Yesterday, amongst some media attention, Marvel announced an impending gay wedding. I can’t help but notice that there are no fairytales that begin with the main characters’ wedding. When there are weddings, they are the payoff, the money shot, and definitely the grand finale of the fairytale. No one wants to read a fairytale that begins with a wedding, because then it would be about domestic tedium, heated discussions about whose turn it is to fold the laundry or change the diapers. Weddings are how fairytales end. The exciting part of the story is how we get there, how people meet and surmount obstacles. No fairytales begin with the line “and they lived happily ever after”, because that is not as interesting as all the parts before they settle down. The wedding is the clear sign to the reader to stop paying attention because the story is over.
In comic books, I find the interesting couples are the ones in teams, the ones who are already part of a larger group dynamic, with all of the associated problems and issues that working with other people engender. The side issues of their relationship only serve to spice up the larger team dramas, and readers are rarely asked to care about the tedium of the intimate aspects of their relationship. In the distant past, the Avengers had some great examples of this, with the complicated interactions of Ant-Man and the Wasp, or the Scarlet Witch and her robotic husband The Vision to reveal all sorts of potential problems to contend with, and the ways in which their teammates support them (and vice verse.)
The difference between something like the above, and a comic book event wedding between a superhero like Peter Parker and his non-heroic girlfriend; Mary Jane is that this is an example of the heroes personal lives which has no place in the comic book about superheroes. (Which now, did not actually happen, but at the time it was a decent example of a similarly grandiose event wedding to this current public relations exercise over Northstar and Kyle’s upcoming wedding.) I have as little interest in reading about a gay superheroes wedding as I do in reading about a straight superheroes wedding, and that is none. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer might as well have been named “The Fantastic Four Plan a Wedding” for all the interest half of it had for me. I also don’t need to see the special issue of the comic book in which they go to the bathroom, go shopping for deodorant, mail some letters, or have dinner with an old friend. This stuff is a side issue which, acceptably within the format of a superhero comic book, a writer and artist could choose to show a couple of panels of. It is something the hero is doing outside of the business of being a hero, which is all that really ought to be focused on within the confines of a superhero comic book.
Truly, if Marvel and DC really want us to believe that they care about making gay marriage seem mundane and “normal” then they need to show us two established, gay, married superheroes who work together to fight evil. They need to depict a same-sex marriage between working heroes, not as being some kind of unique, magical, unicorn of an event that merits ludicrous and totally unseemly announcements on The View. And let’s just ask for a moment; Why the View? Are Marvel hoping that all of those soccermom viewers will start buying comic books because there’s a wedding in it? First of all, I find the idea that all women want to read about is weddings, and second, sticking a wedding into a superhero comic book doesn’t make it automatically female-friendly. Once again, we’re confronted with the convoluted genius marketing strategies of big comic book publishers that mere mortals can never hope to understand. But I’m getting off the point here…
Showing a gay wedding in a comic book does not indicate that comic books are supportive of homosexual people getting the same rights as heterosexual people. What it indicates is that mainstream comic book publishers want to be seen to support equal rights and think they can make some money out of it. If they actually wanted us to believe in more than the fairytale and accept the reality of gay marriage then they would show us a gay marriage between equal superheroes who we could watch in action every issue, not a wedding which will be as insignificant to the ongoing title as any power and non-powers relationship. A story with superheroes who are working together would allow for a much more concrete example of intimacy.
Having said all of this, I am incredibly glad that two men are going to marry in comic books, just as I was very glad when a Hispanic/black kid became Spider-Man (even if it is just in the Ultimates universe and is riddled with cultural stereotypes.) It is important to me that mainstream media depict committed gay marriage as a facet of life and I’m very happy that this is happening. This is how capitalism works I suppose; nothing changes until big businesses believe that they’ll make a lot of money out of it. Unfortunately, this is just another example of a superhero marrying a member of the public and it just doesn’t carry the weight and importance of a relationship between heroes because it will never be the focus of the comic book (quite reasonably of course, because domesticity is not the stuff of superhero comic books.) If Marvel and DC are to truly embrace same-sex marriage, then instead of focusing on an obviously irrelevant event wedding, they need to give us a same-sex couple of heroes, who we get to see interact every day (and please don’t assume I’m talking about Batman and Robin, I personally think the age difference would make that much too divisive and creepy.)
Showing a wedding and telling us that this is an example of the acceptance of gay marriage is childish. What makes a relationship seem normal and mundane is seeing it day-in and day-out, which can only happen if they create a same-sex superhero marriage. I personally don’t really care what they do with the wedding, they can have them get married in between the panels as far as I’m concerned, but I want to see how they make their lives work.
All of the coverage in the mainstream media that I’ve read has talked about Northstar proposing to his boyfriend, Kyle. No one mentioned that his boyfriend is a black man. Years ago this would have been hugely divisive in America, but now suddenly we’re only worried about the contents of these men’s pants, not about the color of their skin. I hope this indicates that in another decade, this will be just as much of a non-issue, but part of me wishes that having a pasty-faced French Canadian marrying a black man was as much of a marketing coup for Marvel. Why can’t we all get super excited about that too? I guess that aspect of marriage just didn’t offer as many opportunities for the marketing department to milk anymore.