The Marvel Cinematic Universe could be the answer to helping Disney improve its portrayals of LGBTQ + characters on the big and small screen.
Disney’s history with queer representation has been a slow journey, with the character of Jack Whitehall in Jungle cruise being the studio’s most recent effort to include gay stories on screen. In recent years, Disney has used either queer coding or characters with an explicit gay moment as a shortcut to LGBTQ + representation. From sassy, effeminate villains like Hades and Scar to fiercely independent princesses like Elsa and Merida, Disney still has a long way to go when it comes to inclusive storytelling. Fortunately, Phases Four and Five of the Marvel Cinematic Universe could help a lot with this problem.
The MCU is no stranger to Disney’s current brand of queer representation, like Joe Russo’s cameo in Avengers: Endgame briefly alludes to her character having a date with another man. Likewise, in Loki Season 1, episode 3, “Lamentis”, Loki and Sylvie briefly discuss their bisexuality. Both moments are small and easy to delete, having little impact on their movie or show. However, after more than ten years in this universe without queer characters of any kind, these moments seem almost monumental. These are the first glimpses of LGBTQ + representation in the MCU, and since Marvel has a list of queer comic book characters to adapt for their future movies and shows, this is just the start.
With Marvel Eternals Introducing a whole host of characters, audiences will soon encounter another openly weird MCU character. Phastos, played by Brian Tyree Henry, is one of the Eternals featured in the film, and producer Kevin Fiege has said the character will have both a husband and a family. Besides, Thor: Love and ThunderTaika Waititi director has confirmed that Korg, the hilarious rock monster he’s tasked with playing, will be openly gay in the sequel. Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, which had a scene confirming the character’s bisexuality cut from Thor: Ragnarok, will also look for his queen in the film. The MCU will also feature its version of America Chavez, played by newcomer Xochitl Gomez, next year. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In the comics, Chavez is a lesbian and becomes a key member of the Young Avengers.
Marvel has also already introduced two characters in WandaVision whose comic book counterparts are members of the LGBTQ + community. Wanda and Vision’s twins Billy and Tommy, whose fate in the MCU is currently unknown, are two of Marvel’s many weird characters. In the comics, Tommy becomes Speed, a member of the Young Avengers, and is openly bisexual, having romantic relationships with both male and female characters. Billy grows up to be a Wiccan, another young avenger and the husband of Hulkling, a Kree Skrull hybrid and another avenger. Hulking has yet to be introduced to the MCU, but the character’s origins stem from the Kree-Skrull War depicted in Captain Marvel, and the Skrulls are about to return in Secret invasion on Disney + next year.
Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox in 2019 saw the rights to several Marvel characters revert to Marvel Studios, many of whom are queer. The MCU is expected to continue Ryan Reynolds’ version of dead Pool with a third film soon, the character being portrayed as pansexual in his two previous films. The rights to Negasonic Teenage Warhead and his girlfriend Yukio, also from the Deadpool franchise, also reverted to Marvel, although it has not been confirmed that they were part of Deadpool 3.
Another queer character previously adapted from the Fox comics X Men movies is Ice Man, although he was not described as gay because his comic book counterpart had not yet been released. Other LGBTQ + Marvel characters such as Northstar and Hercules, who were never made into the movies, are perfect candidates for future MCU movies and shows. This gives Marvel the opportunity to establish the definitive versions of these characters on screen, while the adaptation of characters audiences have already seen in the Fox films will suffer the inevitable comparison to their previous iteration.
Marvel Studios has made great strides in representation with Black Panther in 2018 and his most recent film Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings. With its upcoming movie roster that will feature several key queer characters, the MCU is poised to bring much-needed LGBTQ + representation to audiences around the world. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most successful franchise in the world, and having overtly gay characters in its films will allow queer people around the world to see themselves as superheroes. As Disney struggles with proper queer representation in its other properties, Marvel’s progressive storytelling will give its parent company a way to properly represent the LGBTQ + community in a way it has never done before.
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