Does This MCU Short Film Confirm One of the Franchise’s Big Villains Is Actually Queer?
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Are you a big MCU fan? At this point, Iron Man came out almost 14 years ago (yes, 2008 was 14 years ago, we’re freaking out about it, too). In those 14 years we’ve seen numerous movies, TV shows and tie-ins that have fleshed out the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the delight of fans everywhere. But are you familiar with the “Marvel Studios One-Shot” (a short film) called All Hail the King? In it, a villain you may know and love from Iron Man 2 is kinda-sorta revealed to be queer. And for a studio that doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to queer representation, that’s quite significant if we do say so ourselves.
(As a side note, if you yourself are a queer MCU fan and feel like you need a place to get super nerdy about all things MCU, we’ve got you covered. Our new app SPACES — a group chat app for niche queer communities, i.e. queer MCU fans — is the perfect locale for all the nerdy discussions you want to have about your favorite films, TV series and characters, but devoid of the homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and all-around toxicity we constantly encounter on the main social media platforms. You can find that queer MCU space here, and download SPACES in the iOS app store now.)
One of the MCU’s more controversial villains is The Mandarin, leader of terrorist organization the Ten Rings, whom we meet in Iron Man 3. Initially that character was met with claims of whitewashing by audiences, as he’s an Asian man in the comics but is portrayed on-screen by Ben Kingsley. But it’s also a bit more complicated than that, as we learn in the film that he’s not the real Mandarin but a British actor named Trevor Slattery, being paid to play the role. And we eventually meet the true leader of the Ten Rings, Xu Wenwu, played by Tony Leung Chiu-wai, in the 2021 film Shang-Chi.
But in Shang-Chi, Trevor Slattery is in the custody of the Ten Rings, and we don’t really know how or why. That’s where All Hail the King comes in.
All Hail the King was originally bonus content on the Thor 2 DVD release, and is now also available on Disney+. (You can also watch it — at least for the time being — here.)
In All Hail the King, we get a glimpse into Trevor Slattery’s life in prison. He’s somewhat of a celebrity behind bars, though he has given up the artifice of his made-up Mandarin character and is living life as his true self, a self-important, jump British actor with no real experience as a tough-guy terrorist. In the short film, we see him as he undergoes a series of on-camera interviews that are intended to become part of a documentary all about him, and how he eventually ends up in the hands of the Ten Rings.
If you haven’t seen the short film, give it a watch. But what we really want to talk about is the All Hail the King post-credit segments. That’s where we learn that a different villain from the MCU may actually be a queer man.
Interspersed throughout the credits, we see Justin Hammer, weapons manufacturer and nemesis of Tony Stark’s Iron Man, who was the main antagonist of Iron Man 2. We see Justin Hammer watching on as Trevor Slattery rules the prison, and he comments on the ridiculousness of what he’s seeing. And he’s joined by a fellow inmate who is being incredibly affectionate towards him.
At one point, Hammer’s inmate “friend” puts his arm around him in a tender way, which causes Hammer to brushes him off with a “Not here, baby. Not here.”
Is Justin Hammer a queer man?
What exactly does this mean?
Is this brief moment in All Hail The King Marvel Studios’ way of depicting Justin Hammer’s on-screen ‘coming out’ as queer, or is it just another tired “prison turns men gay” joke?
Considering Marvel’s track record with queer representation in the MCU — 27 films and not much queer rep at all, including several missed opportunities to just keep things as queer as they are in the comics — we have to wonder: Is this a true attempt at queerifying a great character after-the-fact (*cough* Dumbledore *cough*), or is it little more than an icky, pseudo-malicious joke at the expense of gay men’s queerness?
We may never know.