It’s less than halfway through May, and companies are already announcing their Pride products. I love it, but the representation in properties that receive the rainbow treatment is still sorely lacking.
Most of the Pride products I’ve been following lately comes from disney since they own the two main American properties that I am (Marvel and Star wars), but they’re far from the only ones to have talked about their upcoming Rainbow merchandise while seriously lacking LGBTQ + representation on screen. There is a whole range of Funko POPS! which cover many fandoms, many of whom suffer from the same problem. Simple characters and generic franchise logos and symbols are dipped into rainbows and sold for Pride. The companies that make these products see it as a job well done.
The worst part about this situation is that I really like what this product looks like and maybe buy some, but this conflict makes me incredibly uncomfortable with my urge to buy this product. It makes me wonder if these companies have their cake (selling us Pride merchandise) and eat it too (conveniently keeping us off-screen to appease conservative markets). And It works. I write critically about the lack of representation but I’m ready to slam my wallet on the counter and walk away with a Marvel Rainbow Pin right away. I don’t feel awesome about it, but it’s the truth, and I’m definitely thinking about my own contributions to this hypocrite Rainbow capitalism.
The Marvel Rainbow Merchandise, for example, comes after Disney gave itself a huge pat on the back for its insanely brief portrayal in End of Game. The moment was small enough that conservative markets could possibly interrupt the moment if they wanted to, this is exactly what happened with the russian dub. The brevity of this moment was intentional for this exact reason. If they had, for example, given Captain America a boyfriend, it wouldn’t have been something that could be easily circumvented. Disney knows this and very carefully straddles the line between supporting us and minimizing us for maximum profit.
Star wars has the same problem. The brief kiss between two women Rise of Skywalker was so small that I didn’t even notice it even though I was very consciously looking for it. It was so small that some conservative markets didn’t even bother to try to remove it this time around, although they very easily could have. What does it say the moment was so imperceptible that heavily censored markets let it pass? He said it was insignificant, imperceptible and not worth the time it took to cut it.
Rainbow capitalism has been a problem we’ve been dealing with for a few years now, and I don’t claim to have any sort of high moral standard about it at all. I love it when companies slap rainbows on their logos and piss off the Conservatives! Heck, I even hunt down Target stores while waiting for them to launch their Pride merchandise displays so I can fervently descend on them (luckily, Target donates part of its profits to good causesso i don’t feel too much wrong). But that’s different from a retail store or an airline sporting rainbows for a month. The media companies might back us in a very real way with a queer protagonist in one of these franchises, but they choose not to in order to make a profit in places that discriminate against us, and that sounds a bit like a slap around the world. face. They want our money, but don’t want to give us meaningful screen time on their properties.
The only Pride product I’ve found that actually has meaningful on-screen representation for us is the Deadpool Funko POP. In the comics, Deadpool is canonically pansexual. In the movies, he jokes that he’s not heterosexual and can easily be considered pan or bisexual, and one of the main supporting characters, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, is queer. Deadpool is legit with his portrayal, and I’m pretty happy with it. If there are any examples of franchise products that support LGBTQ + characters, please remove the links in the comments. I can’t see all the merchandise available on the market, but I would love to see more!
It does not escape my opinion that the one property I have noticed that has been adorned with rainbows with real quality LGBTQ + representation is probably too avant-garde for conservative markets. A market that has issues with queer people would also likely have issues with the rest of the violence, sexuality, and profanity in these movies, so it’s a little safer for them to push those kinds of boundaries as the rating will prevent it from passing. assumed to be “family”. Both films are also rated R in the United States. But being LGBTQ + shouldn’t automatically be seen as ‘edgy’ in the first place, which is the type of minimization in MCU and Star wars the content looks like. My very existence is too “ edgy ” for MCU or Star wars. I’m only allowed to exist in the superhero movie Rated R, and it hurts.
What can we, the consumers, do about this rainbow hypocrisy? We don’t really have a lot of power here. We create trending hashtags, write thought-provoking articles (like the one you’re reading right now), and even threaten to boycott, which probably wouldn’t have much of an impact on the bottom line of these huge companies. So far, these actions have only moved the needle slightly. But I guess moving it slightly is better than not moving it at all. We will have a strange Valkyrie, after all, although I want to see the movie first before calling it “good” performance. However, we don’t have a Rainbow Valkyrie POP, nor do we have it on any of the Disney Store products. But maybe next year. When is it Thor: love and thunder will be coming out, after all, so we can celebrate a meaningful performance with, hopefully, themed products for it.
So, good pride! Rainbow capitalism will continue to sink and we will have a lot of scraps of representation left, but maybe the future will be better. Let’s see what they plan to do, I guess. I hope I won’t be disappointed yet.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the administrator of The Geekiary and a commentator on geek culture. She received a BA in Film and Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She has contributed to various podcasts and webcasts, including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She has written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for her contribution to fanfic on AO3. She identifies as weird.
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