THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS POST
LAST CALL FOR SPOILERS
I got a notification on my phone yesterday about a Hollywood Reporter article titled “'Avengers: Endgame' Directors on Seeking Robert Downey Jr.'s Blessing and Marvel's First Gay Character.” Maybe I’m just sleep-deprived, but to me, this read as though the Russo brothers were being interviewed about Tony Stark’s fate in Endgame and might also be working on a project for a new gay superhero. If true, this would be HUGE NEWS (maybe even why Google decided to notify me of it). The MCU hasn’t had an openly gay character, even though there’s quite a few to choose from in the comics. For instance, Northstar is a gay (AND CANADIAN) mutant in the X-Men comics. Marvel even showed his wedding to husband Kyle Jinadu in 2012!!!
I thought, naively, that perhaps the MCU had decided to catch up with the comics, especially because Endgame was already minting money and smashing records. They could afford it.
Turns out, “Marvel’s First Gay Character” refers to the unnamed, millisecond cameo with Joe Russo during Captain America’s group therapy scene. Don’t remember it? Neither did I. I don’t blame you either. That cameo was such a non-moment that calling it “Marvel’s First Gay Character” is like calling the new Sonic movie a good movie.
The scene takes place about five years after the Thanos Snap where Captain America is helping people move on with their lives. “Marvel’s First Gay Character” is describing a date he went on, a difficult step for him, that ends up in both of them crying before dessert.
Here’s what Joe Russo had to say about the scene:
Interviewer: “Joe, how did you decide to put yourself in the movie as Marvel's first openly gay character in the Captain America-led group therapy scene?”
Joe Russo: “Representation is really important for us in these movies and I think the thing we are happiest most about Marvel moving forward is it's becoming incredibly diverse. We've done four of these films and it was incredibly important to us to have a gay character represented somewhere in one of these four movies. We felt so strongly about it that I wanted to play that character in the film.”
Let’s talk diversity at Marvel:
Yup. That’s definitely what diversity looks like. I get it, Black Panther and Captain Marvel were amazing hits with diverse casts, and the new generation of Marvel is doing a lot better, with stars like Brie Larson, Zendaya, Letitia Wright, and Anthony Mackie. I still wouldn’t say that it’s becoming “incredibly diverse.”
However, the next sentence is the one that really pisses me off. “We’ve done four of these films and it was incredibly important for us to have a gay character represented somewhere in one of these four movies.” That’s a really low bar to set, and they still managed to undershoot it. I appreciate the sentiment, but the phrasing makes it seem like Gay Representation™ is just an item on a diversity check list. If this really was a genuine desire, why did it only appear in the last of the four films – seems more like something you crammed in because you forgot, right?
You know what would have been good gay representation? Remember that scene at the end of the movie where Captain America time travels? Right before he leaves, he says to Bucky, “Don’t do anything stupid until I get back” and Bucky replies, “How can I, you’re taking all the stupid with you?” They totally should have made out right after that. Everybody in the theatre was like, “Awwww” and I was like:
I don’t think the Russo brothers are entirely to blame. I’m not sure how much influence the Disney Corporate Overlords, as Sarah calls them, had on this decision, especially considering that we still haven’t had an LGBTQ prince/princess even though we’re waist deep in sh-tty live action remakes.
I also do recognize that the scene is important in the movie because it conveys the impact that the Thanos Snap had on regular people’s lives. It’s really great that someone at Marvel Studios, seemingly the brothers themselves, thought to convey that emotion and story through the lens of a gay character. What I take issue with is calling an unnamed, wholly irrelevant character “Marvel’s First Gay Character,” or even celebrating him as gay representation. It’s a nice gesture, but it’s not enough. Marvel’s First Gay Character should demonstrate depth, complexity, personality, and significance to the plot. That doesn’t mean that it has to be “GAY MAN: THE SUPERHERO MOVIE” (though I’d totally watch that), but it does mean that an LGBTQ character shouldn’t be expendable and easily edited out for palatability.