could have a right to judge whether the definition applies. I do not qualify.

    ELLERY AND GERRY
    You were mortified at the time and it appears that today it is mostly amusing for you. The latter is how it should be. Like the time when my wife and her sister were teenagers, sitting by a stream in Scotland on a vacation trip, and were mistaken for “natives” by camera-wielding fellow Americans.

    YOUR FAVORITE EXPLANATION (that homophobes are likely repressed homosexuals)
    Yes, fun and sometimes true. But it can edge towards the inflammatory and self-righteous thing that I abhor, if you are not careful. By the way, if one abhors self-righteousness but also indulges in it…Well, we are all human. My most ambitious goal in this regard is to have my outbursts mostly in private.

    MARRIAGE -vs- CIVIL UNION
    How about this for a solution? A government never uses the term “marriage” for what it does. Let the clergy do whatever they want, or not do whatever they don’t want. In practical everyday life, people will just use the term marriage (or not confer that recognition) as they see fit. A tolerant Ellery will let it go when an opponent pointedly but politely calls legally married people partners rather than spouses. A tolerant DOMA supporter will let it go when partners living in a state that gives them no legal recognition call themselves married.

    DC COMICS
    I am not a comic book fan so this issue is not really there for me. I cede the field to the fans.

    • Ellery may not be a hypocrite but he may be uncomfortable with gay people. In fact all of us who are not gay may be uncomfortable with gay people for the simple reason that beng so is foreign to us. We heterosexuals cannot understand what attracts a man to a man or a woman to a woman. We cannot relate in much the same way that we cannot relate to an alcoholic or a drug addict. The attraction to alcohol or drugs is foreign to us.

      Honestly, my first reaction to this outing of the Green Lantern was, “is this necessary.” What purpose will outing a Superhero serve and what harm to the gay community will it engender. But upon further reflection I can’t help but think that this will be one more small step in the evolution of destigmatizing gay people. One more small step towards accepting them for what they are: law abiding, hardworking, talented and creative people who want nothing more than to pursue their own brand of happiness.

      While it has been said that familiarity breeds contempt, it can also breed tolerance.

      • Robert LoRe’s comment led me to think of this test that a heterosexual man can apply to himself to measure how well he has internalized his tolerance: Does a woman’s attraction to a man feel as alien to you as a man’s attraction to a man?

        I would like to say that the next step after that would be for these “alien” attractions to feel less and less alien, perhaps even more and more understandable, but the problem with accepting this as a benchmark would be that subtle degrees of being less than absolutely 100% heterosexual could affect one’s ability to go there. Also, we all have different degrees of natural empathy. In short, we can’t establish a universal standard to aspire to.

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