Recently, Greg Rucka, current writer of the Wonder Woman comics, announced that Wonder Woman is queer. The LGBTQ community – and people who are not bigots – rejoiced.
However, the off-the-cuff “announcement” was an empty gesture that does very little to help the LGBTQ community. Let me explain.
Rucka’s comments came about when he was being interviewed about the “Year One” storyline. Wonder Woman comes from the Amazons, a society of immortal super-women. In an interview with Comicosity, Rucka mentioned that Wonder Woman must be queer. The social media response was positive:
People have speculated Wonder Woman’s sexuality for decades. And it turns out this was not exactly swept under the rug by DC Comics. Here’s what Rucka told Comicosity:
“Themyscira is a queer culture. I’m not hedging that” and added that DC has not pushed back on this interpretation: “Nobody at DC has ever said, ‘She’s gotta be straight.’ Nobody. Ever. They’ve never blinked at this.”
If DC has pitched this idea out there, then why was it never addressed? In a weird way, it seems like Wonder Woman was cornered into admitting she is queer. And if the writers always thought of her as queer, why didn’t they ever include that somewhere in the story?
Wonder Woman appears to be like many queer celebrities, i.e. forced to hide her identity until awkwardly coerced into revealing it. The fact the writers knew about this and decided to hide it is worse than Rucka just deciding she is queer during an interview. One is a conscious decision to suppress a fictional character’s sexuality. The other gives an otherwise asexual character a sexual identity.
Considering Wonder Woman has been around for 75 years, DC does get a pass. Wonder Woman could not be queer in the first several decades because the world was a very unaccepting place back then. New writers may feel hesitant to step on the toes of the creators. I get that.
With that said, it took long enough, but better now than never. J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter do not get the same consideration.
Yes, Harry Potter. Again, let me explain.
In 2007, Rowling revealed that Dumbledore is gay. From The Guardian:
19-year-old from Colorado asked about the avuncular headmaster of Hogwarts School: ‘Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?’
The author replied: ‘My truthful answer to you…I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.’ The audience reportedly fell silent – then erupted into prolonged applause.
Like the Wonder Woman series, nowhere in the Harry Potter books is Dumbledore explicitly revealed to be gay. If Rowling always knew Dumbledore to be gay, then why was that never mentioned until she made her $1 billion off the books? Was she afraid it might turn off some readers or be too controversial?
People applauded Rucka and Rowling for being progressive after revealing a character was queer. I disagree. Both Rucka and Rowling revealed a character’s sexuality when it was convenient. As explained, Rucka was grandfathered in and gets a pass. Rowling, on the other hand, has no excuse.
In fact, suppressing Dumbledore’s sexuality in the 21st century reinforces the idea that mainstream society still is not ready for complete LGBTQ acceptance. If Rowling truly thought of Dumbledore as gay while writing the novels, she should had let it be known. Doing so would have let her millions of young readers know that it is totally normal to be queer. That message is not being sent when you hide that information.
If Rowling – or any writer for that matter – wants to be progressive, then allow your characters to be queer in the story, not during an interview after the fact. It does not have to be a focal point. Be nonchalant about it, passive even. Let your male lead kiss a man in one paragraph and move on with the story in the next. After all, being queer is no different than being straight. Writers need to reflect that.