Monday, May 25, 2015

Stupid Sexy Loki: The Problem With LGBT Villains

So when Loki: Agent of Asgard was announced, hot on the heels of the first Avengers movie taking heaters by storm, Andrew Wheeler noted something about how it could all go down, at least within the Marvel comics universe:

Good news; Marvel is launching a new ongoing series with an LGBT lead character. Loki: Agent of Asgard debuts in February from the creative team of writer Al Ewing and artist Lee Garbett, and Ewing confirmed via Tumblr that the lead character will not only be portrayed as bisexual –but be able to change gender. Bad news; Loki is not exactly a good guy. He’s a trickster, a manipulator, a supervillain. He’s also the second bisexual male to get his own ongoing book at Marvel, and here’s the problem; the other one was Daken, son of Wolverine, and he was also a trickster, a manipulator and a supervillain.

So why was that a big deal? As Wheeler, points out, it's a well-worn storytelling trope with some unfortunate implications in what it draws upon in the name of creating dramatic tension or offering what it attempts to frame as some sort of ambiguity:
That’s the role that the queer villain plays; a threat to the “correct” order, intrinsically maladjusted to the way the world works. It’s a fear that manifests in the real world in dangerous ways. Being gay, bi or trans has too often been presented as a threat; to children, to marriage, to public health, to everything sacred, up to and including God and democracy... Otherness is also one reason why queer kids struggle so much with their identity. Not only does the perception that their existence is a challenge to the status quo make them a target, but being gay, bi or trans often means they feel cut off from the ways of life they’ve been raised to cherish as normal. Works of fiction that draw a parallel between queerness and wickedness can perpetuates that alienation. 

So does that meant that queer characters can't be villians? Wheeler says no, but...
The very qualities that can make an LGBT character seem dangerous and transgressive can also make them glamorous and seductive. Yes, queer identities have established cultural value as signifiers of deviancy, but they also have value as signifiers of radical reinvention, of rock and roll. That’s really the same quality through a different lens. 
Now that that the series has come (and some would say, gone as the lead-in to the new Secret Wars), though, have these worries borne fruit? I caught issue one and two when they first came out and was very impressed.

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