Nick Smith of the Pasadena Public Library on Reaction to Gay Characters
'Concerns Should Not Be Dismissed'
Published: 07/02/2012 12:52am
Nick Smith of the Pasadena Public Library in Pasadena, California read Steve Bennett's recent column (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--Welcome to the Conversation") and had this to say about the reaction to gay characters in comics.
I was born about 20 miles west of the town where Steve Bennett’s store is located, and I'm old enough to remember when the same arguments were happening about different ways humanity was divided. Even in recent years, book publishers have hesitated to put characters who are "too ethnic" on book covers, even if the bleaching of the cover art ruins story points. Would we be having this same discussion if the new Alan Scott had turned out to be African American? Probably not, but we would have if it had happened 40 years ago. After all, at that point it was only a few years since Kirk had kissed Uhura, and comics and books with dark-skinned characters on the cover still sold less than if they were all white.
In Steve's commentary, I only had a problem with one of his statements, which is that we shouldn't dismiss people who feel "alienated" by the inclusion of gay characters as being "religious zealots and bigots." I agree that their concerns should not be dismissed, but not for that reason. I think a more correct way of putting it is that those people [and I use that phrase deliberately] don't view themselves as being religious zealots and/or bigots. On the other hand, they are xenophobes, people who find themselves uncomfortable with folks different from themselves in some way. In this case, their xenophobia is being expressed in a relatively extreme form, to the point of attacking what makes them uncomfortable. I mean, if it was just a matter of taste, then don't read Earth 2 or Kevin Keller. Why would it matter if the comic exists, if they're not reading it? It matters because it violates the way they wish the world to be. By staying away from the comic shop that sells it, they're saying "The existence of that comic offends me."
Here's a different side, though. Community standards differ, on this and many issues. For a comic shop or a library, clearly you need to listen to your community, to the extent that they support your existence. Where it takes both effort and a sense of risk is to push those boundaries, just a tad, in service to YOUR ideals. Should you try to push a Kevin Keller book into the hands of someone who has expressed a dislike for it? No. Should you be willing or able to defend the existence of the book, if someone is openly interested in beginning a dialogue? I would have to say yes.
You see, that's part of how are society has tried to move forward on other issues. Not always successfully, but we've tried. In this case, we clearly have to keep trying. Otherwise, both sides will demonize and name-call, without moving toward anything good.
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
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