Mutants, superheroes and other “others” who are innately queer

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Gays and lesbians often project their own experiences onto the experiences of characters in non-queer-themed televisions shows or films. Reading queer subtext into television shows or films that probably weren’t intended to contain queer subtext is especially easy when such shows or films involve characters who, by no fault of their own, were born with or somehow acquired superhuman abilities.

Mainstream society feels threatened by these individuals, treats them as "the other" and persecutes them, often by passing laws that discriminate against them. For example, for most of Heroes, Nathan Petrelli chose to hide his ability to fly so he could blend in with the rest of society, even initially denying that he had the ability to fly.

When Petrelli finally scheduled a press conference to make his ability known to the public, hetero viewers probably thought, "Wow, do you think he will levitate in the middle of the press conference? That would be cool!"

Queer viewers probably thought, "Nathan Petrelli is about to come out of the closet to the public! His mom is going to flip out!" (And how many of those queers gasped when he was shot before he could make the statement, believing that he must have been shot by an anti-superhuman extremist or a self-hating queer — excuse me — a self-hating superhuman, who was afraid of the repercussions of revealing the existence of superhumans to the public?)

Another example is The Incredibles, where the government regulates the behavior of superheroes. Any objective interpretation of The Incredibles would reveal absolutely no queer subtext whatsoever, but that doesn’t prevent queers from rattling off parallels to institutional oppression of gays and lesbians.

Queer: "The laws regulating the behavior of superheroes are like those laws that criminalized the sexual activities of gay people! You know, before Lawrence v. Texas was decided by the Supreme Court!"

Hetero: "Huh? It’s a cartoon about a superhero family that fights a robot named Omnidroid. Chill out."

And of course, there is X-Men 3: The Last Stand, which caused queers everywhere to expound for weeks on end on the parallels between the experiences of the mutants in the film and those of queers in American society. Institutional oppression? Check. The existence of a "safe space" for mutant adolescents who have been ostracized by their families? Check. The virulently anti-mutant politician with the mutant son, who still loves his father? Check. ("Angel is like Maya Keyes! Alan Keyes threw her out of his house and called her a ‘selfish hedonist’ but if he were thrown off a building, she would totally fly in and save him!")

The most controversial topic in the film was, of course, the "cure" for mutant abilities, leading some queers to ponder, "If you could take a pill to become heterosexual, would you?" Those who pondered this aloud around other queers were, of course, slapped upside the head.

Most recently, the Southern Gothic vampire series True Blood on HBO does not even require one to stretch one’s imagination to see the queer subtext. In the series, laws were recently passed giving vampires some of the same rights as humans, but prejudice remains. For example, in the opening sequence a sign on a church bears the following words: "God hates fangs." Ring a bell?

In one of the episodes, one of the vampires refers to humans as "breathers."

Sounds like:

(a) beepers
(b) reefers
(c) jeepers creepers
(d) breeders

Furthermore, one of the main themes of the series is the integration of vampires into mainstream society; the show even examines the in-fighting among vampires as to whether this is a good thing. Vampire Bill Compton is attempting to "mainstream" and live openly among humans, and in one episode, he rebukes a group of vampires for engaging in behaviors that may not be seen as kosher by humans, fretting that humans would be less likely to accept them if they openly engaged in such behaviors.

The other vampires dismiss him and believe that he has become an assimilating bore. The vampire bars, in fact, look not unlike leather bars, and the people who frequent vampire bars look like they just rolled out of the Folsom Street Fair. (The conflict between the non-mainstreaming vampires and vampires like Bill Compton almost conjures up the conflict between the promiscuous libertine Brian Kinney and the more traditional Michael Novotny in Queer As Folk.)

But before I descend further into the never-ending rabbit hole of hidden queer subtext, I’m going to open up the forum for your input. What other recent television shows and films are replete with queer subtext? And no, your thinly veiled desire that Serena and Blair of Gossip Girl make out does not count.

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