With Passage of Respect for Marriage Act, Searches Surge for 'Gay Superheroes'

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Sunday December 4, 2022

With Passage of Respect for Marriage Act, Searches Surge for 'Gay Superheroes'
  (Source:DC Comics)

The pro-equality heroes of the U.S. Senate seem to have inspired online searches for the comic book variety.

The internet lit up after the Nov. 29 Senate passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which provides federal protections for same-sex and interracial couples. But it wasn't details on the new measure that users were searching — rather, it was information on gay superheroes

Average Being reported on the not-so-obvious result of the Senate's 61-39 vote, which saw 12 Republican senators join the chamber's Democrats in approving the bill, after the addition of amendments designed to address concerns around religious liberties.

According to the site, "searches for Gay Superheroes saw a massive surge just moments after the U.S. Senate passed the Marriage Act bill protecting same-gender marriages."

The article, which was posted Dec. 1, went on to add, "The search spikes are still going on strong at the time of writing. This just shows how much comics and the entertainment industry reflects how society acts as a whole."

Picking up on the story, Bleeding Cool noted that Massachusetts led the nation in online searched using the "gay superheroes" search terms, with searches from users in that state doubling just after the Senate vote.

Other states had smaller, but notable, increases in such searches, including anti-LGTBQ+ states in the deep South: Tennessee registered an 84% increase, and Missouri users used the search terms with 78% greater frequency.

It is natural of people to seek role models that reflect themselves, including heroic representations in fiction, and LGTBQ+ representation has increased in comics, as well as in film and television, in recent years. The 2021 MCU film "Eternals" boasted an openly gay character who was married to a non-super powered same-sex spouse.

But such representation still encounters headwinds. DC recently announced the cancellation of a title centered around one of Superman's two teenage son, Jon Kent, who came out as bisexual early in the title's run, which ended after only 18 issues.

In the realm of TV and film adaptations, Disney and Marvel chopped LGBTQ+-inclusive scenes out of "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" in order to make the film more palatable to countries where intolerance of sexual minorities is the norm — making the film more profitable in the process.

HBO Max, meantime, has re-tooled its upcoming "Green Lantern" miniseries such that the highly anticipated show will no longer focus on gay Green Lantern Alan Scott, who was to have been played by British actor Jeremy Irvine.

But representation remains important, if only to fulfill the capitalist mandate of maximizing market share by appealing to as broad a demographic as possible. Jon Kent is due to star in a new DC title, "Adventures of Superman" Jon Kent," while another character in the DC comics universe — Batman's sidekick Robin, a.k.a. Tim Drake, who also came out as bi last year — starring in his own comic book.

Even Disney, notorious for queerbaiting after years of teasing LGTBQ+ audiences with promises of inclusion that either turned out to be vanishingly minimal or else failed to appear at all, has recently made strides. Though Disney has gotten a reputation for removing LGBTQ+ content from its films for international release, a lesbian kiss that was sliced out of the "Toy Story" prequel "Buzz Lightyear" was reinstated after an outcry from the company's own employees, and the intact version of the film played globally, with Disney refusing to remove the kiss from international versions.

Disney also featured its first out gay teenaged character in the animated film "Strange World," released Nov. 23. That film came in the wake of reports that another Disney animated feature, "Luca," which was a major hit last year and a favorite with gay audiences, was initially envisioned as a gay romance.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.