“The new Superman, Jonathan Kent—who is the son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane—will soon begin a romantic relationship with a male friend, DC Comics announced Monday,” or so The New York Times tells me. In case you were concerned that this wasn’t enough of a statement, the new Superman has also “combated wildfires caused by climate change, thwarted a high school shooting, and protested the deportation of refugees in Metropolis.”
Why am I supposed to care about this? The Times tells me the “coming out of Superman, perhaps the most archetypal American superhero, is a notable moment” right before telling me that, in their current incarnation, Robin and Aquaman are also gay. Way back in 2012, even Archie comics got woke when Jughead and the rest of the gang from Riverdale went to an Occupy Protest and a gay wedding.
All of the bleatings about the need for “representation” in this case, is wasted breath. For a decade now, polls have shown that Americans think 25% of the population is gay, when the reality is closer to two to five percent. Surely this disparity has something to do with the fact that gay Americans are, if anything, now overrepresented in pop culture.
Now, I’m not one to look down on comic books as an art form. I even have a handful of graphic novels on my shelf. But suffice to say, I prefer when comics are epic morality tales rather than attempts to make Swarthmore gender studies syllabi palatable for people whose lips move when they read. Not only does grinding political axes make for bad art, but there’s also a whiff of desperation about it.
The people driving this mini-cultural revolution can’t create any new characters or stories that are compelling, so they try to co-opt every classic they can get their hands on. Contrary to the Times, there’s nothing notable about a gay Superman—it was entirely predictable. If it’s iconic, it will be destroyed or remade to service our cultural overlords, and at the rate we’re going, Steven Spielberg is going to announce the shark in Jaws prefers They/Them pronouns any day now.
This constant need to redefine existing cultural landmarks fundamentally misunderstands why characters such as Superman come to be beloved. Superman was a hero in our collective imagination not because of his superpowers but ultimately because of his moral choices. None of us know what it’s like to fly around shooting lasers out of our eyes. Still, Americans broadly related to the veneration of Superman’s upright mid-century Kansas values that helped guide the responsible use of his superpowers to spread “truth, justice, and the American way.”
The ironic thing about all of this is that “truth, justice, and the American way” used to encompass fostering a great deal of tolerance. However, when I say “tolerance,” I’m using the actual definition of respectfully living side-by-side with people with whom you have fundamental disagreements. Unfortunately, these days many Americans are invested in the perverse notion that anyone who has different moral sentiments than you is “intolerant.”
In that respect, stunts such as bisexual Superman are also intentionally provocative—the whole point is to generate outrage so the opponents that emerge can be labeled as bigots standing in the way of progress. But while this stunt may have been outrageous a couple of decades ago, the only reaction I’ve seen is an admixture of resignation and eyes rolling out of the back of people’s heads. Even with media cheerleaders such as the New York Times trying their best to make it sound significant, there’s been little celebratory sentiment online.
Perhaps a bisexual Superman isn’t being celebrated too much because they’ve already won the battle. But when even defense contractors are waving rainbow flags, you should probably stop pretending queering up comic books is a daring countercultural act. In reality, Bisexual Superman is the perfect mascot for an oppressive regime that makes refusing to bake a pornographic cake a crime against the state.
Regardless of what victories it’s earned them, the fact that the left is still going back to the same tired culture war playbook is revealing of their own insecurity: If your happiness hinges on forcing others to accept your own personal choices as morally valid, well, that’s your problem, not theirs. Because speaking as a straight, Christian, suburban, married father of two, I’ve got a good handle on what the pursuit of happiness is all about. If I have a superpower, it’s that I’m one of those rare creatures confident enough in my worldview I don’t have to pretend that your collective neuroses are my culture.