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Superman: Can Beefcake Kill a Blockbuster?

Superman_4More specifically, can beefcake that appeals to gay men drive straight male audiences away from a movie? That's the question the L.A. Times attempts to tackle in a piece running today.

An informal poll of six veteran Hollywood marketing executives at rival studios revealed sharply divided opinions over how — or even if — "Superman's" gay attention would affect the film. Two of the executives said the focus could actually expand the film's audience, much as gay moviegoers have responded to the "X-Men" superhero series, which has been praised for its metaphorical plots about acceptance. The first two "X-Men" movies were directed by Bryan Singer, the openly gay filmmaker who also made "Superman Returns." Singer did not respond to an interview request.

But four of the movie marketing executives, all of whom declined to speak on the record, said gay "Superman Returns" interest presented two potential box-office problems. First, teenage moviegoers, especially those in conservative states, might be put off by a movie carrying a gay vibe; among some teens, these executives agreed, saying something "is gay" is still the ultimate put-down. Second, the attention threatens to undermine the film's status as a hard-edged action movie, making it feel softer, more romantic, and thus less interesting to young ticket buyers who crave pyrotechnics.

The other major question is, is it a good movie in the first place? How many potential straight ticketbuyers place whether or not the movie has a gay following (ie their own homophobia) as a higher priority than the reviews they've read? Not many, I'd guess. But it's certainly an interesting question. Could the the alleged homophobia of Academy members that was the scapegoat for Brokeback Mountain's loss to Crash at the Oscars play itself out in a broader sense with the American public, even when Superman is not a specifically gay character?

Like the Oscar results, one could spend endless amounts of time debating the equation without ever finding the right path to the answer.

How Will it Fly? [la times]

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  1. Do teenaged straight boys really know that gay men have a special interest in this film? Are they that media savvy? If they feel a little leery of Superman, I think it may have more to do with the fact that Superman wears tight red briefs on the outside of his similarly tight bodysuit--a costume that was created by two straight men in the 1930s.

    Posted by: Tom | Jun 2, 2006 2:53:47 PM

  2. It's more than just teenage males knowing there is a gay interest in the all comes down to the film itself. If there are subliminal or suggestive content to suggest Superman is gay in a tongue and cheek way, then it can be a turn-off, not only to straight males but it should to gay males as well. If Superman in this film is gay, then just make him gay and say so.

    Posted by: Patrick | Jun 2, 2006 3:32:51 PM

  3. Oh and another thing: So the LA Times is claiming that gays are going to give Superman cooties just by being interested in the movie? Another example of the Times recent creepy coverage of gay issues. And if they wanted a harder, less romantic movie, maybe they should have just jettisoned Lois Lane. And since when do the prognostications of Hollywood marketing dolts carry any weight. Look at their dismal performance. Hollywood couldn't market worms to birds.

    Posted by: Tom | Jun 2, 2006 3:37:24 PM

  4. Brokeback lost to Crash because it was an inferior to Crash, not because of homophobia.

    It is a blessing anyway, If BB won after all of it's publysteria, we'd be a long time before another predominantly gay film rose up.

    I am not inerested in seeing Superman do anything but kick butt. I like troubled superheroes but ot "sensitive" ones.

    But who cares. It's summer, bring-em all on.

    Posted by: ted | Jun 2, 2006 3:42:52 PM

  5. This one seems like a bit of a stretch to me. The couple straight guys I've polled about summer movies say the movie their most looking forward to is SNAKES ON A PLANE. After that, it's SUPERMAN.

    I will say that, while I'm excited to see the movie, this boyish model just doesn't look like SUPERMAN. SUPERBOY maybe, but not SUPERMAN.

    Posted by: Cyd | Jun 2, 2006 3:46:08 PM

  6. I just heard some clips from the score for Superman Returns, and they are gorgeous. Very excited for this flick!

    Posted by: Cyd | Jun 2, 2006 4:03:40 PM

  7. Super too-gay for the box-office? Didn't they look at the weekend-take for X-Men3:TLS. "Gay" was the overt subtext from the first film-frame, and that didn't stop the teenaged boys...and their gilrfriends...from attending in record numbers. There was so-much homosexual UST and testoserone-poisoning that the breeders could bearly get a claw-edge in sideways.

    Posted by: Ted B. (Charging Rhino) | Jun 2, 2006 4:15:09 PM

  8. I don't know of anyone that equates Superman with being gay, including me, and I'm gay. This is just a bunch of naval gazers trying to boost low self esteem, perhaps.

    Posted by: Michael | Jun 2, 2006 4:20:31 PM

  9. I think the only people who think there's some kind of gay interest movement going on with Superman Returns are movie marketting execs, people who read 'The Advocate' (with their latest weird gay baiting Superman cover) and bored Los Angeles entertainment journalists looking for a story- ie: virtually nobody.

    I don't really get what is "gay" about "Superman Returns"- Brian Singer directed it and Kevin Spacey's in it, but nobody called X-Men one and two "gay" even though it dealt with gay issues and featured an OUT gay actor playing the villain, as opposed to a semi-closeted gay actor playing the villain.

    This "gay Superman" thing is such a reach. Newsflash: fourteen year old boys from Peoria generally DON'T read the L.A. Times.

    Everyone knows they're New York Times readers.

    Posted by: Japhy Grant | Jun 2, 2006 4:37:38 PM

  10. Though I won't be a teenager any longer (turn 20 at the end of the month) I can say without a doubt that Hollywood executives are completley clueless as to what teenagers think and want in terms of entertainment.

    Hello? These are the same group of executives who are JUST NOW getting the idea that the public (particularly young folks) wish to have the ability to download movies over the internet and burn them to DVDs.

    They try to expose us to half assed crap like Fantastic 4 and Smallville and expect for us to keep coming back for more.

    I hate to break it to them, but they should just shut the fuck up, because their "blockbusters" aren't what they used to be, and the ticket sales reflect it.

    And if anything hurts Superman, it's the fact that it hasn't had much publicity OTHER than the rumors of Routh's sexuality and Bryan Singer's twink-loving antics down in Australia!

    Posted by: Jason | Jun 2, 2006 5:33:46 PM

  11. "I am not inerested in seeing Superman do anything but kick butt. I like troubled superheroes but ot "sensitive" ones."

    Sensitive meaning gay?

    Posted by: SP | Jun 2, 2006 7:12:37 PM

  12. I dont understand where this whole thing about "gays" as a community being soo into Superman came from. Was there a meeting I missed!? Did someone hold a poll!? As far as I know, a bunch of sexualized gay blogs posting pictures of Brandon Routh and his package doesnt count as sincere interest in a film or even the comic it has originated from.
    I agree, most "straight" adolescent males arent going to find Superman "too queer to watch" just because SUPPOSEDLY we all agreed he was our new poster boi. He is too much of a macho male figure in society. They will do what they always do and say "OMG he looks soo gay" and then go see the film with their girlfriends on opening night just like all the shit that has opened big at the box office since the year 2000. Box office means nothing anymore.
    And as a fan of the X-Men comic it pisses me off when I hear "Oh wow! The films were soo subliminal in their messages of homosexuality" WTF!? The comics have always been like that and they go beyond just homosexuality but humans of all walks of life.

    Posted by: Toto | Jun 2, 2006 11:46:37 PM

  13. OMG! Superman is gay? That is just soooooo str8. Why not turn it around on them. Why does everything have to be so black and white lately?

    Posted by: GaYToR | Jun 4, 2006 3:28:27 PM

  14. Naturally this is something Hollywood would worry about, as they were afraid to give best picture to the best picture this year.

    Posted by: CJ#1 | Jun 4, 2006 8:43:20 PM

  15. Choosing not to see a movie about homosexuals does not make one a homophobe. By that rationale I guess someone would be a racist if they didn't see Barbershop II at the theater.

    Posted by: Gaydar | Jun 5, 2006 1:55:09 PM

  16. If they didn't see Barbershop II because it was a crap movie, they wouldn't be racist. But if they skipped it because it was about black people, then they definitely would be. There's a big, big difference.

    Posted by: Iris | Jun 5, 2006 3:06:02 PM

  17. Whats wrong with the world now? The Superman Returns movie does not mention about SEXUALITY at all... actors hand gestures, postures in the movie should'nt be a basis for saying the MOVIE is about GAY's. Hello!? and if Brandon Routh is gay or any of the actors are... so what?! It does not make the movie less interesting. And if Superman is indeed Gay because there was never a series that showed him having kids (if having kids is a basis of being straight)... then lets accept Superman as what he is, after all he is still a person. And accepting himself, makes him TRUE to himself thus being courageous to acknowledge that.. isn't that a manifestation of his TRUE STRENGHT?!... think about it!

    Posted by: nelson judaya | Jun 20, 2006 6:59:56 AM

  18. i love brandon routh...not because he's superman...i just love him...he looks like my him so much!!!!!!

    Posted by: greizc | Jul 10, 2006 12:23:49 AM

  19. Even before I could mentally process that (a) I was gay and (b) I needed to keep that hidden from everyone around me, I could totally relate to the idea of having something about you that sets you apart and must be concealed.

    Jump forward ten years and being gay we take care of our bodies, become obsessed with the idea of physical perfection, work in jobs in the medical and service industry, become confidants to our girlfriends.....

    Which gay man wouldn't want to look like superman and save the world? Irrespective of the size of Brandon Rouths' package - Superman remains an (unrealistic) ideal which many gay men aspire to.

    Posted by: TechniCool | Aug 5, 2006 5:25:35 AM

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