Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Unintended Double Reading

Unintended Double Reading – and why it is culturally significant:

Superman #130 (1987)
In which Clark and Lois dress up
 as Batman and Robin, and make out.
Batman and Robin may not have been intended as a gay couple, but the outing of their characters in the Seduction of the Innocent had a lasting cultural affect. It increased censorship in comic books through the creation of the comic code, educated parents on the possibility of intended gay coding in children’s media, and it affected the way society viewed the two characters identities.

I think this is one of the most interesting parts of unintended double reading - how society creatively critiques the media it consumes. The Ambiguously Gay Duo is perhaps the most obvious example of a riff on Batman and Robin’s ambiguous relationship – but it has also been examined on shows like the live action Tick and Venture Bros. The controversy has become such a well known part of the characters history that DC has on occasion (subtly) poked fun at this reading of their characters.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Double Coded and Gay Coded Characters

Double Coding:

Double coding is used to create a subtext or second reading of a text that speaks to a multiple audiences or sensabilites. This is very common in the use of adult humor or subtext intended for the older audience of a childrens show. It is also used to target multiple demographics of a show, while not ostracizing the main market.

Because of the sensitivity of what is considered appropriate on children’s shows double coding can also be used to establish aspects of a character that if stated explicitly would not make it past the censors. "Questionable" aspects of a character will be consistently, and carefully coded over the course of seasons.

In Hey Arnold! Helga's mother Miriam was coded as an alcoholic. She suffers from depression, she is disoriented and irresponsable (will forget to pack her child's lunch). She is found "asleep" i.e. passed out in different places in the home. She is often seen with a smoothie in hand (or making one), clutching at her beverage as she slurs her words, and saying "I need a smoothie," when things get rough.