Case in point? Dawn of Just Us, which reimagines the macho superhero clash between Ben Affleck’s Caped Crusader and Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel as a lighthearted romantic comedy.
Incorporating footage from several of the widely-released Batman V Superman trailers and TV spots and some choice dialogue from elsewhere, the parody trailer reframes the hero-vs-hero dynamic into the story of two lonely-hearted superheroes from dramatically different backgrounds attempting to connect on a romantic level – despite an obviously uncoventional personal and professional situation and an (implied) third party complication in the form of Wonder Woman (with amusing emphasis placed on Jesse Eisenberg’s Bruce/Clark introduction scene).
What’s perhaps most noteworthy about the trailer is how plainly it presents the most different (from the actual film) aspect of its implied narrative. While the core of the satire is obviously to highlight how easily director Zack Snyder’s focus on glowering long stares and intense mutual fixation transforms from tough guy posturing to romantic longing with a simple change of pacing and music, the fact that it depicts a (hypothetical) same-sex relationship isn’t played for laughs or even presented as a “punchline;” but rather as the logical endpoint of recutting this particular trailer into the form of a standard Hollywood rom-com. That is, it doesn’t play appreciably different from how the same gag might be applied to a hero-vs-hero feature starring a man and a woman, two women or some other variation on the same, thus avoiding the easy laughs of “Ha ha, Batman and Superman are gay!” in favor of “Ha ha, a versus movie turns into a romance easier than you’d think!”
That feels like a small but noteworthy shift from the movie-parody zeitgeist of not too long ago, which often regarded even the laziest implication that two male characters would be a couple as a “joke” in and of itself (i.e. the way the internet video genre was dominated by “parodies” adding the Brokeback Mountain theme music to any trailer for a movie featuring a close male friendship (or rivalry) back in 2005). It’s also interesting since, while Hollywood has unquestionably become more LGBTQ-friendly in recent years, a big-budget mainstream romantic comedy featuring stars as big as Affleck and Cavill as a same-sex couple hasn’t yet been made for this parody to have used as a reference point; making the joke in some respects ahead-of-the-curve compared to its own subject matter (in addition to being a fun way to deflate the brooding self-seriousness of the film’s ad campaign).
While portraying popular superheroes as secretly (or not-so-secretly) gay has also been fodder for parody in comics, the genre in large part remains similarly skittish about treating the idea seriously. While exceptions do exist (notably Midnighter and Apollo, deliberate expys of Batman and Superman from Warren Ellis’ The Authority, Alpha Flight’s Northstar, Marvel’s pansexual depiction of Deadpool and Iceman’s recent coming out) such storylines have typically been confined to supporting characters, unfortunate caricatures (often villains) and a wide array of female characters being implied to be bisexual in the 90s – though generally more for the titillation of male readers than story purposes. More recently, DC in particular has been both lauded and criticized for depictions of gay characters like Batwoman and Renee Montoya, along with writer Grant Morrison’s Wonder Woman: Earth One miniseries reintroducing frankly-presented same-sex relationships to the background of Diana and The Amazons.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25th, 2016, followed by Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23rd, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17th, 2017; The Flash on March 16th, 2018; Aquaman on July 27th, 2018; Shazam on April 5th, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14th, 2019; Cyborg on April 3rd, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps. on June 19th, 2020.
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