In this golden age of TV comic book adaptations, it can be hard to stand out. But Doom Patrol constantly proves, time and time again, why it's the most unique superhero team up series out there. In the most recent episode, "Puppet Patrol," the DC Universe series pushed superhero LGBTQ representation forward even further by having Matt Bomer, an out gay actor, dive deeper into his closeted character Larry Trainor's backstory and focus on the character's own internalized homophobia brought about by the culture in the '50s.
Through flashbacks, viewers discover more about Larry's life before the accident that turned him into the bandaged, radioactive Negative Man, learning that his lover John wanted to quit the military and live his life for real with Larry. But Larry was afraid to give up his "perfect" façade of a life as a beloved military hero with a wife and two kids. His wife knew the truth about Larry's sexuality and when the accident happened, it was all his wife Cheryl needed to finally call it quits on their marriage.
Larry couldn't "fix" his radioactive state any more than he could "fix" his sexual identity. And even though he finally had the chance to be with John, albeit with some physical barriers thanks to his new Negative Man energy, he broke things off with John too. The negative energy allows him to feel like the monster he always thought he was, and put his life on hold for decades at Doom Manor.
While Bomer is no stranger to the comic book world, having voiced Superman and been in the running for other superhero roles in the past, it was getting to play a gay character in the genre that made him realize he needed to join Doom Patrol.
"I think it's so important," Bomer says of playing a gay superhero. "A big reason why I wanted to be a part of Doom Patrol is because I've never really seen a gay male superhero."
But Larry's sexuality is not all there is to him. "What I love most about the character is that even though it's a huge struggle internally for him, it's not the sole thing that defines who he is," Bomer says. "It's such a multi-faceted character. If it had just been one stereotypical thing, I think I would have had more reservations about it, but the fact that he is this nuanced character who has so many places to grow, and he has so much shadow and so much light that he doesn't even know, that's what appealed to me just as much as his sexuality."
Living as a closeted man in the '50s, Larry faces more than just social scrutiny if his real sexual identity was ever found out. After all, he’s a military man.
"For Larry, the stakes are even higher," Bomer elaborates. "It's one thing to just be a product of that time, but to also be in the military serving actively, to be someone who has tried to achieve so much in order to create a smokescreen for himself and to give himself permission just to be in his mind. If he could just become this guy who breaks the sound barrier that America has to love, then he'll never have to really deal with the parts of himself at ground level."
So, while the focus of the first season of Doom Patrol may be the team finding out what happened to the Chief, Bomer reveals that Larry's main story is finally "finding his voice and being able to come to terms with his sexuality."
"Who he is, how he can help, what this being inside him is, what it represents, how it wants to communicate with him, why it wants to communicate with him, does he want it to stick around, does he want it to leave?" Bomer says of the questions plaguing Larry. "Can he ever have any real control over it? Is the only way to have control over that to ultimately, for the first time in his life, let go of control because he has been such a control freak? So, he's really face-to-face with his ego and all the fears and insecurities that that entails, and he has to let go in order to supersede that and really find a purpose for his existence after all these years."
In the past, Larry "compartmentalized" all the different aspects of his identity, so much so that he never really allowed himself to be who he really is.
"He really wanted his cake and to eat it too," Bomer explains. "It's really profoundly important for him to be able to keep his wife and family not only because of the primal love and need for them, but also because they secure his status in the military. But he also obviously really, really loves John, maybe the only true romantic connection he's ever had, so he wants both, but he can only have it if he really compartmentalizes it."
But as this most recent episode revealed, Larry doesn't realize what he has until it's gone.
"He's had 50 years to let all these feelings marinate," Bomer says, "and he still hasn't been able to it out himself. Circumstances happen that force him into action and he really has to start actively dealing with himself. And it just continues to grow over the course of the season."
And according to Bomer, "Episode 10 and 11 is where it all really starts to come to a head for him, and he's really starting to get in touch with who he is authentically."
When he first agreed to play Larry, Bomer says that Doom Patrol showrunners Greg Berlanti and Jeremy Carver called him up with an intriguing character description. "They were describing this character to me that they thought was, on the outside, all-American Chuck Yeager golden boy, but on the inside, was one part Elephant Man, one part Montgomery Clift," he remembers. "I thought, 'Oh wow.' That's a really interesting dichotomy to get to play. He's a guy who is this golden boy on the outside, but inside has always felt like a monster, and it's the great allegory of the role that ultimately through this accident, he becomes what he always felt he was inside."
He adds, "His journey over the course of the season is finding a dialogue with himself, where he can learn to accept all the parts of himself that he felt were, on the whole, not acceptable in the past."
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