Spoilers Ahead! HBO just released a superhero series called Watchmen and it is an insanely close copy of the comic books. And it stars a superhero who is African-American and Gay! Will Reeves, better known as Hooded Justice has made his appearance on the show.
Unlike most superhero series where they make the world a better place, the superheroes on Watchmen cause an imbalance in the world. A god-like character called Dr. Manhattan is at the top of the list for the havoc-wreaking. And by 2019, the entire Oklahoma Police Department has closeted superheroes. One of whom was the Sister Night. Anyway, with alternating timelines and plots, the Watchmen is pretty intricate.
And recently, the sixth episode came out!
Sister Night’s grandfather is Hooded Justice, aka Will Reeves. And the sixth episode explores his history! A dark and real history that points out the hardships of the time. And here is his story.
Will Reeves is the first African-American police officer in Tulsa. The story is set in 1930-40s, which means that race was a big deal. He was subjected to persecution by his fellow officers as well as the Tulsa community. So he decides to dress up and step up to avenging crime around the city. With his new identity, Hooded Justice, Reeves is able to keep his city safe. And also successfully attract another costumed hero, Captain Metropolis.
So far, the show has followed the script of the comic books to the dot. More or less. But with the new affair that was unveiled on episode 6, people have called it out for changing the age-old story. Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice meet and begin an affair.
In the original story written by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis do have a relationship. It is not the relationship itself that people are criticising. It is the presentation of it. Their relationship is one of the happier things in their otherwise morose and sad-ridden world. Hooded Justice’s story is quite lonely otherwise.
According to Queerty, their relationship is “a pure love affair”. When Hooded Justice is murdered, Captain Metropolis spirals out and begins to abuse alcohol. He even has a nervous breakdown and is institutionalised.
Unfetish the Fetish
We relish watching successfully blooming gay love stories. And support LGBT+ representation. But is there really a need to play up a dark story in order to appease the audience? We all know the truth about homosexuality and racism in America back in the 1930s and ’40s. So there is absolutely no need to hide away from it.
For Watchmen to have shown a gay superhero couple from that period in time is a gutsy move. And it is not easy to present America’s stance on racism either. But converting an intense and serious relationship into a fantasy that feeds into a happy gay story is completely unnecessary. It takes away from the ground-breaking superhero that Hooded Justice really is. The character completely loses his gravitas.
And it does no justice to Captain Metropolis either. On the TV series, he comes off as a superhero who is not dedicated to fighting crime. Rather, he comes off as a gay man who is scaringly abusive with his partner who he deems to love so much.
Hypersexualisation, All Over Again
Representing LGBT+ characters on-screen accurately is recent learning. Even non-hypersexualised straight characters are a product of the feminism protests of the past decade. So hypersexualisation of LGBT+ characters is an expected but unwelcome gesture. Sexuality could be an important part of the character. And in this case, it certainly is. Especially to highlight the homophobia and racism that the superhero had to withstand. Will Reeves is a powerful portrayal of African-American cops of the time. But as Queerty says, the show “back on the trope of hypersexualized, sociopathic queer characters–the kind that functioned as villains for decades in film and television.”
So is this really the right light to pick for a character so important? Or is the LGBT+ community still being misrepresented on screen? Reinterpreting comic books and fairy tales to make it seem more relevant is one thing. But to destroy a character’s authenticity by hypersexualising it is a publicity stunt that nobody asked for.
The TV Series did cover up a lot of “bleak jokes” that the comic books had. Including his costume that was very similar to the Ku-Klux-Klan. But yet, we are stuck in the daze of needing a torrid gay affair to keep the queer characters appealing. Even when the writers are trying to focus on the social and political aspects of the time. So why weaken the plot? This is some serious messy business and personally, I think Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis could have done better.
What’s your take on that?