Is Superman gay?
This ‘pressing’ question about what the Man of Steel does with his flying package (‘is it a bird? is it a plane?’) when it’s not held in by industrial strength spandex seems to be enormously exercising the media in the run up to Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns.
All this shocking speculation about Superman’s Supersexuality has been prompted by a not very shocking article in an American gay magazine about gay interest in superheroes. It didn’t actually claim Superman was gay but was cannily given the front-page headline ‘How gay is Superman?’, and the wagging tongues got wagging. Things have reached such a pitch that Singer, (openly gay) director of the upcoming blockbuster, felt it necessary to deny Superman is gay and stated ‘he’s probably the most heterosexual character in any movie I’ve ever made.’
Now, leaving aside the fact that Singer is perhaps best know for directing The X-Men, starring characters with names such as ‘Wolverine’ and ‘Magneto’ and ‘Storm’ who sound like gay pornstars, he and his studio are no doubt worried that talk of Superman being gay might keep the teen boys away from the box-office, and no blockbuster can afford to offend the delicate sensibilities of teen boys.
I’ve never met Superman (though I keep looking), and I haven’t seen the new movie yet (I don’t use Bittorrent), so I can’t really comment. But of course, I won’t let that stop me:
Let me just say this: in my expert opinion Superman is not gay. OK?
But he’s probably not terribly straight either. If he was, would he use the word ‘super’? Would he work out? Would he wear stretchy-tight clothes and a rubber cape? Would he oscillate between being ‘mild-mannered’ and brazenly exhibitionistic? Would he use so much product in his hair? Would he stay single? And smooth? And perpetually 25?
Whichever way his manhood swings, whether his preference is hetero, homo, or bi (the third possibility that straights and gays, as usual, seem equally keen to overlook), Superman is clearly, alarmingly, metrosexual.
This seems to be the fate of all superheroes when made into contemporary Hollywood Blockbusters. As I pointed out in a 2002 piece for Salon.com (‘Meet the metrosexual’) about the just-released ‘Spider-Man’, the movie:
…offers us the kinky, fetishistic spectacle of a geeky ordinary young man whom no one notices transformed into a raving metrosexual before our very eyes. Apparently injected with steroids and ecstasy by a gay spider, he admires his new buffed body with widening eyes in the mirror, dresses up in a tight lycra gimp suit and runs around a lot on all fours with his arse in the air, after having setting up (Web?) cameras to record his (s)exploits. Peter Parker/Tobey Maguire employs designer drugs, clothes, perverse sexuality and multimedia technology to get people to look at him as he swings between the billboards and skyscrapers from what appears to be his own hardening jism.
In one memorable bondage/mummification-resonant scene he hangs upside down in his gimp suit while Kirsten Dunst peels off the lower part of his mask to kiss him, before replacing it: a perfect example of the new power dynamic between metrosexual men and women and how metrosexual men have to be the center of attention. We’re supposed to believe that Tobey is motivated by old-fashioned virtues of social concern and love for Kirsten but we don’t believe it for a moment. Nor does, in the end, the movie: Kirsten finally offers herself but Tobey declines, realizing that she would come between him and his real love: his metrosexual alter ego in the Day-Glo gimp suit.