The Marvel Cinematic Universe Keeps Avoiding LGBT Representation
Don’t they think fans are ready for a gay superhero?…
The final chapter in Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming out this weekend and the hype is real. Avengers: Endgame is the 22nd film in the insanely popular (and profitable) Marvel franchise and it brings together most of the major characters from previous films including Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and newer additions like Black Panther and Captain Marvel.
There are plenty of openly LGBT characters in Marvel’s source material, but for some reason, bringing those characters on screen has either been avoided completely or done in a way that leaves their sexuality ambiguous. For example, Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson) is bisexual in the comic books and has a romantic relationship with a woman. Although Thompson told Rolling Stone that she played the character as bisexual in Thor: Ragnorak, the only scene that would have even hinted at her sexuality was cut from the final film.
Thor villain Loki is bisexual in the comics—and actor Tom Hiddleston has even mentioned that he sees the character as bisexual, although it’s never been part of any of the films he’s appeared in.
Danai Gurira’s Okoye in Black Panther also has the distinction of almost being the first openly LGBT character in the MCU, but the scene of her flirting with another woman was cut. Early reports of previews of the film indicated that there was some significant LGBT content and screenwriter Joe Robert Cole confirmed that they did consider including a romance between two female characters but ultimately decided against it. Even though Black Panther has been hailed as a triumph for Black representation, it missed an opportunity to contribute to visibility for the Black LGBT community.
In print, Marvel hasn’t always been all about the LGBT representation either. Northstar, of Canadian super team Alpha Flight, didn’t come out as gay until 1992 in the 106th issue of the series. He declared “I am gay!” coming out more than a decade after his debut in 1979’s Uncanny X-Men No. 201. Rumor has it that Jim Shooter, who was Marvel’s editor-in-chief for most of the 80’s had enforced a strict “no gays in the Marvel Universe” policy.
The first same-sex marriage in the Marvel universe, between Northstar and his boyfriend Kyle, was published in 2012, but they weren’t the first—DC beat them to it by 10 years. DC has also featured LGBT characters on screen with Alex Danvers coming out as a lesbian and introducing Nia Nal, the first transgender superhero on TV, in Supergirl. Anissa Pierce aka Thunder from Black Lighting is also openly lesbian. Although it’s only been on the small screen so far, DC seems to be ahead of Marvel when it comes to LGBT representation.
During the press tour for Ant Man & the Wasp in 2017, MCU executive Kevin Feige said he was very open to including LGBT characters in the films moving forward but there has still been no confirmation on who or when that might be. When asked, he simply said yes (but these days, saying anything other than yes wouldn’t be a good look). When asked to elaborate, Fiege said the upcoming LGBT characters would “both ones you’ve seen and ones you haven’t seen.” Pretty vague.
Disney and Marvel have been working on diversity and inclusion in the MCU when it comes to race and gender but they’ve left out LGBT characters for so long that the first one will attract tons of attention and naturally, criticism. Even though, it’s obviously impossible to make everyone happy all the time, they’ll want to make sure they do it right. The latest rumour is that they are casting a gay character in the upcoming movie The Eternals which is supposed to be part of MCU Phase Four. But as usual, we have no idea what ideas will make it not just into the script but through the ruthless editing process. LGBT representation has been considered expendable up until now, how many more films until that changes?