The Fight to Keep Superman Straight

Superman Returns

Movie studios spend a lot of money getting their films on magazine covers. But when The Advocate stamped its May 23 issue with Superman Returns, Warner Bros. was less than thrilled. Perhaps it had something to do with the story’s headline: “How Gay Is Superman?” Pretty damn gay, you’re right.

Certainly the ginormous bulge hanging from a life-size Batman statue in a comic store window display on our block and news that Batwoman is coming back as a dyke aren’t doing the studios any favors to fight off their recurring gay vibes. But when Hollywood is spending 9-figures to produce and market a big budget action flic, their concern over public perception appears warranted.

Kudos to Warner Bros. for buying time on Logo to promote Superman Returns — even that step to attract gay audiences stands out when you consider what’s at stake.

An informal poll of six veteran Hollywood marketing executives at rival studios revealed sharply divided opinions over how – or even if – “Superman’s” gay attention would affect the film. Two of the executives said the focus could actually expand the film’s audience, much as gay moviegoers have responded to the “X-Men” superhero series, which has been praised for its metaphorical plots about acceptance. The first two “X-Men” movies were directed by Bryan Singer, the openly gay filmmaker who also made “Superman Returns.” Singer did not respond to an interview request.

But four of the movie marketing executives, all of whom declined to speak on the record, said gay “Superman Returns” interest presented two potential box-office problems. First, teenage moviegoers, especially those in conservative states, might be put off by a movie carrying a gay vibe; among some teens, these executives agreed, saying something “is gay” is still the ultimate put-down. Second, the attention threatens to undermine the film’s status as a hard-edged action movie, making it feel softer, more romantic, and thus less interesting to young ticket buyers who crave pyrotechnics.

Can you blame a big budget movie studio for wanting to protect their investment? Certainly not. And at this point, it’d be unrealistic to contend it doesn’t make smart business sense to separate a movie like Superman Returns from gay chatter. That doesn’t make it admirable, of course, or ethically sound. For its part, Hollywood never claimed to be either.

How will it fly? [LAT]
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