[–] bobroland 1 points 1 points (+2|-1) ago 

Well taken points, but as a writer here's why I don't include gay or black characters.

Good characters have flaws.

There's a reason why the true golden age of television, today, is so good. The rise of the anti-hero. We're able to create characters who are deeply flawed and imperfect human beings. Walter White. Tony Soprano. Raylan Givens. These are all flawed and broken people, and therefore interesting to read about. Literature was always better than other mediums for the same reason. Authors could include flaws at the heart of character. Yossarian. Huck Finn. Ahab.

Marvel comics works because the heroes are flawed as well. Iron Man is more interesting than Superman because he's an alcoholic arms dealer. Thor is an arrogant being who thinks he's a god. The Hulk is raging Id. In the DC wold, Batman is broken. We love them, not in spite of their flaws, but because of them. We can relate. As people we're all broken in some way. We're all shitty people, and the journey of a hero is to be a little less shitty, a little less broken at the end.

So why not a gay Spider-Man?

So, when writing about an oppressed minority, you have two approaches. One is comic relief, the other is the "wise negro" trope. Both come from the same place. The comic figure and the magic character are both perfect in their own way. Obi Wan could never be a lead character (instead he represents the "meeting with the Goddess" figure, in Joseph Campbell terms) because he can't be flawed. The comic character, such as Rufus Firefly in Duck Soup is also a perfect character. He's nothing but flaws, but he reveals truth because that's what comedy does.

If you try to make a member of an oppressed group an interesting character, you risk being seen as insensitive. You worry about hurting a reader's feelings. You worry about making the flaws in their character seem as a critique of the group they represent.

Peter Parker is a loser. That's the heart of his character. He's well meaning, but everything he touches turns to shit. He can't hold a job. He's hated by his friends. He's hated by the public. Almost all of it is his own fault. The reason Steve Ditko decided that Parker was 16 was because he felt that was the last time in a person's life where they could be a total fuck up and still be likable. If you don't get that about Peter Parker, than you don't get the character.

"Gays are losers" is how many people would take a well written gay Spider-Man.

I don't know. It may be cowardice, it may be lack of skills. All I can say is that when I write a character, I avoid their sexuality.


[–] thoughts-from-alex [S] 1 points 0 points (+1|-1) ago 

That is actually the most interesting rebuttal I've got on this point, and the most well thought out too. So thanks!

I agree with a lot of what you said, actually. It's sensible and pragmatic, when writing, to consider how a character will be received - particularly when you're writing a minority character, given the need for representation, specifically nuanced and accurate representation. If audience members did come away thinking that gay people are losers, and it is possible that would happen, then it'd definitely be a shame.

However, I do feel that with some careful writing, and some strong writing, that issue can be circumvented. It's also helped by the fact that you'd have multiple LGBT characters (Flash Thompson and Felicia Hardy as well as Peter), meaning you get a balance, and you can represent the different aspects and possibilities for different LGBT characters. That should help you get away from the "gay people are losers" possibility - Peter is well meaning but exceptionally unlucky, Flash is cruel, but has a transformative arc through which we come to sympathise with him, and Felicia is can be happy and upbeat. The fact that Peter is the protagonist will probably alleviate that too - we see him doing all sorts of amazing things as Spider-Man, we root for him as he saves people, and even though he has awful the "Parker luck", at the end of the day, we all really like him. (And wouldn't find out he was gay until the last 2 lines of the movie)

I think you're probably right to err on the side of caution, in general. But I think just because it can be difficult to properly portray minority characters, it doesn't mean that it's not worthwhile.

(Just as an aside - where you say you avoid their sexuality, do you also avoid depictions of heterosexuality? That doesn't really present the same issues you mentioned, because heterosexual people aren't an oppressed minority, as it were, but I'm curious nonetheless.)


[–] bobroland 1 points -1 points (+0|-1) ago 

Well, I do have one antagonist who, in my mind, is gay. He's also a minor antagonist, and a nasty piece of work. Part of his character was shaped by feeling isolated growing up. Since it's not important to the story, it was never written down. That sort of thing happens when writing. You often have more backstory than ever hits the page. Sexuality comes up only when important to the story. Lead character was straight because there was a romance through story.


See, Peter isn't unlucky. Luck is that point on the Venn diagram where bad actions overlap accidents. Any other person, including the reader, would do a better job at being Spider-Man than Peter Parker does. We roll our eyes slightly. We identify. We've all been screw ups. It's not luck.

As for Flash....well, in a well written story, every character has an arc, but it's usually unseen. Flash works best as a force of nature. He's an obstacle. You don't care about where he's going, any more than you care about where a tornado goes. You don't need o redeem every character...and in fact you should avoid it as often as possible in a drama.

Look, I'm not saying you shouldn't approach minority character as real characters...it's just that 99% of the time it's done badly. David Simon is a great writer for television because he does show deeply flawed minority characters. It's great. Problem is, the vast majority of people can't...and even if they could, there's going to be some hollywood knucklehead who is going to edit the flaws out of a minority character. Nature of the beast. We have the world as it is, not as we wish it.


[–] thoughts-from-alex [S] 1 points -1 points (+0|-1) ago 

Something I wrote recently with some thoughts on Spider-Man, Peter Parker, the supporting cast, the villains, and the tone of the new movie, as well as a post credits sequence.

(As an aside - I think maybe some of the things I suggest are perhaps a little controversial. I'd appreciate it if people weren't overly aggressive if they choose to dispute or debate the ideas.)