Man of Steel: A Gay Allegory For Our Time

Advocate editor and lifelong Superman fan Jase Peeples reveals why the Last Son of Krypton's latest reboot is a gay allegory for our time.

BY Jase Peeples

June 14 2013 5:00 AM ET

Even the experience of bullying is not unknown to our hero in Man of Steel. At one point, two boys taunt a young Clark before pushing him down against a fence. Unlike the rest of us, Clark cannot be harmed by his attackers, but because he must hide who he really is, he still endures the emotional impact of being bullied.

More than any Superman film before, Man of Steel presents Kent as an outsider, struggling to find his place in a society where he does not see himself reflected. It’s a predicament not unfamiliar to many in the LGBT community — especially those who grew up in an era before gay characters were commonplace in media, when others like us could be discovered faster than a speeding bullet through the internet.

But while the struggles of this Superman make him more relatable than ever to LGBT fans, his journey throughout the film is also an inspirational one, as Clark reaches his full potential only when he embraces his differences and comes out of the closet as a Kryptonian.

“My father believed if the world found out who I really was, they’d reject me. He was convinced that the world wasn’t ready,” a grown Clark, now Superman, tells Lois Lane in Man of Steel. It’s a moment in the film that reflects the current state of our own struggle for equality.

Like the costumed superhero in this scene, LGBT people have learned to embrace and appreciate that which makes us different — creating a rich culture that embellishes and surrounds us like the iconic hero’s signature red cape. We’ve not only come out of the closet, we’ve revealed the beauty of our families, our relationships, and our lives to the world, making us stronger as a result. 

After coming out as Kryptonian, Superman asks Lois, “What do you think?” It’s a vulnerable moment that parallels our own modern questions around social morality, as we await the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions regarding marriage equality and ask, “Is America truly ready to accept us?”

Superman has endured for 75 years, no doubt in part because he is a character who can be interpreted in a myriad ways. For some, he’s a messiah — the only son of a powerful being, sent to Earth to deliver us from evil. For others, he’s an ideal to strive toward. But it’s this latest reboot that aligns the Man of Steel’s journey most closely with that of LGBT people — inspiring us to embrace our differences and be greater than society has historically told us we can be.

“What’s the S stand for?” Lois asks him, looking at the symbol emblazoned across his chest.

“It’s not an S,” he explains. “On my world, it means hope.”

And as Harvey Milk once reminded us, “You’ve gotta give them hope.”

Tags: film