Should a character be retconned to a different gender/race/sexual orientation/etc.?
Yes, let's make it representative.
28.3% (26)
28.3% (26)
No, leave those characters as originally created and make new ones.
57.6% (53)
57.6% (53)
No, don't change a thing.
12% (11)
12% (11)
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Poll: Retconned to be Gay

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Those Escapists who are interested in comic books know what I am talking about; From the Green Lantern Alan Scott to

there's a lot of characters who have been retconned to be of a different sexual orientation than they were originally created with. Similarly, a lot of characters have undergone similar switches with regards to race and gender: Nick Fury started white and is now black in two universes (due to a secret son), and Man of Steel had Jenny Olsen instead of Jimmy.

(Comics are the big thing I can think of in terms of continuity changes, but I'm sure you know of rebooted movies, TV shows and other media that are doing the same thing.)

It's pretty blatant what's happening: various producers of media are realising how diverse their audience is and are trying to make their characters match that diversity, often in a rather ham-fisted manner. This has caused much outrage among entrenched fans, who accuse these writers of pandering and ruining characters in the process (for instance, Alan Scott had two children, one of whom was already gay). They argue that the characters should remain unaltered, and any diversity should be introduced through new characters (or not at all). On the other hand, it's often hard to introcude new characters into established properties, and there are many people (myself included) who get tired of minorities playing second banana to the main cast for eternity.

What I want to know from you, Escapists, is: Do you support this? Should writers/companies keep retconning established characters to make their products look more diverse? Should they try and write new characters and fit them in somehow? Should they just leave everything the way it was originally created?

EDIT Sept. 5: In direct contrast to what I said yesterday, it seems like DC is trying to stop Batwoman from having a lesbian marriage. I guess sometimes companies act against popular trends for whatever reason (Feel free to post any theories from, "Finally, someone protecting the traditional view of the character" (even though she's Kate Kane and not Kathy Kane, but whatever, comics are weird) to "Homophobic bastards!").

Things change, new stories with new people for new times and attitudes.
The retconning won't be so bad as long as the stories told with these characters are good.
Lots of awesome stories could be told if we just let go of our past and look forward with bold sense of curiosity and enthusiasm for the adventure ahead !

Alan Scott was changed in a new universe. The same one where Barbara Gordon is still Batgirl and Superman isn't wearing his underwear on the outside anymore. Different universe, different rules. May as well get upset that Earth 11 has Superwoman and Batwoman instead of Superman and Batman.

Considering how completely and utterly some retcons have already changed stories, origin, histories etc. of people, places and events in-universe in comics, I don't see a problem with it any more than with other such retcons. That said, I'm not really "involved" with superhero comics, so it's not like I'd care either way, really. Overall, though, it's probably a good development. Fiction quite often is a mirror of society, after all, so as society changes to be more accepting...

Create some entirely new character concepts, not just make them fit modern social conventions. Sexuality is just part of someone's character, not a new story.

Things in comics get retconned to be all sorts of insane things. Entire characters get retconned into other people's lives and entire origins are changed. Being gay is probably the least ridiculous thing to happen to a character.

It's DC. They reboot their universe every 10 or 15 years any more. Personally I think this most recent one is the worst to date and I can really only think of 6 or 7 comics I actually like any more (I count the green lantern books as one).

Alan Scott being gay isn't a big deal. Granted it does erase Jade from existence, her being his daughter and all, but it doesn't ruin his character in any way.

As for the "Just make new characters" argument, lemme just point this out: There are literally thousands of characters in Marvel and DC alone. They may die and get replaced/reborn frequently, but creating new ones has the problem that it would require people get invested in a whole new character rather than one they like but gets a minor change to them.

The Ultimate Universe was basically started to do just that. It let them re-create current characters in a modern light, allowing them to use different races, ages, origins, even slight power changes.

Captcha: Narrow-minded. Heheh, nice.

While if done half-assed, it can really damage the character, I bet that a lot of LGBT readers would find some comfort in the fact that some of their favourite characters were also in the closet, worried about what others might think.

Again, if done right, not just throwing darts to change orientation of random people.

Let's also not forget that a ton of comics are about protecting the downtrodden. I may not know comics with heroes well, but wasn't for example Spiderman a nerdy kid who got bullied in school? And who then became superstrong plus the spiderstuff? Just saying: It wouldn't be that strange for the focus to shift to groups that are typically victimized even today. So an LGBT superhero makes a lot of sense from that angle. Not to mention that groups like the X-Men are to my understanding already an allegory for homosexuals and their persecution, what with the focus on acceptance, on coexistence, on prejudice etc.. Dispensing with the allegory and making it more literal would just be another step then, right?

I don't have a problem with it. Comic books are known for constant changes in continuity and retconning and such. People just seem to get a lot more mad about it when it's being done in order to be more inclusive, which seems... terrible?

Considering how utterly fucked the continuity of comics are in general, not to mention the pride taken in understanding said fucked up continuity, I can not understand how someone gets so pissed off about someone changing an aspect of it like sexuality outside of "gays are icky".

The change to Alan Scott isn't a retcon, though; not truly. It's a reimagining. The universe has been rebooted, and the stories of the New 52 exist in a different continuity from the ones in which Alan Scott is straight.

Comic-book readers can be very defensive of continuity, which is ironic, given how the medium (with ever-changing writers giving vastly different interpretations even within the same continuity) doesn't really lend itself to rigid continuity.

Prodigy isn't a retcon, it's a character development. Retcon refers to changing the history of the character retroactively.

Also Nick Fury isn't black, he's as white as ever. However his son Nick Fury Jnr is black due to his mother being black. Likewise the movies are a completely separate continuity from the comics. Jenny Olsen is simply a different take on the character, it doesn't effect the comic books. The same way in the Daredevil movie the Kingpin was black but has remained white in the comics.

Only the Alan Scott change is a genuine retcon, although there are others you could have mentioned like Amanda Waller going from an overweight bureaucratic badass with the brains and cajones to take on Batman or Superman to a sterotypical supermodel or Lobo's Kawaiiisation.

My opinion is that DC is generally awful at the moment and any move they make to reinvent a character will end in disaster and pretty much be completely bad by default.

I don't really care either way, since comics always alter their characters over time and in different universes. To be honest, I'm surprised we haven't seen a confirmed-to-be-gay Batman yet.

I really wish there were an option for, "Only do it if you aren't just pandering".

Others have mentioned that characters have had alterations done to them in the past but some of those alterations weren't very well thought out.

I only object to character changes when it's done without any thought behind it.

Overhead:

Also Nick Fury isn't black, he's as white as ever. However his son Nick Fury Jnr is black due to his mother being black. Likewise the movies are a completely separate continuity from the comics. Jenny Olsen is simply a different take on the character, it doesn't effect the comic books. The same way in the Daredevil movie the Kingpin was black but has remained white in the comics.

Nick Fury in the Ultimate Avengers series IS black, the Ultimate versions of the characters are what the movies are based on.

Do you know what I would really want? A coming out story. Not a "yeah, he's gay now" story that described Alan Scott's 15 seconds that we remembered his name; a real "I need to tell you all something very important; please sit down and come in Eric," coming out. In universes with secret identities and both political and global fights in the pages, it's the one thing that we really need.

The trick, of course, is finding an at-least B-list hero who could do that that is male.[1] I don't want it to be a new character.[2] I want the point that LGBT people are no different than anyone else and are around us even when we don't realize it to be made abundantly clear.

[1] Yeah, sorry, it needs to be male. Let's be real here. As much as I would love for Huntress to come out of the closet to Oracle and shacking up with Senina Kyle, a male character makes the point of the marginalization and fear better.
[2] Although getting kicked out of one's home at a young age in the mid-1990s would be an interesting component of an origin story.

No, build new characters and be original. Retconning is the lazy way of getting out of doing any new and bold work.

A bit off topic but it seems the world is now about 60% - 80% gay if you went by how hard everyone (media and others) are trying to mainstream it. I'm sorry but it will never be mainstream to be gay and now it's just being used and abused to claim someone being edgy and hip. Why can't they just be seen as any other people that are out there in the world trying to make their way through life?

I would be much more accepting of a new character that happens to be gay than an old or current character who suddenly morphs into being gay.

Specter Von Baren says it right, "Only do it if you aren't just pandering."

It doesn't really matter, does it? Comics have dozens of alternate timelines apiece and they live off retconning. No change is ever very meaningful. Everybody creamed their pants when Barbara Gordon was paralyzed "for keeps" in The Killing Joke, and even THAT's been retconned in the long run.

BlackConservative:
No, build new characters and be original. Retconning is the lazy way of getting out of doing any new and bold work.

A bit off topic but it seems the world is now about 60% - 80% gay if you went by how hard everyone (media and others) are trying to mainstream it. I'm sorry but it will never be mainstream to be gay and now it's just being used and abused to claim someone being edgy and hip. Why can't they just be seen as any other people that are out there in the world trying to make their way through life?

I would be much more accepting of a new character that happens to be gay than an old or current character who suddenly morphs into being gay.

Specter Von Baren says it right, "Only do it if you aren't just pandering."

There will be a time in future where being gay is seen as normal by everyone as, say, interracial marriage. Face it, your worldview is the one going away.

Of course that leaves the question of what minority will get the horrific treatment afterwards. I'm guessing overweight people. Seems to be a lot of misunderstanding going on there.

NameIsRobertPaulson:

BlackConservative:
No, build new characters and be original. Retconning is the lazy way of getting out of doing any new and bold work.

A bit off topic but it seems the world is now about 60% - 80% gay if you went by how hard everyone (media and others) are trying to mainstream it. I'm sorry but it will never be mainstream to be gay and now it's just being used and abused to claim someone being edgy and hip. Why can't they just be seen as any other people that are out there in the world trying to make their way through life?

I would be much more accepting of a new character that happens to be gay than an old or current character who suddenly morphs into being gay.

Specter Von Baren says it right, "Only do it if you aren't just pandering."

There will be a time in future where being gay is seen as normal by everyone as, say, interracial marriage. Face it, your worldview is the one going away.

Of course that leaves the question of what minority will get the horrific treatment afterwards. I'm guessing overweight people. Seems to be a lot of misunderstanding going on there.

I'm fairly certain he was merely referring to the actual percentage of homosexuals in the entire population, which is apparently roughly 5% in America.

There's a difference between being accepted and being normal. Being accepted means people don't judge you for being who you are, being normal means you're part of the average.

NameIsRobertPaulson:
There will be a time in future where being gay is seen as normal by everyone as, say, interracial marriage. Face it, your worldview is the one going away.

Of course that leaves the question of what minority will get the horrific treatment afterwards. I'm guessing overweight people. Seems to be a lot of misunderstanding going on there.

Unless you included them with "gay" because of the "LGBT"-label, I'm thinking transgendered will be the next group. Not that they aren't already being persecuted, but I think they'll move more to the center of "attention" as gays and lesbians become more accepted. Hell, even among the lesbian and gay community quite a lot of trans-hatred seems to exist.

BlackConservative:
A bit off topic but it seems the world is now about 60% - 80% gay if you went by how hard everyone (media and others) are trying to mainstream it. I'm sorry but it will never be mainstream to be gay...

Of course it will be mainstream. In a lot of places, it already is with homosexual politicians elected to office, gay marriages and whatnot. Other places will catch up.
Although to be fair - to use NameIsRobertPaulson's example - even things like interracial marriage are still unaccepted by large pluralities in some places. I think I read of a poll among Republican voters in Mississippi that was particularly awful in that regard, so: Sure, there'll always be resistance. But I think it's that resistance which will become fringe.

As for the 60% - 80%? I think most people don't care enough to really notice unless they watch a lot of that specific media that targets the demographic. But if one is bothered by it, sure, it'll stand out like a sore thumb and superinflate one's impression of its prevalence everywhere.

EDIT:

Specter Von Baren:
I'm fairly certain he was merely referring to the actual percentage of homosexuals in the entire population, which is apparently roughly 5% in America.

There's a difference between being accepted and being normal. Being accepted means people don't judge you for being who you are, being normal means you're part of the average.

If that is what he means, then let me put it like that: It'll be about as mainstream as being left-handed rather than right-handed. Or as having red hair. Or some other not-too-common variation.
Heh, this is actually rather funny considering how people did treat left-handed folks back in the day, especially in schools, hitting them and "training them" in order to beat the left-handedness out of them and force them to use their right one instead.
But even lefties finally overcame their persecution!

Specter Von Baren:

NameIsRobertPaulson:

BlackConservative:
No, build new characters and be original. Retconning is the lazy way of getting out of doing any new and bold work.

A bit off topic but it seems the world is now about 60% - 80% gay if you went by how hard everyone (media and others) are trying to mainstream it. I'm sorry but it will never be mainstream to be gay and now it's just being used and abused to claim someone being edgy and hip. Why can't they just be seen as any other people that are out there in the world trying to make their way through life?

I would be much more accepting of a new character that happens to be gay than an old or current character who suddenly morphs into being gay.

Specter Von Baren says it right, "Only do it if you aren't just pandering."

There will be a time in future where being gay is seen as normal by everyone as, say, interracial marriage. Face it, your worldview is the one going away.

Of course that leaves the question of what minority will get the horrific treatment afterwards. I'm guessing overweight people. Seems to be a lot of misunderstanding going on there.

I'm fairly certain he was merely referring to the actual percentage of homosexuals in the entire population, which is apparently roughly 5% in America.

There's a difference between being accepted and being normal. Being accepted means people don't judge you for being who you are, being normal means you're part of the average.

Maybe I'm reading more into his post history, and less into his actual post, by I read it as he's saying people are choosing to be gay right now to seem cool or edgy. Which is callous at best, insensitive at worst.

My viewpoint isn't really among the options, and would amount to: all serves the narrative.

Does the author have something interesting to say with this change? Does it allow them to do something they haven't been able to do prior? Does it conflict with earlier versions in a way which creates logical conflicts or jarring disconnects, or is it part of a complete reboot in which all prior narrative becomes plastic?

If it amounts to a business decision, much like a "shocking death" issue (followed by an inevitable rebirth three months later), it's harder for me to respect. If it's something like a character who has always been somewhat sexually ambiguous, but assumed straight, coming out- there's interesting things that can be done there.

Why are social justice warriors the most bigoted, obnoxious people I've ever met? Instead of seeing people they see race, gender or sex and condense all of their worth into that one aspect of their lives. They're always ready to cry victim or bigot, regardless of what's been written or what the discussion is about.

NameIsRobertPaulson:
Maybe I'm reading more into his post history, and less into his actual post, by I read it as he's saying people are choosing to be gay right now to seem cool or edgy. Which is callous at best, insensitive at worst.

So you're prejudging his opinion instead of actually taking the few seconds to actually understand what he wrote? He says that he dislikes the comic industry using homosexuality as the new anti - hero grimdark bullshit to sell comic books.

Also, why would you assume fat people will be the next targeted group? How does it make sense for a bunch of fat ass Americans to start hating themselves? Why not a group that's actually hated, like pedophiles or bronies?

Mr.BadExample:
Why are social justice warriors the most bigoted, obnoxious people I've ever met? Instead of seeing people they see race, gender or sex and condense all of their worth into that one aspect of their lives. They're always ready to cry victim or bigot, regardless of what's been written or what the discussion is about.

NameIsRobertPaulson:
Maybe I'm reading more into his post history, and less into his actual post, by I read it as he's saying people are choosing to be gay right now to seem cool or edgy. Which is callous at best, insensitive at worst.

So you're prejudging his opinion instead of actually taking the few seconds to actually understand what he wrote? He says that he dislikes the comic industry using homosexuality as the new anti - hero grimdark bullshit to sell comic books.

Also, why would you assume fat people will be the next targeted group? How does it make sense for a bunch of fat ass Americans to start hating themselves? Why not a group that's actually hated, like pedophiles or bronies?

Wow... a lot of wrong with this post:

1) If someone stands up to a bully, are they bullying the bully? When people are equal, we can talk about seeing people for their whole being.

2) The poster at hand has made several statements in the past that he feels that homosexuals do not deserve equal rights to straight couples. Hence my assumption on his current post.

3) Really? Bronies? In the same category as pedophiles? Bronies barely exist outside the internet, and are hardly hated contrary to what 4chan would have you believe.

magicmonkeybars:
Things change, new stories with new people for new times and attitudes.

That's more or less how I feel about it. I'll say the same thing I say in threads complaining about characters who are remade to be black: the characters of the classic comics were not made white just because their creators felt it was the best embodiment of that character. They were also white because the cultural conventions of the time they were made would not have allowed anything else. So the question we have to ask is, if these characters premiered today, would they REALLY all be white and straight? Or men, for that matter? And if not, why should we continue to follow the standards set by a more ignorant time? Sure you can say it's it's "tradition," but is that really a tradition we want to carry on into the future?

Skeleon:

If that is what he means, then let me put it like that: It'll be about as mainstream as being left-handed rather than right-handed. Or as having red hair. Or some other not-too-common variation.
Heh, this is actually rather funny considering how people did treat left-handed folks back in the day, especially in schools, hitting them and "training them" in order to beat the left-handedness out of them and force them to use their right one instead.
But even lefties finally overcame their persecution!

Peh. Such a naive view of the world. Overcoming persecution never seems to end. Christians were persecuted when they first appeared on the scene, then they overcame that, then people did bad things in the name of the church, and now people are all too willing to sneer at one of them.

Germany was saddled with the blame of WWI and when someone used their rhetoric to convince the masses that Germany could reclaim what was lost to it through war, it led to them gaining dramatic victories in Europe and see many countries conquered, only for the horrors caused by the army in the east to eventually lead to a horrifying retreat with many, many horrible things happening to people.

As my captcha says, in the history of the world, achieving some moral achievement means about "diddly-squat". *sigh* I guess it's like someone once told me, "If you want a happy life, never learn history." I can't ever seem to take much happiness in a lot of the causes I hear about today because of that.

Specter Von Baren:
Peh. Such a naive view of the world. Overcoming persecution never seems to end. Christians were persecuted when they first appeared on the scene, then they overcame that, then people did bad things in the name of the church, and now people are all too willing to sneer at one of them.

Right, because no Christians persecute anybody these days. That's all in the past and people just won't let it go! And because "sneering at one of them" is persecution, right.

Look, I'm opposed to persecuting Christians. I'm opposed to persecution, period. But I'm not falling for the "we must be tolerant of intolerance"-nonsense. Criticizing bigotry is not persecution. Criticizing someone who has made anti-gay/anti-equality statements in the past for a negative and at best ambiguous comment is not persecution, either. Although it might have been rash if your interpretation of what he said is true, which I doubt. Burning the homes of Coptic Christians in Egypt, that was persecution.

"Persecution never seems to end"? Perhaps. But you're the naive one if you think there isn't progress made, there aren't important changes and improvements. Never have we lived more freely than we do now, but that certainly doesn't mean there's no persecution anymore, that there isn't room for further improvement. But don't act like Christians are in danger of being thrown to lions tomorrow.

You're also massively missing the point I was trying to make. Beating children into using their right hands rather than their left hands is looked down upon these days. Even though left-handedness still isn't "the average", it has become part of "the mainstream". A variation doesn't have to become more than 50% of the population to become part of "the mainstream" when "the mainstream" is inclusive enough.

The rest of your post is a non-sequitur.

Mr.BadExample:

So you're prejudging his opinion instead of actually taking the few seconds to actually understand what he wrote? He says that he dislikes the comic industry using homosexuality as the new anti - hero grimdark bullshit to sell comic books.

Have you read any recent comics?

I assure you, homosexuality is not "the new anti-hero grimdark".

Skeleon:

Specter Von Baren:
Peh. Such a naive view of the world. Overcoming persecution never seems to end. Christians were persecuted when they first appeared on the scene, then they overcame that, then people did bad things in the name of the church, and now people are all too willing to sneer at one of them.

Right, because no Christians persecute anybody these days. That's all in the past and people just won't let it go! And because "sneering at one of them" is persecution, right.

When did I say that they don't? I'm sad and apathetic to things due to the patterns of history and you're trying to pick a freaking fight with me as if I'm making some sort of attack.

And as to whether that is persecution. Yes. It would be.

Sneering

1.smile or speak in a contemptuous or mocking manner.

Persecution.

1.subject (someone) to hostility and ill-treatment, esp. because of their race or political or religious beliefs.

It doesn't matter what freaking minority someone is, I don't condone being cruel or snide to anyone because of something like their religious (Or lack thereof) political or sexual beliefs. I bring up two examples and just because I DARED to be sympathetic to Christians in one of them, you zero in on that one fact because you apparently have a chip on your shoulder about it. But no no, focus on the one example of Christians and talk as if all of them must be raging homophobics. And for that matter, when did I even bring up homosexuality in regards to religion? Ever think I was referring to something else like people on the net referring to Christians as a bunch of moronic sheep? Think before jumping on someone!

Silvanus:

Mr.BadExample:

So you're prejudging his opinion instead of actually taking the few seconds to actually understand what he wrote? He says that he dislikes the comic industry using homosexuality as the new anti - hero grimdark bullshit to sell comic books.

Have you read any recent comics?

I assure you, homosexuality is not "the new anti-hero grimdark".

He's referring to it as some sort of popular thing done to bring in people because it's popular. Kind of like having Obama appear in several comic books when he first took presidency or something like disco. You've completely missed the point that he was talking about using it only as a fad to get attention instead of actually doing it for a true heartfelt reason.

Specter Von Baren:
When did I say that they don't?

Here: "...then people did bad things in the name of the church, and now people are all too willing to sneer at one of them." Past tense. Implying that it's not ongoing.

I'm sad and apathetic to things due to the patterns of history and you're trying to pick a freaking fight with me as if I'm making some sort of attack.

No, I don't think you're making an attack, I think you're creating false equivalencies by implying that Christians are persecuted when they are criticized for their attitudes about others. You're downplaying real persecution, making a mockery of it.

Persecution.

1.subject (someone) to hostility and ill-treatment, esp. because of their race or political or religious beliefs.

That's a useless definition of persecution because it would apply to pretty much everything that doesn't include complete acceptance and endorsement. You said my worldview was naive?

It doesn't matter what freaking minority someone is, I don't condone being cruel or snide to anyone because of something like their religious (Or lack thereof) political or sexual beliefs.

Something we can agree on. Well, at least on paper.

But no, all of them must be raging homophobics.

Don't strawman. I never said "all" and I would not say "all". But I suppose it helps with playing the victim/creating that false equivalence when you can act like I'm just attacking every Christian everywhere regardless of their acutal behaviour, their views etc..

And for that matter, when did I even bring up homosexuality in regards to religion?

Because this thread is about homosexuality and behaviour and views towards them and you brought Christians into it.

Specter Von Baren:

He's referring to it as some sort of popular thing done to bring in people because it's popular. Kind of like having Obama appear in several comic books when he first took presidency or something like disco. You've completely missed the point that he was talking about using it only as a fad to get attention instead of actually doing it for a true heartfelt reason.

I didn't miss the point-- I knew exactly what he was talking about. Using it to be "edgy", as BlackConservative said.

But that wasn't what he said. The term "anti-hero grimdark" is pretty specific, and also utterly inapplicable. To me, it indicates that BadExample is unlikely to actually have experience of what he's complaining about.

Desert Punk:

Overhead:

Also Nick Fury isn't black, he's as white as ever. However his son Nick Fury Jnr is black due to his mother being black. Likewise the movies are a completely separate continuity from the comics. Jenny Olsen is simply a different take on the character, it doesn't effect the comic books. The same way in the Daredevil movie the Kingpin was black but has remained white in the comics.

Nick Fury in the Ultimate Avengers series IS black, the Ultimate versions of the characters are what the movies are based on.

The Ultimate Universe is an alternate universe. Is wolverine dead because he's dead in the Ultimate Universe even though in the main universe he's completely fine? Is Superman actually Amish because that was how he was shown in one Elseworld reality? Or Communist? Or is Batman an evil Dracula-a-like?

'Here is an alternate reality where stuff is different' is pretty standard in comics. It doesn't effect the main version of the character.

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