Monday, December 06, 2004

Peering behind the mask

Writing for The Los Angeles Times, Men of Tomorrow author Gerard Jones examines secret identities, and the shifting boundaries separating our private and public selves:
This year, Hollywood finally put its mass-market stamp on the shift, when it ripped off Peter Parker's mask in Spider-Man 2. He looks up in horror at the crowd around him that has discovered his true identity. Then a kid says, "It's OK. We won't tell anybody." His secret is safe, not because it's really secret but because he can trust the world to handle it.

A friend of mine, David, took his sixth-grade son, Ike, to Spider-Man 2 — along with Ike's "other dad," as family friends so scrupulously say — and the message made him a fan.

"When I was a teenager, superheroes were obviously about being queer," David says. "Clark Kent shedding that hideous blue suit and shooting into the sky in his tights? What else? But overshadowing the joy was that fear that people would learn the truth — until that moment in Spider-Man 2."

The ease with which that fear was dismissed and the warmth with which the audience embraced the movie show that it was more than a clever twist on a formula. That kid voiced a fundamental change in our attitudes about the boundaries that separate our hidden and public selves.