Thursday, March 10, 2016

DC's Cyborg And The Castration Of Black Men

I'm waiting for my body to recover sufficiently in numerous ways before I start lifting again. To be honest, however, my interest in lifting is declining in lockstep with my ageing body. I am increasingly stiff and incapable of generating any power. I can barely run or jump at all these days.

I'm a clever black man who is losing his physical prowess and his sexual mojo.

Maybe that's why Cyborg has been on my mind lately.

I'm as excited as any ageing comic fanboy about the upcoming "Batman v Superman" epic. But this movie is going to include Cyborg, and that's a problem for me.

Adding Castration to Amputation

Cyborg is by far DC's most prominent black superhero. It's always bothered me that the black guy had to be the one whose powers stem from being horribly mutilated. But at least the Cyborg of previous DC Universe iterations retained a relatively large amount of his original human body.

Pre-"New 52" Cyborg, copyright DC Comics


Notice the healthy brown skin around his upper torso, shoulders, upper arms. Notice especially how the healthy brown skin of his thighs reach up into his singlet. This suggests that though Cyborg's extremities are artificial, his trunk is intact. His genitals are intact. Even though his limbs were replaced by robot limbs, he could still get it on. 

Image result for cyborg dc girlfriend


Now look at the Cyborg bereft of his armor in DC's latest canonical continuity, "The New 52":

In case it's not clear, in "The New 52", Cyborg's only organic bits are now about 75% of his head, his neck and upper chest, some vital organs, and his alimentary tract. He no longer has any of his upper arms, thighs, hips, buttocks, testicles or penis. 

What started as injury has ended with insult. Disfigurement has been topped with castration.

Dear God Why?

The thing that really galls me about Cyborg's powers is that they are entirely technologically-based. There is no benefit to his cybernetics over, say, a suit of incredibly advanced armor. You know, like rival Marvel Comics gave to its billionaire inventor, Tony Stark.

But no. Cyborg's "powers" just had to come about through a thorough disfigurement. Unlike the rich, white playboy in Marvel Comics who could remove his tech and then have sex with models, Cyborg had to become a full amputee to get the benefit of tech powers. 

In this latest incarnation, he didn't just become incredibly unfuckable; he lost his ability to fuck at all. Cyborg is no longer "just" an amputee. He's now also a eunuch. 

Cyborg's civilian identity, by the way, is Victor "Vic" Stone. Victor means "champion" and Stone is also a euphemism for a male gonad. Ironically Vic Stone is now "stone-less." A superhero, a super-champion born by losing his stones. 

Troubling Trend Even Before They Took His Testicles

Even before the newest DC Universe castrated their premier black superhuman man, their treatment of him had been problematic. But the treatment seems even more vile when you consider that DC's ultimate hero is an otherworldly and all-powerful messiah figure who is indistinguishable from a human Caucasian male. 

In the DC Universe, the ultimate expression of both power and the best in humanity is a blue-eyed white man from outer space (which is apparently full of Caucasians or Caucasian-shaped aliens with funky skin colors). The one black guy who manages to make it on the super-team isn't just a talented mere mortal with tech, like Batman or Marvel's Iron Man; the black guy has lost his limbs, half his head, and in recent years, his dick and balls. 

This is actually a pretty interesting notion, and would make for a great story. But it's very telling that they simply made their black guy an amputee and then a eunuch without any apparent awareness of the implications. Like the fact that their almost entirely white male audience probably has a problem with black male sexuality and power. Because white males have historically had an enormous problem with black male sexuality and power. 

DC also seems unaware that mutilation and castration have historically been used to torture and dominate, but these things have been used most recently in the U.S. as a way for white slave-owners to terrorize and dominate their rebellious black male slaves. 

DC and Marvel are products of their times. Marvel was born in the early 1960s and its progressive bent has always been obvious. DC came to be in the 1930s, a time when the entire West's fascination with eugenics and white supremacy was reaching a crescendo. DC has evolved plenty in that time. They even had the Greek immortal Wonder Woman dating a black man for a while. You really can't get more boldly anti-racist than having your iconic white female superhero happily enduring penetration by a black penis. 


Yet, even while they let their bastion of white womanhood and power enjoy sex with a black man in one of their previous main story universes, they added castration to the list of indignities their most prominent black male hero had to endure in the latest one. 

No matter what positive messages about race that DC tries to send now, they will be undone by their Cybernetic black mascot. And now they're about to add Cyborg to their cinematic universe. I would love to enjoy the spectacle, but I'm not sure I can now that I know that this unwitting icon of white fear and oppression will be part of the fledgling Justice League that will be appearing in the upcoming film.

Addendum and Healing

So, I did some more digging after I jotted this stuff down. It looks like as of December, 2015, Cyborg's newer powers allowed him to regrow a simulacrum of his original body. And he's able to call upon him more robotic cybernetic form at will. This is the work of writer David Walker who is black.


That's nice.

But I also discovered a lot of commentary, and a depressing amount of it from people claiming to black, that says that worrying about Cyborg's dick is nonsense. "Libtard bullshit". "SJW bullshit."

I think that's hilarious. The comic universe full of alien gods who look exactly Caucasian gives you a black hero whose dick and balls were literally blown off...and this seems okay.

Considering how often gangs of white men have castrated black men in this country, you'd think it would raise an eyebrow when the one black guy gets superpowers and super-team membership only after his goddamned genitalia get blown off along with a lot of the rest of him.

The literature's message is clear. The only black guys who fit in are the one's that get neutered. They literally take the type of body they used for forced labor, removed the engine of his sexuality and aggression (which they loathe), and encase him in a machine that they then put to use.

That these conservative and dim-witted folks can't see this really shouldn't come as a surprise. But it still bothers me. Just like it bothers me when people want fundamentalist Christian creationism taught in schools.

There is a trope clearly at work with Cyborg, and it's one based in some of the ugliest history in the Americas. I'm glad DC seems to be coming around about it, even if most of their low-wattage fans don't care.



12 comments:

  1. Like you, Cyborg never resonated with me.I appreciate his engineering genius. That type of imagery is in short supply where black folks are concerned. But I always wanted my black superheroes to be total packages: smart and physically powerful. On the Marvel side, Black Panther fit the bill without physical deformities; as did Mr. Terrific. But it's my understanding that the TV series Arrow depicts Mr. Terrific as a bungling fool. I haven't tuned into Arrow since Season 1 so I don't know how true that is, but if there has to be one black male member of the JLA, I would choose Mr. Terrific as originally depicted in the cartoon series. I remember War Machine being horrifically mutilated and subsequently becoming more machine than man. That turned me away from the character. Now it seems that Rhodes recently received an upgraded, fully functional body. That's why I applaud blAck independent creators. Some of the best portrayals of black superheroes I've come across over the years have sprouted from the minds of black independents. Wonderfully insightful article.

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    1. Mr Terrific in Arrow is an Olympic athlete who is also a tech/engineering genius.
      He's neither bumbling, nor a fool, he's just a little naive and trying to reconcile his desire to do good as a vigilante with his naturally non-violent personality.

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    2. They made Mr. Terrific gay on Arrow which is another way that they constantly portray black males to remove their masculinity. It still fits with exactly what the article is talking about how the only way black superheroes can truly be accepted is if they are shown to be less masculine than their white counterparts.

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    3. I haven't checked in here in a long while. Nice to see discussion. I appreciate it and the nice sentiment.

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  2. Very well crafted article speaking to a lot of issues with the portrayal of black men in all forms of media. The only way to change this is to craft our own stories with our own heroes. White society will not do it for us and the people white readers will never comprehend why the way they portray us is offensive and psychologically damaging to black youths.

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    1. Agreed. I would love to turn my attention to that kind of story-crafting before eternity swallows me up.

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  3. I can't thank you enough for posting this article. Ever since the comic book death of War Machine I have been feeling "some kind of way" with that. In the Avenger's movie they handicapped War Machine but the comics chose to kill him--just as we gained Falcon as the new Captain America and Myles as the new bi-racial Spider Man and a female Thor. The worlds of the three top Avenger heroes were becoming more minority and female, so it felt like there was a roster cap on how many black heroes could exist in the same space at the same time which is ridiculous.

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    1. Good point. I think I have unconsciously avoided being as critical of the Marvel movies even though they clearly need just as honest a look.

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  4. I had also found a similar article/blog from 2015. I'm glad to see I am not the only one feeling this way. Tbh because of this I don't want to see the Justice League movie.
    I've always had issues with how black men are written in comics, scifi an horror. There's so few blacks in fantasy I won't even add the genre.
    On my local news there was a black boy on the weekly segment of children up for adoption. They asked his fave superhero and of course it was superman. I was irked because there are so few black male high profile superheroes. It really is important for black youths to see black men and women in scifi/ fantasy and horror as leads and heroes with their bodies intact. Not only can Cyborg not have sex but he can't have children as well which adds even more overtones of racism.
    I'm also tired of seeing Storm used to prop the white female characters in those garbage movies.
    I also agree that having a black male lead as gay and the white male lead as straight immaculates the black male superheroes.
    Another tired trope the other article mentioned is the complaining black male superhero. War Machine bitched so much in the comic based cartoons I began to hate him. And he was written pathetically in the iron man movies ugh.

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    1. All good points. Gays need representation too, but you are right that making the black male gay is a way to protect white womanhood and white male egos from the "threat" of black male sexuality. In the South they castrate and lynch, but in Hollywood they remove the desire for women "naturally".

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  5. You seem to be bitching about and complaining here. If you don't want to see the movie, then don't. This is all imaginary and comic books. If you want more black characters created then create them. Hell, the terminator is a cyborg and cant have kids. Who cares, just as long as we are represented well. And I love that some of the Black heroes are gay. Trying being gay growing up in the black straight world and getting beat down everyday cause everyone else is so masculine and thinks the world should always be like that. You couldn't force yourself to see diversity if your life depended on it. Always whining about what is wrong with the depictions of the straight black male. Hell, I'm not bitching about the gay black male in the world that I live. Get over yourself and pronto!

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  6. I am neither white nor black person (I´m from Mexico). But I didn´t like either the way DC depicted Cyborg without lower torso.

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