It’s not unreasonable to say that the queer community longs for better representation. We’ve become so used to not seeing ourselves in the media, that any hint of the chance whets our appetites in a way that those outside the LGBTQ+ community can never understand. Is it any wonder then that the news that Robin, Batman’s loyal sidekick, is bisexual has sent us into a bit of a frenzy?
After all, we already knew he was queer – his style, his flamboyance, his subtle play with so called gender norms, they’ve all helped us see the coded queer in one of our much loved superheroes.
Naturally though, coded isn’t much comfort when you want representation of someone who isn’t hidden away but instead embraced, and so the decision by DC to make this announcement is welcomed.
Community jokes and memes referencing Batman and Robin’s sexuality have been around for decades, having become the unofficial canon for many a reader long before DC bit the bullet and admitted the truth. Much like with other beloved characters, like Velma from Scooby Doo, we’ve had to be content with secretly knowing what creators were too afraid to admit.
So what’s changed?
Arguably, a lot of it comes down to the diversity of its readership.
It may sound like a poor excuse when you consider that diversity has always been a part of the superhero narrative, owing to the way in which these stories follow people outside the apparent “norms” of society. However, that exploration of being different has previously come with a lack of openness to anything overtly LGBTQ+ related.
You don’t have to be a comic book enthusiast to recognise how predominately male, white and cis gendered its characters have always been. As too were the creators behind the stories, resulting in a set of circumstances that only fed further into the never ending cycle of heteronormativity prevailing.
It’s a tale as old as time. It’s also an inherently wrong one, a tale which fans have fast become fed up of (unwillingly) indulging.
Nevertheless, while frustration and determination from its readership has helped, the decision to allow Robin to fly his bi flag with pride could also be argued as being down to keeping up with competitors. It was only two months ago that we saw Marvel reveal Loki’s bisexuality in the Disney+ series, and, as we all know, DC and Marvel love vying for top position when it comes to their content.
Marvel’s reveal, much like this one, caused queer fans to rejoice at finally seeing their identities normalised, as they rightly should be; a normalisation that feels all the more crucial considering how rife biphobia still is, both outside and within the LGBTQ+ community.
However, what makes DC’s news about Robin more tantalising is the fact that this particular coming out story has been allowed to flourish upon the pages of its latest comic, rather than within a television adaptation.
Not that anyone wishes to take away from what Marvel’s Loki did for the bisexual community, it’s just that the comic format is the original medium of these stories. They’re the foundation on which these two comic book giants have grown. So to place queerness on pages, rather than the screen, increases accessibility and sincerity of these characters’ coming out stories.
There’s a tangibility, a representation we can physically hold in our hands, knowing that this isn’t a throwaway remark that won’t be touched upon again.
However, while Robin’s bisexuality should be an integral part of his character, it should be done in a way that doesn’t perpetuate the common misinformation that already dogs bisexuality; an all too familiar barb which has already penetrated the Loki series.
Criticism of Loki’s sexuality started to trickle through due to Loki being partnered with a woman, with some critics remarking on how his bisexuality was downplayed to offer a more traditional romantic element. NBC News even commented on how Loki inevitably maintained the “heterosexual status quo”. It’s a remark that reads with prominent undertones of biphobia, with its not so subtle messaging helping to reinforce the false belief that bisexuals have straight privilege when dating the opposite sex.
Such ugly, outdated notions don’t belong in any queer representation, and it’s one I hope doesn’t filter through to Robin.
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait and see whether other medium’s will be as true to Robin’s sexuality as the comics are attempting to be. However, while we wait, we can celebrate in welcoming yet another queer character into the fold.
Read OutNewsGlobal’s Eleanor Noyce on finding her queer community.