Hetero-normativity in Star Wars and The Walking Dead


Three months ago JJ Abrams announced that his new Star Wars trilogy would include gay characters.
I actually found out about this development through a friend and was reminded of it later when an Instagram user I follow commented on it. He criticized Abrams’s choice, saying it was an unnecessary addition. This user even said they don’t support gay rights. Sadly, I respected him for being able to admit that since many people choose to disguise their bigotry with more veiled language. I still unfollowed the account and I’m not giving the name of the user because I don’t want more people to check out his page.

As expected, this was met with plenty of criticism who accused Abrams of pushing an “agenda” and forcing homosexuality on audiences. This reaction is another example of the bigoted reactions I have discussed before. In this age of supposed “colourblindness” and equality for all, people realize that there is a stigma associated with expressing discriminatory ideas. Therefore, they come up with ways to change their language, without eliminating discrimination. People won’t say they have a problem with gay people, they will just say they don’t like it if it’s “forced on them” or if it’s part of an “agenda”.

Notice that this language is only present if minorities get representation. When a case of whitewashing pops up in a film, people will always argue that it is just a movie and that there is no need to bring politics or ideology into entertainment. Yet when you give a minority more representation on screen, politics and ideology are very important. As one comment on the included link says, “I mean, you can’t have ONE gay character in a blockbuster movie FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER that these guys will start saying they’re being FORCED into sucking dick, lol”.

Pretty much. The sad truth is that many people view straight as normal, as a default. That is why many people don’t complain about a heterosexual agenda in films.

If we have a new character in a film, and his sexuality is not revealed, many of us will assume he is straight. Of course, there are characters depicted as fabulous stereotypes but this example excludes those kinds of characters. For example, Paul Monroe, or Jesus, of The Walking Dead Comics is introduced in the series and is revealed to be gay several issues later. I assumed Jesus was straight. Jesus became part of a sexual minority that has been, and still is discriminated against when he was revealed to be gay. Straight people do not have to worry about their family and friends rejecting them due to their sexuality. That is a fact and no victim complex by the dominant group can change that.

Abrams never said the series will push the star wars lore aside and have their own version of Brokeback Mountain. He only said some characters will be gay. We may hear a male character say he loves another one, we may see a male character show affection for another male character. If you see that, for maybe a few minutes at a time, and let it ruin your enjoyment of the film: That’s your problem and not JJ Abrams’. Star Wars spans several planets and peoples, and you think it’s ridiculous that someone in the world might not be straight?

The Walking Dead TV show provides another example of bigotry. One of the gay characters, Aaron briefly kisses his partner after they reunite. One poster took to IMDB to complain about homosexuality being forced down his throat (no pun intended I guess?). The poster even says that he has no problem with gay people. Since this post was an older one, it has now expired and been removed to make way for newer ones. Realize that the heavy-handed homosexuality this poster was complaining about was a three second kiss between two male characters. If that is heavy-handed homosexuality, are all the kisses and implied sex in The Walking Dead heavy-handed heterosexuality? Didn’t think so.

My faith in humanity was restored a bit seeing that many others users called this one out on his thinly–veiled discrimination. I remember one user saying (Wording might be slightly off) “What’s with you modern bigots and not being able to own up to your discrimination?
That is the most important question.

Heteronormativity and The Last of Us

In my previous post, I reflected on how Hollywood has conditioned us to view certain things as normal, and others as unnatural. The normal things include whiteness, masculinity and heterosexuality. When I wrote the previous post I indicated that one article is not enough to discuss all the issues tied to Hollywood and minority representation. I wrote my master’s paper on colour-blind racism and Hollywood but I could easily write a dissertation on this larger topic. For that reason I am thinking of including a weekly segment that looks at a specific example of a minority (racial, religious, sexual) being viewed as unwelcome or alien.

Tonight’s example is one I came across a while ago, but that still sticks with me. The Last of Us is a video game that focuses on a pair of survivors (Joel and Ellie) in a post-apocalyptic American landscape swarmed with bandits and zombies (humans infected with the cordyceps fungus). An expansion pack for the game, The Last of Us: Left Behind, focuses on Ellie and reveals more of her past.

This past included a friend named Riley, who died from the fungus. Prior to Ellie’s death, she kisses Riley. This kiss is captured on a YouTube upload of the expansion pack. After watching the second part of the video I scrolled through the comments, only to be greeted by numerous comments saying that Ellie isn’t necessarily lesbian. It was just a kiss, she could still be straight.

I had to ask, “Wait, so for the people saying “a kiss doesn’t make her lesbian”, if she kissed a guy would you say “a kiss doesn’t make her straight”?”

This is something that any reader must seriously consider. If Ellie kissed a guy, and people vehemently argued that she could “still be lesbian”, those people would be seen as idiots. Where is there proof? What are they basing this on? Why are they so eager for the character to be lesbian? We have been conditioned to think of homosexuality as a “lifestyle”, a “choice” or a “phase”. I can’t blame Hollywood completely for this but I think that Hollywood can definitely help to cement these views when homosexual characters are not developed well. The worst offender for me was The Kids Are All Right, where Julianne Moore’s character cheats on her wife with a man- we all know she was just biding time with the woman and waiting for a man to come along.