Last week, I wrote a post regarding a Los Angeles Times article called “How will a gay icon fly at the box office?”* — which was written in response to a cover story about SUPERMAN RETURNS that appeared in the Advocate, a gay magazine. The basic gist of the Times article was that Superman (an isolated outsider living a double life) appeals to gay viewers, but Warner Brothers would have to be careful in their marketing of the film if they wanted to reach this audience without alienating mainstream viewers.
Apparently, the LA Times article added fuel to a fire that had been burning on the Internet since the Advocate cover story, which had sparked rumors that SUPERMAN returns would portray the Man of Steel as gay.
This must have set off alarm bells over at Warners, because (according to a Reuters article posted at Yahoo News [no longer available]) the film’s director, Bryan Singer, issued a denial on Friday, insisting that Superman is in fact “probably the most heterosexual character in any movie I’ve ever made.”
This rather unprecedented statement almost sounds like a case of protesting too much. The Reuters article fails to mention that Singer himself is gay and that his previous superhero films X-MEN and X-2: X-MEN UNITED, without being overtly gay, were fashioned in such a way that it was possible to read them as a metaphor for the gay experience (they’re outsiders persecuted by the majority for being born different).
I’d be willing to bet that Singer follows a similar strategy in SUPERMAN RETURNS, crafting a film that will appeal to mainstream audiences while also leaving itself open to interpretations that will appeal to viewers looking for clues that seem to relate to their own personal experience.
It’s just sad that even the potential of such an interpretation is enough to create such a firestorm that the director had to issue a denial.
NOTE: Reading back over this post, I realize that it may sound as if I am sayng that gay viewers are somehow not “mainstream,” as if they are some kind of separate entity, distinct from “normal” viewers. NO value judgment is intended; I’m just trying to make a point about the way that movies need to reach audiences looking at the film from different perspectives.
*In my original post, I neglected to note that the “How will a gay icon fly?” headline was used only online. The print version was headlined “How will it fly?” I guess the LA Times thinks readers on the Internet are less likely to be scared off by the word “gay” in a headline.