I readily admit that I completely take for granted living within a gossamer soap bubble of acceptance floating in the midst of a hugely liberal city. In any given week I never once interact with a person who is any less than totally accepting of people of all races, beliefs, and sexual identities.
Unfortunately, the internet is a little less accepting, despite my attempts to maintain my bubble of open-mindedness.
For example: I regularly visit a number of X-Men and Marvel forums to answers questions and promote my Guide to Collecting X-Men. Last night, someone asked if a particular upcoming omnibus of X-Statix comics would be appropriate for his children.
Totally fair question, right?
Except, that’s not exactly the question he actually asked. What he asked was this:
I was trying to get some info on what it’s about and read there are some overtly homosexual characters and themes, is this true? I just want to make sure if the themes are adult in nature that my young children don’t pick up the book off my shelves expecting simple heroics and see two same sex individuals kissing.
My intention is not to offend anyone but to educate myself.
There are so many things wrong with that message board post that for about five minutes I simply could not compute. My brain locked up like a computer aimed at a website full of animated gifs of from Maury Povich.
First, and most obvious – why does it matter? To play off a recent image doing the rounds on social networks, how is gay kissing any different than straight kissing? Or, since we’re talking about a comic book, the potentially confusing shapeshifter kissing or alien kissing, and the occasional robot kissing?
Answer: It’s not. It’s just kissing. Either kissing is appropriate for your kids, or it isn’t. Either it’s appropriate in public or it isn’t. Either it’s appropriate on a plane or it’s not. “Gay” shouldn’t enter into the equation.
Second, there is the careful defusal at the end of the question. You see, it’s not offensive because they are using very polite terms about their bigotry. They simply want to educate themselves on how to promote bigotry.
That’s totally inoffensive, right? And bullying doesn’t hurt anyone unless they choose to feel hurt, right?
What if he had said “two Mexicans kissing” or “two people of different races kissing”? Or “a woman in a leadership position over men”? Or “a person with a disability doing simple heroics next to a able-bodied superhero”?
It’s all bigotry, no matter how nicely you phrase it.
Third, the question intimates that the author read up a bit on X-Statix before asking. X-Statix was Marvel’s handing over the mutant concept to indie creators Peter Milligan and Mike Alred and telling them to just run with it. Do whatever they felt like doing. The result was a satirical, nuanced, and very adult comic book. It’s indie-comics style (laypeople: think Ghost World) with much more talking than fighting, yet the first issue still manages to end with an entire team being graphically eviscerated on panel. It features ongoing themes of addiction, teenage pregnancy, promiscuity, and racial identity/discrimination. Honestly, I don’t even remember a homosexual relationship being in the book.
Most reviews would touch on all of those other themes, and if he did any amount of reading about X-Statix they were mentioned. You know, lots of “simple heroics” – just like the past five years of X-Men comics, which have dealt with extremely complex issues of extinction, discrimination, patriotism, genocide, and – in at least one instance – bondage.
I read X-Men as a ten-year old, but I don’t know if X-Statix would have been appropriate for me. Same sex kissing has nothing to do with it.
Fourth – and weirdly, the most salient to me – is that the X-Men have always been an allegory for people who are being discriminated against by the mainstream for how they were born. X-Men has always been a comic about civil liberties. For a person with any kind of prejudice of that nature to be reading X-Men means they are completely missing the point.
X-Men are feared and hated for being different. X-Men are beaten in alleys outside of clubs because they have wings. X-Men attend the funerals of their friends and see “Muties Must Die” signs held by protesters.
If you are trying to teach your children to discriminate against people who are different, giving them X-Men comics won’t do the trick. Hell, on top of all of that, they feature one of the first openly gay superhero characters, Northstar.
Finally, I thought about this in the light of the trailer for documentary Miss Representation that has been circulating this week. I commend any parent who tries to screen things in advance of putting them on their bookshelf, but is two people of the same sex kissing really hot-button issue number one? Is the same care being taken to screen out all misogynistic images from the home? Are the young children of both sexes being just as protected from images that minimize or marginalize women as equal contributors in society? Are comics that emphasize skintight outfits and large bosoms given equal scrutiny? Are the young girls dissuaded from constant digestion of Princess culture?
All of these elements are much more likely to negatively impact the developing opinions/identity of a child than same-sex kissing.
Okay. Let’s all take a deep breath. Mostly me. I’m taking a deep breath.
Trying to be helpful despite my seething, I replied to say I did find the question offensive, that I recognized it wasn’t the appropriate place to have that discussion, and that X-Statix is not appropriate for children (without making a comment on either direction on the kissing).
I felt pretty decently about that. It made me less angry that I stated my position clearly and was still helpful. Gina and Jake and I had a good laugh about it before rehearsal.
Then I saw a few replies
Step down off your f’ing high horses for christs sake
He didn’t use any offensive language or try to offend anyone. He merely asked a question and it’s his right to choose how he raises his children and what they are able to read off his shelf. This is a free country and people have the right to believe how they want to believe and to raise their children the way they see fit. Why be offended?
Maybe this is an overreaction, but I feel that these responders along with the original poster are the people that are legitimizing hatred and discrimination in our world. It’s up to each of us to stand up and be heard when we see evidence of discrimination and bullying – and I’m not just talking about LGBT here, I’m talking about everything. Everyone.
We cannot allow people to hide their discrimination behind cultural or religious beliefs, or how they want to raise their children, when what they choose to promote is hatred, even if that is passive hatred through their willful ignorance.
To try to turn that around to make me seem small-minded or un-accepting is a low piece of rhetoric. If kissing is appropriate for your kids, then so is “gay kissing.” That doesn’t involve a high horse or me telling someone how to raise their children. It’s about civil and human rights, and if you are arguing against them you are a bigot.
No debate. No maybe. Fact.
And, you too should probably sell all of your X-Men comic books, because you are completely missing the point.