Going woke broke the internet (and fan bases)
Comic book heroes and villains capture the imagination of hundreds of readers around the globe. No less interest was sparked in a move by DC Comics, of AT&T WarnerMedia, a subsidiary of AT&T (NYSE: T).
Spoiler alert: in Batman: Urban Legends, Robin, A.K.A Tim Drake, unmasks his secret identity and reveals himself to be bisexual. Such a move is not uncommon in popular media, as recently seen in Marvel and Disney’s (NYSE: DIS) Loki, where the main character also reveals his love of both (biological) genders, albeit fashionably late, it seems.
What was all but unexpected, however, was the enthralling attention by fans, critics and the disdained and delighted sidelines. On the one side, many cheery fans, who have been writing their own fan fiction of Batman and Robin, including graphic 18+ fantasies, were in a celebratory mood to see DC Comics finally waking up to the progressive changing times. Other fans were critical of seeing their childhood hero mocked by slapping on a sexual identity, which contradicts Robin’s past and was done for brownie points and a marketing ploy to pander to the woke crowd in an effort to boost comic sales. Another example of the popular phrase ‘go woke, go broke’, referring to a private company’s efforts to pander to political correctness, usually at the cost of profits.
Another criticism that surfaced: why not create a new superhero, with his/her new story and desires, instead of rewriting an old favorite? The LGBT crowd shot back, blasting the critics for their dismissal of Robin’s new-but-old-found preferences, pointing out that any new superhero character that is written with an LGBT identity is quickly written-off as a marketing gimmick, which is why no LGBT-friendly superheroes ever left their closets (or comic bookshelves).
Interestingly, a small minority of onlookers pointed out that most newly created LGBT superheroes’ characters were centered around their sexual identity, and their preferences were probably their primary motivation for being created in the first place, resulting in a poorly written character and story overall. Poor character development equals no popularity. Perhaps, that is why it is easier to add a different flavor to an existing popular superhero than to write an entirely new one. Of course, in such online discussions, artistic merit gets a bit drowned out by the yelling of crowds.
One perspective that has not been discussed as much is just how profitable this tantalizing topic has been for all the media companies involved. DC Comics certainly hasn’t been hurt by the unplanned (and planned) publicity. Hundreds of media outlets had an excuse to publish clickbait titles, which were hard to ignore. And, of course, on Twitter (NYSE: TWTR), #TimDrake and #Robin combined got over 2 million tweets within 7 days. It pays to be woke.
Perhaps, ‘go woke, go broke’ doesn’t always apply, especially when heroes and villains are not confined to their comic strip colors.