comic based shows include “casually” queer characters

An interesting shift has been occurring in the world of television. Comic book based shows, which harken from a world famous for heteronormative and sexist tropes, have begun leading the charge to have LGBTQIA+ characters whose lives have meaning beyond, and almost devoid of, being on the queer spectrum. 

This is particularly noticeable within the CW/DC Comics show universe. Arrow and The Flash both introduce gay characters whose sexuality is mentioned in passing, and with no real change to their character or the meaning of their character on the show. Both are recurring male roles, men of color no less, which is even more rare in the portrayal of gay characters on television. And both “come out” to the audience in a simple manner, by mentioning their partners in casual conversation with their coworkers. No big coming out moment, no significance assigned to the moment other than what it is. 

In some ways this is fantastic. Queer characters on these shows are not being othered, are not there to be “the gay one”, “the lesbian”, etc… And in a year that has been defined by (very very very bad) movies about queer folk where the primary focus is their sexuality and struggle, something fundamentally misunderstood by those making the film, it is refreshing to see a queer character not being misused to any particular end or agenda.

However, I also have my concerns. My first is, is “casual” discussion of one’s sexuality for TV too formulaic? In most instances that I’ve seen of TV coming out, where the coming out to the audience is not meant to be a coming out for the character, the way that this is accomplished is by having the queer character mention plans with their partner – date night, a vacation, or more recently, wedding plans.

While the characters in question on The Flash and Arrow are relatively new, and have a lot of growing to do, I worry that only discussing their sexuality in relation to their partners equates sexuality with who one is with too much, as opposed to recognizing more complicated nuance. In relation to these two shows in particular, I also am concerned by the presence of solely cis-gay male characters. Comics are notoriously male dominated, and while it seems that the DC Universe is actively fighting against male, straight, and white dominated worlds, it is a balancing act that I am anxious about the execution of. Only time will tell.

While there are many other shows and movies where the “casual” queer character, for lack of better terminology, is utilized to greater and lesser extent, I am most familiar with Arrow’s Curtis Holt and The Flash’s Captain David Singh. Having watched them begin to progress, those are both the positive feelings and the concerns that I am faced with when contemplating “casual” queerness in TV and film.

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Emma Matters is a pansexual writer and theater artist living in the Jersey City area. She is passionate about using art to promote social justice and equality, and tell stories that are often ignored.