The Bravest Superhero Ever
Stop pretending that the socially dominant position is heroic or risky.
Apparently, there's a new Captain America who's gay. I don't read comic books much so I'm going to make a few assumptions that might be incorrect. I assume the gay Captain America is also a supersoldier. I'm guessing that he's a good guy. Yawn.
It disappoints me - but it doesn't surprise me - that Marvel is applauded for introducing gay heroes into their stories as though they've done something courageous and risky. The LGBTQ community isn't going to cancel Gay Captain America. The only mild objections will come from nerdy, right-wing Christians who will be laughed into space by "sophisticated" critics as though punched by the Hulk - who will probably turn gay soon, too.
To be clear, it doesn't irritate me that there's a gay Captain America. I don't care enough about comic book characters to spend a micro-second thinking about their lore. I'm just irked that creating a gay Captain America is considered an act of bravery. Anyone with a little bit of intellectual honesty knows that Marvel is engaging in cheap, lazy, pandering because it requires zero creativity to start with a fully developed character and add "gay" to his list of traits. Now, before you start yelling, "Homophobe!" at the top of your lungs, let me suggest some modifications to other superheroes for your consideration.
Spider-Man only dates girls taller than himself!
Wolverine is a strict vegetarian!
Iron Man collects stamps!
Spider-Man's dating preferences or Wolverine's diet aren't the important aspects of the character. An honest person would admit that Iron Man collecting stamps is a trivial detail that doesn't warrant much attention. Grown-ups will concede that it isn't "brave" to give Tony Stark a hobby.
Grown-ups will also concede that comic books appeal to our more childish instincts. The desire to fly without planes and shoot fire from our fingertips doesn't vanish just because we're old enough to know it's impossible. We like superheroes because they regularly do things that we cannot. Comic books sell because the characters live lives that we can only imagine. So, my point is that most of us wouldn't sit through The Avengers movies if they were mostly about Captain America's sexual preferences.
Tiny, temperamental children are generally the ones who fixate on irrelevant details and turn them into big deals. Most children don't like to be "different" or singled out. Instead, they want to walk, talk, and look like the people - often the adults - around them. Until a certain age, many kids are traumatized when their uniqueness is noticed. I once caused a toddler to burst into tears by cheerfully uttering the phrase, "somebody got a haircut!"
Healthy adults don't need their heroes to have the same haircut.
Standing between the emotionally immature child and the well-adjusted adult is Gay Captain America. He's telling us - in a deep, authoritative voice - that sexuality is so important that it requires an entirely separate representation. Marvel thinks I need a hero who collects stamps as I do, or I won't be able to relate. But, since I'm a grown-up person with a well-defined self-identity, I don't look to superheroes for affirmation. That's probably why I don't read comic books anymore.
Unfortunately, our culture is dominated by children who need Thor to be a woman, Black Panther to be black, and Captain America to be gay. These children locate role models by looking for haircuts. They've prioritized genitalia, skin color, and sexual preference above superpowers. Being gay is more important than being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. (Please don't say leaping tall buildings is Superman's gig because that's missing the point.)
Celebrating Captain America's gayness ignores all the stuff that makes him a hero. Look what happened when I added sexuality to Captain America's bio from Marvel's website. The larger-than-life character turns into a joke. "America’s World War II Super-Soldier continues his fight in the present as an Avenger and untiring sentinel of liberty who has sex with other men."
It's equally silly to make skin color a defining feature of the hero. Note how clumsy and odd Black Widow's bio becomes when I stick an ethnic qualifier at the end. "Despite super-spy Natasha Romanoff’s checkered past, she’s become one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s most deadly assassins and a frequent member of the Avengers though she's actually white not black."
Gay characters are not more heroic than straight characters. Female characters are not more heroic than male characters. And black characters are not more heroic than white characters. A superhero's sexual orientation, gender, and skin tone are completely irrelevant. There, I said it. Anyone seeking to destroy me need only attribute this paragraph to me on social media. And here's another quote that's sure to raise the ire of the mob:
Writing this makes me braver than Gay Captain America.
Speaking truth to a culture dominated by mobs of angry children takes courage. Children don't like the truth, and I can almost guarantee that suggesting Captain America's sex life isn't important will reward me with a screeching tantrum. If I don't hear some wailing, I'll need to repeat myself until somebody tells me I've hurt their feelings and need to be erased from existence. That's what heroes do. Their unwavering commitment to goodness and truth attracts angry foes.
Marvel is pretending to be courageous while avoiding all of the uncomfortable questions. Like, why is a particular type of lust suddenly a virtue? How does sodomy really improve Captain America? Why can't the gay character be portrayed as a bullying villain? There are plenty of real-life examples in the Twitterverse to draw inspiration from! These are the kinds of awkward questions that will certainly upset the children. I don't like shrill whining but that's not a good enough reason to keep my questions to myself.
A hero stands up to opposition that would overwhelm mere mortals. It doesn't take extraordinary strength and fortitude to come out as homosexual in America. It actually takes more guts to hear that Captain America is gay and publicly respond, "So what?"
Hero status can only be achieved with self-sacrifice. You don't get to be a superhero just because you have freckles, or green eyes, or size 11 feet. Sleeping with men, women, or inflatable farm animals doesn't make you a hero either. I suspect the folks at Marvel already know this, but they're hoping you don't figure it out.
John Branyan has spent 30 years building his career in Christian comedy, sharing stages with people like Ken Davis, Tim Hawkins, David Jeremiah, and Lee Strobel. When he's not performing, writing, or teaching, John can be found playing board games with his family.