While the comic book industry has made major strides towards greater representation over the course of the last decade or so, there’s no denying yesterday’s Superman news was monumental. To celebrate National Coming Out Day, DC comics announced their current Superman, Clark Kent and Lois Lane’s son, Jon Kent, is bisexual, and will be entering into a romantic relationship with a young, male reporter his comic book series’ (Superman: Son of Kal-El) next few issues. However, while the majority of the internet celebrated the announcement — after all, the depiction of MLM (male-loving-male) relationships in the media is still scarce and ripe with problems — naturally there were a few folks not too happy about the big announcement.
In a recent appearance on Fox & Friends, one-time Superman actor Dean Cain criticized DC comics for confirming Jon Kent as bisexual, calling the move neither “bold or brave.” Cain continued on to say that having a superhero come out in a time where the majority of male superhero stories are still extremely heteronormative, was merely “bandwagoning,” citing just two other LGBTQ+ heroes in an attempt to prove his point.
“They said it’s a bold new direction, I say they’re bandwagoning. Robin just came out as bi — who’s really shocked about that one? The new Captain America is gay. My daughter in [The CW series] Supergirl, where I played the father, was gay. So I don’t think it’s bold or brave or some crazy new direction. If they had done this 20 years ago, perhaps that would be bold or brave.”
For those of you who might be a bit shocked a former Superman would say this, it’s worth noting Cain has become somewhat notorious for his troubling views since departing Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman back in the late 90s, with folks dunking on him as recently as last year for some pretty bad Superman takes. To make matters worse, however, Cain did not stop there and instead insisted on elaborating on what his definition of bravery looked like in comics.
“Brave would be having him fighting for the rights of gay people in Iran where they’ll throw you off a building for the offense of being gay,” Cain continued. “They’re talking about having him fight climate change and the deportation of refugees and he’s dating a hacktivist — whatever a hactivist is. Why don’t they have him fight the injustices that created the refugees whose deportation he’s protesting? That would be brave, I’d read that. Or fighting for the rights of women to attend school and have the ability to work and live and boys not to be raped by men under the new warm and fuzzy Taliban — that would be brave. There’s real evil in this world today, real corruption and government overreach, plenty of things to fight against. Human trafficking — real and actual slavery going on … It’d be great to tackle those issues.”
While there is the smallest sliver of validity to what Cain said (it would be great to see more comic books tackle government/police corruption and overreach, follow heroes protecting marginalized groups, and draw attention to worker exploitation and human trafficking), I’m being very generous in my interpretation and just about all of what’s around it showcases the actor’s intense (and notorious) xenophobia, prejudice, and dismissiveness toward representation being a very real issue.
However, rest assured that all of Cain’s bickering doesn’t change the fact the Superman is now bisexual, nor does it alter the trajectory of the DC universe. Regardless of who dismisses their bold choices, DC and comic book publications as a whole are moving towards a brighter and more inclusive future, and that’s a pretty brave move in and of itself.