"No, Batwoman’s Engagement Doesn’t Solve DC Comics’ Orson Scott Card Problem"
Over at io9, Rob Bricken asks whether Batwoman’s in-costume proposal to her girlfriend Maggie Sawyer will earn DC Comics good-will that it lost by hiring National Organization for Marriage board member and virulent homophobe Orson Scott Card, or “is this too little, too late for the company”?
I’m 99% sure the only reason DC hasn’t mentioned Batwoman’s marriage to the press is because it would call attention to the furor caused by the company’s recent decision to hire Orson Scott Card, scifi author and ardent detractor of gay rights, to write Adventures of Superman. Angry fans and retailers alike are planning to boycott the Superman comic in general, and some DC in particular unless Card is removed.
It’s too early to tell if Batwoman’s proposal will at all mitigate DC’s public relations problems with Card, or even if Card might have a problem collecting a check from a company whose works seemingly condone gay marraige. But at the moment, at least Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer are happy, even if nobody else is.
I’m always delighted to see more, and richer depictions of gay characters, especially in a medium where they were marginalized by the Comics Code and the disapprobation of Congress, a panic fed by cooked research. But this plot development won’t save DC Comics, and not just because a proposal on the page doesn’t really outweigh the harm Card’s speech and actions cause in the real world. Who gets hired to create content and what content ends up on the page are issues that are often related, but that function separately. People who care about where their money goes and the values of the content that they consume are going to care about both of those elements.
Something I wish I’d said more clearly the first itme I wrote about DC’s decision to hire Card to write Superman is that calls to fire him don’t appeal to me that strongly because it separates out his hiring from DC’s other hiring practices, which among other things, have produced a staff with very few women and no lead African-American writers on any comics titles. A decision by comics stores not to stock the title, demonstrating that Card’s values turn them off from a product that otherwise might have been profitable for them, makes more sense. And what would be most interesting to me is an explanation from DC about what process lead to Card’s selection. What made his pitches’ stronger than other writers? How did they weigh the likely publicity challenges from his employment against what appears to be a larger institutional imperative to modernize the brand by telling stories about committed gay couples? If DC Comics wants its image to be gay-friendly, then it should have been expected to be evaluated for consistency. More same-sex engagements doesn’t eliminate the appearance of a glaring contradiction in DC’s image.
If all DC wants is our money, rather than our social approval, that’s fine. But it needs to recognize that fishing for money on the grounds that it’s producing progressive and game-changing content is going to be a more difficult task if there’s a disconnect between what the content is, and who the money spent on it ends up going to.