There’s a scene in the 1938 screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby where Cary Grant’s character discovers that Katherine Hepburn’s character has taken his clothes in an attempt to keep him from leaving her. In desperation, he puts on the only thing he can find — a sheer, pink robe of hers — and storms around the house, looking for something else to wear.
When the owner of the house arrives and demands to know who the strange man is and why he’s wearing that robe, an exasperated Grant shouts, “Because I just went GAY, all of a sudden!” punctuating the word “gay” with a leap into the air.
I’ve been thinking of that moment this week, as the mainstream superhero publishers seem to have been metaphorically running around in metaphorical ladies nightwear, metaphorically leaping in the air and shouting: DC and Marvel have gone gay — or “gay!” — all of a sudden.
Of course, the bit in Bringing Up Baby was meant to be a joke, the very sight of the virile, handsome, zenith of masculinity Cary Grant dressed in women’s nightclothes was in and of itself so ridiculous as to be funny without elaboration (although the image has since taken on some irony, given decades of speculation about Grant’s personal life, but let’s not get into that). It was also made more than 70 years ago.