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Responding to a viewer question asking whether Hollywood will ever make an action hero or superhero film with a gay leading character, AMC’s John Campea offers several well-considered insights, none more so than this one:
The other thing I think is a little bit less nefarious than homophobia. And that’s simply the idea of cognitive identification. A lot of times, when we’re watching superhero films like – ridiculous guys like me. I watch Captain America and there’s a part of me that feels like I can be that guy. When I’m watching Iron Man, there’s a ridiculously disconnected [from reality] part of my brain that thinks, “I can be Tony Stark.” There’s an association with it… There’s very few things that are more strongly embedded within us, with our identity, than our sexuality.
The moment Captain America starts making out with another man, the ability of a heterosexual male to relate drops off substantially. Campea goes on to apply that observation beyond the context of sexual orientation to race, dialect, and other cultural differences.
Let’s say we see a guy, a character onscreen who is a small – speaks broken English – Asian gentleman. We have a hard time identifying with that. That’s not us. We can’t identify with him. And so we don’t really get attracted to those types of characters, those types of movies, and those types of projects.
It comes down to business and math. There just aren’t enough gay men in the world to justify catering a big budget action film to their particular tastes.
Indeed, if we stand by the assertion that homosexuality manifests from birth, then we must conclude the relevant demographics are unlikely to change. While estimates of those demographics vary, even advocates of the homosexual lifestyle keep their claims on percentage of the population within the single digits.
That’s not to say that homosexual characters have no future in media. As it stands, pop culture portrays a world where it seems like every other person is gay. You can’t get away from it. A reference to a male trooper’s “husband” crops up in a Star Wars video game, of all things. Campea’s point is that there’s something unique about male-oriented action fantasy, and also something unique about sexuality, which precludes a commercially viable gay superhero film.
Campea goes on to predict that will someday change, that the studios will follow the market as attitudes on sexual orientation continue to shift. But that addendum to his position seems tacked on and inconsistent with the rest of his observations. No matter how accepting a heterosexual male may become of someone else’s homosexuality, he doesn’t want to fantasize about being a homosexual. That’s never going to change.