This weekend, Jeremy Jordan (Supergirl, Smash, The Last Five Years, Newsies) was mislabeled a homophobe for his factual statement that “Supercorp” is not canon. In an interview with MTV, the cast of Supergirl performed a musical recap of season 2. Jordan took the lead. As soon as he introduced Lena Luthor’s character, Jordan shouted that she and Kara are “Not gonna get together, they’re ONLY FRIENDS”.
The interview is almost ten minutes long, but if you want to see the offending remarks, start at 1:26 and watch until 2:00. The comments created a massive backlash on social media. Fans of the “Supercorp” pairing (Supergirl and Luthor Corp, or Kara and Lena) went as far as threatening Jordan’s life, encouraging him to kill himself, and calling him a homophobe.
Jeremy Jordan: The Ally
Jordan is a Broadway alum. His first television show Smash was often referenced as a grown-up Glee, but set in New York and focused on members of the theatre industry. Jordan has taken part in “Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS” fundraising efforts for years. Recently, he ran a crowd-sourcing campaign to save his cousin from conversion treatment. Jeremy Jordan is not a good candidate for Homophobic Poster Boy: 2017. However, he found himself nominated.
Of course, a good track record doesn’t excuse new behaviors. Taking action as an ally doesn’t mean you can say hurtful things, or make jokes about the LGBTQ+ community. It means the opposite. Allies are trusted by community members to help make it better. And humans make mistakes, especially at a massive event where they are over-stimulated for days and constantly on display for tens of thousands of people who expect everything they say and do to be perfect. What matters is the follow-up, which Jordan handled as follows:
Fandom and Representation
Fans did not believe that Jordan learned his lesson, even after this initial apology. He ended up issuing a second apology on his Instagram, and then engaging further with fans on his Twitter. To be fair, he’d stumbled into a minefield. Representation is important. Full stop. But here’s the thing: Supergirl has a lesbian relationship. Kara’s sister Alex struggled with her sexuality in season two, coming out to her sister and then asking another woman out for drinks. The Supergirl creative team put up with a lot of protests from fans who disagreed with the relationship. They also enjoyed a lot of praise from fans who are starving for queer representation in mainstream media.
Again, please don’t misunderstand: MORE queer representation would be great. Kara and Lena together could be adorable. They have established a strong friendship based on mutual trust and respect. However, much like Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, the romantic elements of the “Supercorp” relationship are not canon. This creates a tricky situation for stars, who must walk a very fine line between acknowledging relationships fans want to see, and queerbaiting.
I learned a lot yesterday. I will carry those lessons w me wherever I go. Now, all we can try to do is move forward with greater compassion.
— Jeremy Jordan (@JeremyMJordan) July 23, 2017
Jordan is in good company having trouble finding that line. His co-star Katie McGrath is a vocal supporter of “Supercorp” shippers, but Melissa Benoist has been the opposite. Among the Riverdale cast (another CW show), Camila Mendes and Lili Reinhart have toyed with that line in regards to “Beronica” becoming canon. And, while Cole Sprouse was vocal about staying true to Jughead’s comic book asexuality, the character ended the season in a sexual relationship with Betty, and Sprouse has gone silent on the issue.
Fandom and Entitlement
Fans have taken ownership of fiction ever since Sherlock Holmes (the original). Doyle tried killing off his massively popular character when the pressure to write Holmes serials became too much. Fans were so outraged that many canceled their subscriptions to Strand magazine. In direct response, Doyle brought Holmes back in The Hound of the Baskervilles, but was miserable about it until the day he died.
We’ve come a long way since then–fanfiction and fanart are now expected parts of any fictional realm. Beginning most famously with Star Trek fanfiction in the 1970s, these works, for the most part, served a very specific purpose. Trekkies began writing stories about Spock/Kirk getting together. The two shared no explicitly romantic scenes on-screen, but fans insisted their relationship was subtextually homoerotic. Some of these works showed a fetishized version of gay relationships, true. Others filled a representation void in a time when homosexuality was considered an “alternative” lifestyle. And so the trend caught on.
Today, queer relationships are represented in many media forms, but still considered a “bold move” or an alternative relationship. Riverdale leaned hard on an on-screen Beronica kiss while promoting the first season, but the kiss wound up being part of an act Veronica performed to prove herself “edgy.”
“Supercorp” is another example of a non-canon relationship that serves to provide representation. It blows that queer viewers have to literally invent relationships in order to feel represented, but how strongly should we cling to those relationships? More and more, fans ask questions at conventions and star appearances about fan-created content. This is a dangerous game to play, as there is a 50/50 shot at getting a disappointing answer. Are actors/creators obligated to accept an alternate version of their character? And should queerness change the answer to that question?
Jeremy Jordan: Still not a Homophobe
Many questions still need answering. Many miles of murky water lie ahead regarding representation in media. But at the end of the day, Jordan is not the biggest threat to the LGBTQA+ community. He’s not a threat at all, because he’s not a homophobe.
Jordan is in an impossible situation with “Supercorp”, where the relationship is not and will not be canon, per the creators. The fact that it provides representation to an under-represented group is great. However, it is not Jordan’s obligation to lie about that relationship. Many fans objected to the fact that Jordan shouted, aggressively, as though he was against the “Supercorp” relationship. And he might be–considering he’s been told it’s not real. But that doesn’t make him a homophobe.
As a smart man once said: “Now, all we can try to do is move forward with greater compassion.”
Feature Image Credit: Lesly Oh via DeviantArt.com