We Made a List of Every Time the MCU Straightwashed Its Queer Potential
It’s been just over two years since the massive Avengers: Endgame was released. While most loved the cap on Marvel’s “Phase 3” and some did not, one aspect many found disappointing was its self-aggrandizing pseudo-representation of people who are, like, women. A particularly aggravating aspect of the cinematic universe’s biggest installment yet was the MCU straightwash — or at least its reminder of a striking lack of gay MCU characters and representation throughout 23 films.
Remember Endgame‘s groundbreaking gay MCU representation? Oh, you missed it? That’s so weird, because directors Joe and Anthony Russo made a very big deal about it, and Deadline even called it “a small moment but a milestone nonetheless in such a global appeal blockbuster.”
To recap, the gay MCU representation in question happens during a support group meeting for people who have lost loved ones to Thanos. Joe Russo takes it upon himself to play the part of a character who talks about going on a date for the first time since losing his male partner. And that, my friends, is it. That’s the whole scene.
Ironically, Joe Russo had more to say about his on-screen role in an interview than he did within the role as the gay man he played:
Representation is really important. … It was important to us as we did four of these films, we wanted a gay character somewhere in them. We felt it was important that one of us play him, to ensure the integrity and show it is so important to the filmmakers that one of us is representing that. It is a perfect time, because one of the things that is compelling about the Marvel Universe moving forward is its focus on diversity.
So let’s talk about representation. Let’s talk about the absolute plethora of chances the MCU had to make a meaningful decision about the LGBTQ community in its multi-billion-dollar franchise. Let’s talk about every time an MCU straightwash prevented audiences from experiencing the vastly interesting, downright iconic and richly queer characters they have at their disposal.
Here are 5 times an MCU straightwash kept us from getting meaningful gay MCU moments:
1. In the comics, Loki is canonically bisexual and gender-fluid.
Loki debuted in the MCU with Thor in 2011, what now feels like 40 years ago. And he has been canonically queer since … well, if you want to be slightly pedantic about it, since the dawn of Norse mythology. Much of Loki’s comic book character is taken from his trickster-god character, who has been known to do things like shapeshift into a female horse to have kids.
Odin himself even acknowledges Loki’s gender-fluidity in one surprisingly loving panel.
Most recently in the Disney+ TV series, Loki was canonically confirmed to be bisexual within the MCU. While this is a great step forward for the character (and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole), many of us would have liked to see this aspect of Loki’s identity explored a little bit further.
And, of course, upon hearing that a bisexual alien sex scene was initially brainstormed for the series, we can’t help but think how fun that could have been to include in the show.
2. Valkyrie is also canonically bisexual in the comics.
Mentioned by Tessa Thompson herself, Valkyrie canonically has a relationship with another woman, an anthropologist named Annabelle Riggs.
She’s bi. And yes, she cares very little about what men think of her. What a joy to play! https://t.co/d0LZKTHCfL
— Tessa Thompson (@TessaThompson_x) October 21, 2017
Thompson even “convinced [Thor: Ragnarok director Taika] Waititi to shoot a glimpse of a woman walking out of Valkyrie’s bedroom. He kept it in the film as long as he could; eventually the bit had to be cut because it distracted from the scene’s vital exposition.”
Ah, yes, queerness: such a distraction!
3. In the comics, the Captain of the Dora Milaje is a queer woman.
Nakia and Okoye made their comic book debut in 1998 with Christopher Priest’s Black Panther Vol. 3. In 2016, Roxane Gay, Yona Harvey and Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote World of Wakanda, which features Aneka as the Captain of the Dora Milaje (not Okoye), and a woman named Ayo, who serves under her.
The two develop a romance, as you can see here:
4. Ayo, who appeared in Black Panther and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, shoulda been queer.
There was apparently a scene filmed between Ayo and Okoye in Black Panther that could have been misconstrued as something more than just gals being pals:
In the rough cut of this Black Panther scene, we see Gurira’s Okoye and Kasumba’s Ayo swaying rhythmically back in formation with the rest of their team. Okoye eyes Ayo flirtatiously for a long time as the camera pans in on them. Eventually, she says, appreciatively and appraisingly, “You look good.” Ayo responds in kind. Okoye grins and replies, “I know.”
Unfortunately that scene was cut.
Nor were we treated to any queer vibes from Ayo when she returned like a boss in the Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Womp womp.
5. There was a canonically queer Captain Marvel in the comics.
Before Carol Danvers was Captain Marvel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there was Phyla-Vell in the comics, who bore the same title and developed a relationship with telepathic human woman Heather Douglas (Moondragon).
As Captain Marvel was always going to be Carol’s story (portrayed by Brie Larson), this detail could have been a quick and easy — yet still meaningful and rich — background to the legacy of the Captain Marvel character. And maybe we’ll still get something similar in the first film’s sequel, The Marvels.
And these are just the characters that are already in the MCU. Despite its cinematic counterpart, Marvel Comics has historically been pretty good with its gay representation. The Eternals, which will finally be released later this year, is confirmed to feature an openly gay character, and talks of a Young Avengers series will hopefully include one of the purest, most romantic relationships in comic book history, between two male heroes, Hulkling and Wiccan (the latter of whom we met in WandaVision).
And in Thor: Love and Thunder, the next installment in the Thor series, we’re almost guaranteed to see an openly queer Valkyrie, the reigning King of Asgard.
Potential future representation is undoubtedly exciting, but it’s hard not to feel wary when we’ve seen the MCU straightwash its characters time and time again. Only time will tell whether Marvel Studios keeps dropping the ball or makes legitimate strides through meaningful representation.
Are you surprised by any of these victims of the MCU straightwash? Which canonically queer Marvel heroes would you love to see in gay MCU storylines?
This article was originally published on Dec. 14, 2020. It has since been updated.